ANN ARBOR, Mich. – There are only two games left in the regular season, but the redshirt situation is very complicated for Michigan football coaches.
First, they must consider the many ways they can handle the new rule, which allows players to appear in four games without burning a year of eligibility. In other words, Jim Harbaugh can use a player in any four games this season without losing the option to redshirt him.
There are several different ways coaches can take advantage of this rule. Players who aren't ready to contribute in big games can appear in four blowouts to get used to the college game. Others might not play all season until rivalry week, when they can be brought out as secret weapons.
Michigan has players who could fit into both groups.
The Rutgers game was a perfect opportunity to get players into a noncompetitive game. Will this weekend be the same? Indiana has forced overtime twice against Harbaugh's Michigan teams and held a second-half lead during its last visit to Ann Arbor.
Then again, this isn't a typical Michigan team.
Michigan's redshirt situation is further complicated by the uncertainty of postseason play. Ideally, the Wolverines hope to play in the Big Ten championship game and two College Football Playoff games. That would give Michigan five more games.
On the other hand, if the Wolverines drop one of their next two games, they'll only play three total games, including the bowl. Michigan could also play four games if it loses in the Big Ten championship or a potential semifinal game.
Harbaugh has some tricky situations to navigate down the stretch. Here's a look at the redshirt situation for each true freshman.
These are the players who have already appeared in more than four games and cannot redshirt this season.
DL Aidan Hutchinson
Recruiting profile: 4-star, No. 6 SDE, No. 112 overall
Even Michigan's loaded defensive line couldn't keep Aidan Hutchinson off the field as a true freshman. He was the highest-ranked recruit in Michigan's 2018 class and has played in all 10 games, making 14 tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss.
WR Ronnie Bell
Recruiting profile: 3-star, No. 213 WR, No. 1,476 overall
Ronnie Bell is another player who's found playing time in a crowded position group. Despite a 2017 class that included a five-star receiver and three four-star wideouts, Bell has played in all 10 games this season. He's made five catches for 95 yards and two touchdowns and run the ball five times for negative 2 yards.
K Jake Moody
Recruiting profile: N/A
As a kicker, Jake Moody's arrival in Ann Arbor didn't generate much buzz, but he's handled all the kickoff duties for the Wolverines through 10 games. He's averaging 59.5 yards per kickoff, including 33 touchbacks in 68 tries.
4 games played
This player has already appeared in four games, so he can't take the field again without burning a year of eligibility.
FB Ben VanSumeren
Recruiting profile: 3-star, No. 50 ATH, No. 626 overall
A tight end in high school, Ben VanSumeren is the latest player to flip to fullback for Harbaugh, following former tight end Khalid Hill and former linebacker Ben Mason. He played fullback against Western Michigan and SMU and helped on special teams against Nebraska and Northwestern, so it's possible he won't play another game this year.
3 games played
This player can appear in one more game this season and still redshirt.
OL Jalen Mayfield
Recruiting profile: four-star, No. 16 OT, No. 268 overall
The offensive line looked like a unit that would need a lot of help early in the season, and Jalen Mayfield appeared in three games as a result. But since Ed Warinner has solidified the line, Mayfield hasn't played since the Maryland game. The starting linemen are playing extremely well, so Harbaugh has some flexibility with how he uses Mayfield.
2 games played
These players are halfway to burning a redshirt. This is where the difference between Michigan playing three, four or even five more games this season could really come into play.
QB Joe Milton
Recruiting profile: four-star, No. 9 pro-style QB, No. 204 overall
It was a bit surprising to see Joe Milton take the field behind Brandon Peters against Rutgers, as he can now only play in two more games without burning a redshirt. Milton is a talented passer who has already shown he can run the ball.
One explanation might be that Milton isn't ready to play in big games such as Ohio State or the Big Ten championship. If that's the case, Harbaugh likely wants to use his four games against less competitive opponents. If Milton was truly the backup after Dylan McCaffrey's injury, he probably wouldn't have wasted one of his four games with Michigan up 35 points at Rutgers.
With Shea Patterson and McCaffrey ahead of him, Milton's time to take the reins at Michigan is probably a couple of years in the future. There's no reason to burn a year of eligibility in 2018 unless Patterson also gets hurt and Milton is definitively better than Peters.
RB Christian Turner
Recruiting profile: three-star, No. 22 RB, No. 509 overall
As shocking as it was to see Milton in the game behind Peters, it was even more telling that Christian Turner didn't get into the game. After getting 13 combined carries in the Nebraska and Wisconsin blowouts, it appeared Turner would be a guy who got as many carries as possible against weaker teams to prepare for life after Karan Higdon next season.
But when he didn't play in the blowout, it suggested he might be the type of player Harbaugh values enough to save for the bigger games. Could Turner see the field against Ohio State as a change of pace? Is he being held as an insurance policy if Higdon or Chris Evans get banged up? He seems like one of the true freshmen who could still play a role down the stretch.
