About a half-hour after LSU pounded Sam Houston State 56-0 Saturday, one of the few true freshmen who did not play in the game took to Twitter to air his frustration.
“All I can do is laugh at this point,” linebacker Clifton Garrett wrote on the social networking site.
Garrett, a five-star product from Illinois, is one of just five eligible and healthy true freshmen in LSU’s No. 2-ranked 2014 signing class who hasn’t played in the first two games.
The tweet is a resounding example of what rookies, especially those highly touted stars like Garrett, expect in signing with LSU: Play early and play often.
The Tigers have played 16 true freshmen over the first two weeks of the season — the second-most of any Southeastern Conference team and four more than the SEC average.
Only Tennessee and coach Butch Jones have played more rookies, and that program is rebuilding via a reliance on highly rated young guys.
LSU is on pace to play more true freshmen than maybe ever before.
The 16 are the most under 10th-year coach Les Miles.
The redshirt, at least here, is dying.
“The exodus of the junior class really has changed the view of redshirt,” Miles said this week.
The redshirt number continues to plummet and should again this season. The team redshirted 12 players in 2011 and 13 in 2010.
LSU redshirted a combined 17 signees in 2012-13 while playing a total of 29 true freshmen. It’s no coincidence that the Tigers lost 17 players early to the NFL draft over the same time frame.
By the end of this season, LSU could dole out its least amount of redshirts ever.
Signees who haven’t played so far include Garrett, tight end Jacory Washington, receiver Tony Upchurch, offensive linemen Will Clapp and Garrett Brumfield, defensive linemen Trey Lealaimatafao (injured) and Travonte Valentine (ineligible), and junior college lineman Jevonte Domond.
Miles, nowadays, said he only redshirts players he expects to play at LSU all four years.
Garrett won’t be sitting on the bench for long this season, Miles said this week. The coach said Garrett should play Saturday against Louisiana-Monroe and is expected to continue playing throughout the season.
Asked about Garrett’s lack of playing time, Miles said this week that he “needed an adjustment period with the weather and the heat here.”
Meanwhile, four LSU freshmen scored touchdowns Saturday, the most in program history, according to the school.
The 16 freshmen who played accounted for a host of snazzy statistics: 17 tackles, 32 carries for 220 yards rushing, 62 passing yards, 58 receiving yards and two sacks.
The group had 282 yards, 48 percent of LSU’s total yards.
“They lived up to the hype,” running back Kenny Hilliard said. “Went out there and made plays for us.”
In some cases, LSU coaches fulfilled a promise to the freshmen. Coaches wooing kids to Baton Rouge by promising early playing time isn’t anything new.
“They said I was going to come in and play,” junior linebacker Kwon Alexander said. “I felt like I could play, so I came here.”
They promised that to Hilliard, too, he said.
LSU coaches aren’t alone. In fact, Alexander, a four-star prospect from Alabama, said most coaches recruiting him promised early playing time.
It’s not the case with every player.
Take, for instance, defensive end Jermauria Rasco, a senior who signed with LSU in 2011. He wasn’t promised participation as a freshman by LSU.
“Honestly, LSU is the only school that told me that wasn’t the case,” Rasco said.
Much of that involved the depth at defensive line. Guys like Sam Montgomery, Barkevious Mingo and Lavar Edwards.
Rasco is the rare player who signed with a school knowing he might not play early (though he, in fact, played as a true freshman).
High school seniors these days are hungry for playing time, and the wave of early departures to the NFL have made Baton Rouge the perfect place for them.
They provide depth at positions that normally would be fine had certain juniors not departed early.
Examples this season are everywhere.
Freshmen Trey Quinn and Malachi Dupre are seeing significant time after the departures of junior receivers Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr.
Davon Godchaux and Deondre Clark, on the defense line, are playing substantial reserve roles after the departure of Ego Ferguson and Anthony Johnson.
At running back, Jeremy Hill left a void that Leonard Fournette seems to be filling.
There’s no redshirting these guys. No way.
But isn’t this a risky game Miles is playing, putting 18- and 19-year-olds in key positions at the major college level?
Safety Jalen Mills smiles at the question.
“I mean, he’s the Mad Hatter, you know?” he said.