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Howe: True Freshman with Best Chance to Contribute in ’19

June 4, 2019

Written by Rob Howe

Hawkeye Nation

IOWA CITY, Iowa – This exercise used to be a lot easier. Predicting which true freshmen would play instead of red shirting included several factors plugged into an unscientific formula.

First, as a rule, the transition from high school to college is easier for guys lined up farther away from the ball. Dudes like A.J. Epenesa and Tristan Wirfs are the exceptions.

Second, you look at areas where depth appears shallow, especially spots with a lack of experience. Third, weighing the perceived talent of the player.

You still view those three factors, they’re just less reliable. And while injuries always impacted which first-year athletes saw the field, they’ve shot to the top of the list.

Iowa took the red shirt off three players last year. Two of them, cornerbacks Julius Brents and Riley Moss, were needed because of failing health at cornerback. The third, Kaevon Merriweather, was being groomed as a starter in 2019.

However, nine other true freshmen saw game action last fall. It resulted from the new redshirt rule, which allows them to play in up to four games while still retaining the year of eligibility.

For a program like Iowa, known for development, what we witnessed in ’18 likely will be the norm. Unless the player is just too good to keep off the field or injuries hit, retain the redshirt.

Few people, me included, would have pegged the trio that did not red shirt before last season. Moss initially was expected to grey shirt, Brents missed most of his senior season with injury and Merriweather was added late to the class.

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So, keep all of this in mind as I attempt to select which five true freshmen won’t red shirt this season. And realize that’s different than predicting which first-year guys will see the field, because many of them will be there for 1-4 contests.

Josiah Miamen, TE, IL

Reason He’s Here – If you haven’t heard, the Hawkeyes lost two pretty good players at this position in the NFL Draft. The guys coming back are largely unproven. Miamen is talented and looks the part.

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Jalen Hunt, DL, MI

Reason He’s Here – Yes. I know I said it’s harder to play early when you’re closer to the ball. That said, the Hawkeyes need to break in some young fellas on a front now occupied by veterans. I really like Hunt’s athleticism.

Sebastian Castro, S, IL

Reason He’s Here – There might not be a kid I’m more high on in this class than Castro. Young players seem to push their way onto the field in the Iowa secondary annually. This kid is my top pick to do that in ’19.

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Desmond Hutson, WR, MO

Reason He’s Here – It’s crazy, but Brandon Smith and Ihmir Smith-Marsette are juniors. Iowa needs to start grooming young guys on the outside behind them. Hutson comes with a strong makeup on and off the field.

Daraun McKinney, DB, MI

Reason He’s Here – McKinney is my wildcard. He enrolled in January and is one of those underrated Michigan kids like Desmond King that makes plays. He can help in the secondary, but he also could contribute on special teams.

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