With Thursday's injury to third down back Kordell Young, there's now an opening for freshman tailback De'Antwan "Rocket" Williams to start seeing more carries, especially if he can shore up his pass pickup. With the offensive line looking much better against SF, there's at least a chance that Rocket could start to play a larger role over the next few games.
It also happened to be a breakout game for The Dude himself, Mohamed Sanu to the tune of 5 catches, 105 yards, and a touchdown. The first thing that strikes you about Mo is his thick build, which helps him create yards after the catch and break tackles on direct snaps. Sanu still has a few drops here and there, but has emerged as a solid #2 counterpart to Tim "don't you dare call him Timmy, and that means you Schiano" Brown. We're to the point where Coach is making Kenny Britt comparisons. Remember, Britt didn't start to see the field much until the second half in 2006, after he had worked himself up to speed, and the corps was thinned by a mass of injuries.
Finally, we come to the true freshman starting QB, Tom Savage. No, he hasn't distinguished himself yet to the point where it's permissible to type his name in ALL CAPS, or petition the AP Stylebook to capitalize his pronouns (i.e., implying that he's a supernatural deity), but he's looked awfully good as a freshman. Better than Mike Teel did as a redshirt sophomore.
Remember the comparison between Savage and his fellow green signal callers Matt Barkley (USC) and Tate Forcier (Michigan) earlier in the year? Savage is a little below Barkley and Forcier in completion percentage, and has played a far weaker schedule than Barkley (surprisingly, Michigan doesn't have that much of an edge). However, where Tom really has the edge is in his touchdown to interception ratio, where he's a sterling 10:2. Savage will struggle through his bouts of inconsistency, but the trite "game manager" moniker actually is a good fit here, because he's not killing the team with turnovers as you might expect from such a young player. In fact, he's shown a surprisingly strong grasp of the offense, showing an awful lot of another sportswriting cliche that I equally despise, "poise" (Mark Sanchez just threw another pick six as I typed that preceding sentence).
Time will tell whether Savage is able to maintain that low interception rate, and how he'll adapt to personnel changes and opening up more of the playbook, but he's been everything and more that could have been reasonably asked of him up to now. I was wary of throwing a true freshman into the fire, considering how many players are flat-out busts at the position, but Tom's treading water at the very minimum. Most of the credit has to go to Tim Brown, but Savage actually did lead a miraculous comeback against UConn, something I never thought as imaginable. It's hard not to wishcast about what's possible with a franchise quarterback over the coming years.
Everyone else? Well, there are a couple others (WR Mark Harrison, TE Tony Trahan, S Duron Harmon among others) seeing limited reps in preparation for expanded roles in '10. The guy who's really come on over the past few weeks is strongside backer Steve Beauharnais, who's been absolutely ferocious on special teams. Assuming he stays outside, SteBo will probably start no later than his junior year, because it's hard to see Abreu not starting unless he can't handle coverage at all. That's good, and the even better news is that most of the class on the defensive side of the ball will end up redshirting. Seeing how all the new contributors fit in will be an interesting storyline during bowl and spring practices.