Freshman take lessons from collegiate debut into home opener against Howard
Standing in the tunnel at Husky Stadium, the Rutgers football team prepared to rush onto the field as a group moments before the 2016 season kicked off.
Head coach Chris Ash was in front of the pack ready to lead his Scarlet Knights onto the battleground for the first time, but he wasn’t the only one.
Five true freshman saw action in the Knights season opener against No. 14 Washington last Saturday, experiencing the moment they and their teammates have been waiting for throughout the eight months of the offseason for the first time.
“It was a big adrenaline rush,” said true freshman running back Trey Sneed of making his collegiate debut. “Going into your first game in a hostile crowd like that, you had those jitters and those nerves cause you don’t know yet, but I mean, when I got out there — it’s one thing to see it on the sideline or see it while watching on TV, but to be able to be a part of it, it was a great experience.”
Sneed had the most productive game of the group, gaining 8-yards on two carries in the fourth quarter of the 48-13 blowout loss in addition to his duties in coverage on special teams.
After gaining a single yard in his first ever collegiate carry, the Orange Park, Florida, native put the lessons of running backs coach Zak Kuhr to the test and gained 7-yards on his second and final rush of the afternoon.
“I think I did good,” Sneed said. “The biggest thing I wanted to work on was always what my coach teaches is you always wanna be looking, always keep your vision alive because a lot of times, what I would do in practice that I had to learn to do is whenever I saw contact or I thought there was no way out, ducking your shoulder and getting what you could get. So I think on the second carry, I was able to keep my eyes and kinda find the little crease when there wasn’t really anything there.”
Ash mentioned the positives in the debuts of his freshman, both true and redshirt but didn’t hesitate to acknowledge the bad of the performance.
With Sneed’s positive yardage in his pair of carries came the loss of possession in Dacoven Bailey’s only rush of the evening as he fumbled the ball after being stripped 3 yards ahead of the line of scrimmage.
Experience is the best teacher and the snaps the freshman took certainly provided a lesson.
“They did probably about like expected, did some good but did some bad,” Ash said. “Made some mistakes in critical areas, like Dacoven Bailey put the ball on the ground, which we just can’t do whether you’re a senior or a freshman. I think those guys that played for the first time, whether they’re true freshman, redshirt freshman or whatever will be a lot more comfortable heading into their second game.”
Along with Sneed and a number of his classmates, Bailey took part in the coverage unit on special teams that gave up both a kick-off and a punt return for a touchdown.
The Pilot Point, Texas, native believes the cause were missed assignments from the entire unit, including himself.
“One of the touchdowns on special teams was my fault,” he said. “I got pushed off my line. I had my pad levels too high and he just bumped me and I fell over. That’s my fault … I take the blame for that.”
Mistakes were to be expected for players making the jump from high school football to facing a top-25 team as Ash said, so the alarm bells have yet to sound in Piscataway for the first-year players. With an extra comfort level in preparation for their second game, they patiently continued to plug away and grind with the same mindset of the offseason.
“The thing that (the coaching staff is) teaching us right now is to stay the course,” Sneed said. “The plan definitely works and it’s going to take time but they wanted us to keep our attitude high and just stay the course. I mean, of course, we put in a lot of work and we don’t get the result that you necessarily wanted, but then again, that just means there’s work to be done, we just gotta keep working.”