LB Hassan Haskins
Recruiting profile: three-star, No. 49 RB, No. 978 overall
Hassan Haskins made the move from running back to linebacker as a true freshman, and he appeared in the first two games on special teams. Why hasn't he played in any of the blowouts since Week 2? Maybe Harbaugh wants him on special teams in big games, or maybe he's still adjusting to his new position.
1 game played
These players have appeared in one game this season and could play in the rest of the games this season unless Michigan makes the Big Ten championship game.
WR Michael Barrett
Recruiting profile: three-star, No. 61 ATH, No. 753 overall
Since officially being dubbed a wide receiver by Harbaugh, Michael Barrett has appeared in one game for Michigan. He was an excellent quarterback in high school, and fits the type of versatile player Harbaugh likes to have on both sides of the ball.
LB Cameron McGrone
Recruiting profile: four-star, No. 7 OLB, No. 118 overall
Michigan's second-highest ranked recruit in the 2018 class, Cameron McGrone has fallen victim to a deep and talented linebacker corps this season. He stepped on the field against Nebraska, but only on special teams. With Devin Bush likely to leave at the end of the season, McGrone is one of the young players who can battle for playing time.
TE Luke Schoonmaker
Recruiting profile: three-star, No. 39 TE, No. 798 overall
Harbaugh can never have too many tight ends, but there are plenty of options ahead of the true freshmen this year. Luke Schoonmaker appeared in the Rutgers game, but he's not likely to get many chances on offense with Zach Gentry, Sean McKeon and Nick Eubanks in the mix.
DB Ryan McCurry
Recruiting profile: N/A
A walk-on and brother of Michigan wide receiver Jake McCurry, Ryan McCurry appeared on special teams against Notre Dame.
No games played
These true freshmen are on scholarship but haven't stepped on the field.
TE Mustapha Muhammad
Recruiting profile: four-star, No. 6 TE, No. 168 overall
Mustapha Muhammad was Michigan's highest-ranked offensive recruit in 2018, but, like Schoonmaker, is blocked by a trio of older tight ends.
DB Myles Sims
Recruiting profile: four-star, No. 17 CB, No. 170 overall
Myles Sims has the size and speed to be the next great cornerback at Michigan, but this year, he's behind David Long, Lavert Hill, Brandon Watson and Ambry Thomas.
OL Ryan Hayes
Recruiting profile: four-star, No. 23 OT, No. 335 overall
Michigan doesn't often use true freshmen along the offensive line, though recently Ben Bredeson and Cesar Ruiz have made impacts in their first years. Ryan Hayes was right behind Mayfield as Michigan's highest-ranked offensive tackle in the 2018 class.
DB Gemon Green
Recruiting profile: three-star, No. 35 CB, No. 382 overall
Gemon Green wasn't ranked as highly as Sims, but he's also got good size for a defensive back. Once Michigan's current secondary moves on to the NFL, he'll be in the mix.
DL Taylor Upshaw
Recruiting profile: three-star No. 25 SDE, No. 562 overall
It felt like Taylor Upshaw had a chance to get into a couple of games this season after enrolling early last winter. So far, the defensive line depth has kept him on the sideline.
DB Sammy Faustin
Recruiting profile: three-star, No. 54 CB, No. 594 overall
Sammy Faustin is one of several tall, athletic cornerbacks recruited for Michigan's 2018 class, and it appears they will all redshirt behind the current loaded secondary.
DL Julius Welschof
Recruiting profile: three-star, No. 28 SDE, No. 647 overall
Ridiculously big and strong, it would have been fun to see Julius Welschof get a chance in the Rutgers game. The Germany native could still see the field down the stretch, but it appears Harbaugh views him as a project.
DB Vincent Gray
Recruiting profile: three-star, No. 63 CB, No. 702 overall
Vincent Gray is the fourth and final cornerback in the class, and the Rochester Hills product is also 6 feet, 2 inches tall with good speed. There are plenty of options for Don Brown to reload the secondary in the near future.
DB German Green
Recruiting profile: three-star, No. 98 S, No. 1,228 overall
German Green was the only safety in Michigan's 2018 class, joining his brother, Gemon Green, in the Wolverines secondary. No surprise: He's also 6-foot-2.
Other true freshmen
These players walked on at Michigan and haven't appeared in a game.
- Kyle Grady
- Max Wittwer
- George Caratan
- Julian Garrett
- Luke Buckman
- Ramsey Baty
- Ethan Deland
- Quinn Rothman
- Owen Goldsberry
- Lucas Andrighetto
- Bryce Chamberlain
- Kraig Correll
- Joey George
- Connor Burrows
- Griffin Korican
- Adam Culp