Michigan linebacker Devin Bush announced Wednesday he has not been cleared from his injury suffered in The Game, so he is also skipping the bowl and preparing for the NFL.
Thursday, Michigan running back Karan Higdon announced he would also not play in the bowl game and get ready for his NFL career.
This all started a few years ago, with guys like Leonard Fournette at LSU and Christian McCaffrey at Stanford being a couple of the trendsetters to sit out of a meaningless (to them) bowl game and earn themselves an amazing paycheck.
At first, I was not a fan of my favorite college players sitting out of the bowl games; I viewed it as the final time I would be able to see them in a college uniform before selling their soul to Roger Goodell and the No Fun League.
But now I have a much differing view on it. Sometimes, you have to look ahead to things. Look at what the future may hold for your favorite program.
If you are a collegiate athlete about to score millions of bucks, a game like the Peach Bowl is probably viewed as a waste of your time. But if you’re a freshman or sophomore looking to work your way up the depth chart next season, it is viewed as the complete opposite.
Safety Josh Metellus received meaningful snaps his freshman season in the Orange Bowl against Florida State. The next season, he was a starter. Last year, Cesar Ruiz and Nico Collins added important snaps against South Carolina. Guess what? They started every game in 2018.
Playing time in big bowl games, which may look small under a microscope, really go a long way for the development of these younger players. These players will likely be the future of the Michigan football program.
With Higdon sitting out, we should see more of true freshman Christian Turner against Florida. In limited playing time this season, I actually saw glimpses of a young Higdon when Turner ran. He finished with 63 yards on 13 carries for 4.8 yards per carry.
By only playing in two games this season, Turner can still maintain his redshirt status. He will have to duke it out this offseason with incoming freshman Zach Charbonnet, but games like the Peach Bowl will give Turner the advantage.
You should also expect to see more of true freshman Aidan Hutchinson with Gary sitting out. Hutchinson played in every game this season, so his redshirt is long gone. But he should be an important contributor next season — and possibly a starter — so getting him this playing time is huge.
And with Bush riding the pine, we may see a few guys fill the void at middle linebacker. Sophomore Josh Ross, who we saw at the strong-side this season, took over for Bush several times. We also saw redshirt freshman Jordan Anthony, so there are a couple guys you should expect to see against Florida.
All in all, these snaps will be meaningful for the growth of these players heading into the offseason and preparing for 2019. While a win for U-M would be nice to see, it won’t be a determiner for next year. These younger players getting action against a good team is more important for the future of the program than Michigan winning the game.
So when the veterans decide to sit out and get ready for their future, we should join them and turn our attention to the future, as well. Turn our attention to the guys in line to make us say “wow” at their sideline-to-sideline speed, ability to rush the quarterback and breakaway from defenders on long runs.
I’m excited to see the underclassmen play, and you should be excited, too.