July 18, 2006

How to measure instant impact

To gauge the talent in a freshman class, don't look at playing time.

At least not without some perspective.

Getting on the field matters, but how many players from a particular freshman class isn't the first place to look.

Take Notre Dame's freshman class last fall, which started the season with 15 scholarship players. From that group, 11 made it onto the field with only quarterback Evan Sharpley, defensive tackle Derrell Hand, defensive back Kyle McCarthy and linebacker Kevin Washington relegated to the sidelines all season. Compare that against Notre Dame's senior class of Brady Quinn and Co. Back in 2003 that class put just six of its 21 members into game action.

Yet in this case, six is greater than 11.

That's because the relevance of freshman playing time comes from the quality of minutes played, not the quantity of players that logged them.

Last season few freshmen saw the field in roles other than mop-up duty or specials teams. Fullback Asaph Schwapp played in all 12 games, starting one. His experiences weren't all positive, most notably a lost goal line fumble against Michigan State, but Schwapp did enough to earn the coaching staff's trust when the game was on the line.

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