For all the rhetoric about getting people in the program and developing them, Paul Wulff has never been afraid to play a true freshman if he thought it would help the team. It appears he is on the verge of doing that again, as Vince Grippi is reporting tonight that freshman linebacker Logan Mayes could possibly see some time at defensive end against Colorado next weekend.
Apparently, he's been impressing in practice:
Mayes came into camp as a 6-foot-3, 218-pound linebacker. But his quickness off the ball soon had him running with the defensive line. That's when his pass-rushing ability started to show up. He was running with the second group at left defensive end, in the spot where Adam Coerper was the starter until his knee injury against San Diego State. ... That pass-rushing ability showed in a one-on-one drill Thursday when Mayes was lined up with starting right tackle Wade Jacobson. On the first snap, Mayes ripped through to the outside and beat Jacobson with a speed rush. On the next snap, he faked outside, then swam back inside, throwing an off-balance Jacobson aside. It was the final two snaps of a long drill and the d-line exploded.
I'm not here to weigh in on whether it's philosophically a good idea or bad idea for him to burn his redshirt and play right away. I've come to believe that redshirts are generally overrated, and if someone can help, then they should play. I understand many of you don't hold that same belief, and I think that's a perfectly rational position, too. This shouldn't devolve into a debate about that.
What I am here to say is that this move doesn't surprise me in the slightest -- and not because Wulff won't hesitate to play a freshman. Here's some video of Mayes from high school. Check out the explosion off the line, the polish on his moves, the way he already understands leverage:
Obviously some of the "explosion" will be lost in translation when making the move up to college, but the moves, the leverage? Those are things that will translate, so it doesn't surprise me that he's turning some heads right now. And for a team desperate for a pass rush -- we all saw how much of an issue that was on Saturday -- I think it's worth throwing him into the mix if the coaching staff truly believes he can supply some sort of pressure.
It might be tempting to think of this as The Kaufusi Experiment all over again. I think there's a big difference: Mayes is more of a skilled rusher now than Kaufusi ever was. Kaufusi was, as a rush end, all motor. It's why he wasn't effective there at his lighter weight. Mayes, as the son of a former professional football player who presumably had the very best training as he developed, is light years ahead of that.
I think this has a real chance to be successful. He'll probably only play on obvious passing downs, but even one decent rush end would make a huge difference for a defense that currently has none.