Freshmen Deliberations

We all know K'Wuan Williams is going to see time on the field. But we all figured Penn Hills star Aaron Donald was going to as well. There were glowing reviews all Fall, including this one:
"I'm going to have to change Mick Williams jersey, because to this point the Mick Williams of this training camp has been Aaron Donald. The guy has been in the backfield more than any player on our defensive line the whole camp. I will be real curious to see if he can keep that up. If he continues to perform and do what he's doing, we'll see if we can mix him in with some of the older guys in live scrimmage. He's off to a fast start."
"I'm going to change his number to 95. I told him no more 59; I think I called him Mick (Williams) three times today.
But then there was this nugget out there today:
Of the two, what to do with Donald, a Penn Hills High School graduate, shapes up as a tougher decision.

He has been dominant throughout preseason practices in nearly every situation against nearly anybody who lined up against him.

But Wannstedt is hesitant to commit to Donald because the Panthers have three veteran defensive tackles ready to play and a couple others who have played well enough to show they can be productive.
"Donald is a possibility, Clemmings is a possibility," Wannstedt said. "[Donald] is a playmaker, he is kind of a mini-Mick [Williams, who starred at defensive tackle last season]. We'll see, but [once a freshman plays] there is no turning back. You don't want to waste a year because, once you play a kid, now you are trying to force him into the lineup.
"That decision [on Donald] has not been made yet; he's getting reps, he is getting prepared to play, we'll see how it plays out."
How does one go from the next Mick Williams to merely a possibility for playing time? Welcome to the world of spin.

Wannstedt seemed to back off of hyping Donald up too much, but I don't see how they keep him off the field based on the earlier assessments. The other side of the argument is that Wannstedt took a great deal of credit when he burned through Bostick's redshirt during his second season in 2008. That turned out to be a non-factor as he redshirted last year instead, but the move perhaps made him think twice about playing kids who might not see a lot of action. Wannstedt obviously wants to get a lot of usage out of Donald if he decides to play him this season as there'd really be no going back as was in the case of Bostick.

My prediction? He goes ahead and plays him this year. In the end, no way Wanny heaps that much praise on the kid and then doesn't even play him. I think he's committed to putting the best team out there and while most freshmen won't see the field this year, it will be a good thing for recruits to see a handful of guys be able to come in and play right away. It would also be frustrating for certain guys to see someone perform extremely well in camp, exceed expectations, and still not get on the field. I expect to see him suit up this season and play.

Then there's five-star recruit, T.J. Clemmings. Clemmings wasn't heard from as much as most probably expected this Fall. And when Bryan Murphy stepped up, we heard his name even less. It was pretty much assured that Murphy was going to see time this season until his injury. Clemmings wasn't mentioned as much of a possibility to factor in for playing time, but with the injury to Murphy, he could see the field this season. My guess is that it's not as much of a slam dunk as I think it is for Donald. Bottom line? I think if he deserves to, he'll play. I don't think Wannstedt is bent on redshirting him.

Lastly, you've got Todd Thomas. I already briefly mentioned the Curious Case of Todd Thomas earlier this week. Highly touted recruit that figured to factor in the discussion for playing time. The emergency of Devin Street and position change of Greg Cross changed all that. Thomas could play some this season, but I think it's unlikely. Behind starters Jonathan Baldwin and Mike Shanahan, you've got Street, Cross, and Cam Saddler all ahead of him.  I don't see the logic in burning his redshirt to serve as a fifth or sixth receiver.  I think Pitt sits him this year then waits for Baldwin and Cross to leave the program next year.  Thomas could then come in and compete for Baldwin's spot if Street can't hang onto it or serve as a third receiver if he can leapfrog Sadder.


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