Jim Harbaugh has always liked to throw freshmen on the field.
Look at 2016. Chris Evans debuted against Hawaii with 112 yards. Rashan Gary tallied 23 tackles with five for loss. Khaleke Hudson and Devin Bush were special teams maestros.
Those all made sense. Others didn’t. Burning freshman guard Michael Onwenu’s redshirt snatched away a year of development.
This summer, the NCAA declared players will now be allowed to play in up to four games and still qualify for a redshirt season.
Where does that leave the 2018 recruiting class this season? Diving into participation charts, Harbaugh and the staff are getting live snaps for underclassmen, with the benefit of maintaining a year of eligibility for many.
AIDAN HUTCHINSON, DEFENSIVE END
The former 4-star and son of former Michigan great Chris Hutchinson, Aidan has played in every game this season. He’s chipped in nine tackles with one for loss, as well as a safety against Nebraska.
CAMERON MCGRONE, LINEBACKER
McGrone saw garbage time snaps at MIKE linebacker, as well as special teams, in the 56-10 beatdown of the Cornhuskers.
He can participate in potential blowouts of Rutgers and Indiana down the stretch and maintain his redshirt.
MUSTAPHA MUHAMMAD, TIGHT END
The Missouri City, Texas native has yet to see game action. Redshirt guaranteed at the moment.
MYLES SIMS, DEFENSIVE BACK
No field time for “Spider.” Redshirt.
JOE MILTON, QUARTERBACK
Despite earning a high school reputation for his arm rather than his legs, the former 4-star from Orlando, Fla. took two carries for 22 yards in the 38-13 victory over Wisconsin.
“I thought that there were some plays,” Harbaugh said afterwards, “that he could execute in the ball game.”
This portends future limited packages for Milton. With only one game on the books, he can contribute in three of the next four — six with a bowl game and a potential Big Ten Championship Game.
JALEN MAYFIELD, LEFT TACKLE
Watch him (No. 73) pile drive a poor Western Michigan defender.
Great run. Here’s a great block by Jalen Mayfield at left tackle. pic.twitter.com/gfX1SMG1Li— Blueblitz (@MedicareAdvice1) September 11, 2018
He also saw late snaps against Nebraska and Maryland. With Jon Runyan coping well as the starter, Ed Warinner is getting the best of both worlds. Mayfield gets live reps, but not too many to burn the redshirt.
Expect him to feature heavily in Piscataway for a likely rout over Rutgers in two weeks if he is back from injury. Anything more would be a detrimental surprise.
RYAN HAYES, OFFENSIVE TACKLE/TIGHT END
Nothing so far. At 6-foot-7, 271 pounds, the Traverse City product needs an offseason with Ben Herbert before his body in ready for the Big Ten wars.
GEMON/GERMAN GREEN, DEFENSIVE BACKS
No playing time for the twins. German tore his ACL as a high school junior, so a year to find his footing can’t hurt.
CHRISTIAN TURNER, RUNNING BACK
The Buford, Ga. native is on the Karan Higdon trajectory, but better. Higdon toted the rock 11 times for 19 yards in 2015.
Turner took 10 carries for 55 yards in the fourth quarter against Nebraska.
Christian Turner now has more rushing yards than Nebraska— Maize & Boo Nation (@MaizeBlueNation) September 22, 2018
He added three more for eight yards late against Wisconsin. While flashing an ability to quickly cut upfield and run square to the tackler, he seems destined for a redshirt.
This shows the benefit of the new rule. Last year, O’Maury Samuels lost his year of eligibility with token carries. Now, Jay Harbaugh gets an extra year of growth from Turner.
TAYLOR UPSHAW, DEFENSIVE LINE
No game action yet for the son of former NFL journeyman Regan Upshaw.
SAMMY FAUSTIN, DEFENSIVE BACK
BEN VANSUMEREN, FULLBACK/H-BACK
Some forget the 3-star from Essexville, Mich. was once an Iowa pledge.
Kirk Ferentz knows how to identify fullbacks and tight ends. VanSumeren’s future may look something like this.
Iowa's other TE...sophomore TJ Hockenson. pic.twitter.com/tMpgiyfxyK— Jared Stanger (@JaredStanger) October 28, 2018
You’d think the coaches want him in the program as long as possible, considering he’s unnecessary at this time with the emergence of Ben Mason and Jared Wangler. However, he’s seen anonymous snaps in four games — WMU, SMU, Nebraska and Northwestern.
He’s on the edge of losing the redshirt.
JULIUS WELSCHOF, DEFENSIVE LINE
No game action. Also, no word yet if he’s practiced skiing at Boyne Mountain.
VINCENT GRAY, DEFENSIVE BACK
MICHAEL BARRETT, VIPER
Special teams in the SMU game. Other than that, nothing.
LUKE SCHOONMAKER, TIGHT END
HASSAN HASKINS, RUNNING BACK/LINEBACKER
Haskins hit the turf for the first two games, but a possible position switch to linebacker has shelved him since then.
JAKE MOODY, KICKOFF SPECIALIST
Moody has handled kickoff duties all year.
RONNIE BELL, WIDE RECEIVER
Bell has not only participated in every game in 2018. He’s occasionally thrived.
Première passe de TD en carrière pour QB Dylan McCaffrey, le frère de l'ancien RB de Stanford, Christian McCaffrey. Il trouve WR Ronnie Bell pour un TD des Wolverines de 56 yards. La défense des Cornhuskers ? Bah...— TBP College Football (@thebluepennant) September 22, 2018
Michigan 56, Nebraska 3pic.twitter.com/9U0DplrbuO
He’s the most pleasant surprise out of the 2018 freshman class. He currently boasts three receptions for 80 yards and two scores.
With Grant Perry graduating after this year, and only one pure receiver in Quintel Kent reinforcing the ranks, only six scholarship wideouts are slated for 2019.
Bell is outproducing his two-star rating by leaps and bounds, and his promising start eases tension about receiver depth.