Mike Riley would prefer to redshirt his freshman football players whenever possible.

But there are times when those players need to fill a certain role, or prove to have the mental and physical ability to step on the field and make contributions right away.

Three players are likely to see time as true freshmen this year, Riley said after Monday’s morning practice.

They are defensive backs Dashon Hunt and Brandon Arnold, and linebacker Darrell Songy.

Wide receiver Victor Bolden and offensive lineman Sean Harlow are on the bubble and could be used if needed, Riley said.

Riley told the players on Saturday.

“If you’re not redshirting, it’s because you’re ready to play,” Riley said. “My first instruction to the coaching staff is that if we’re going to play a true freshman, then he has to play. We’re not going to have him play two plays a game, 20 some plays for the season.

“We’ve been really good about that, although we have erred. I just don’t ever want to err. When we say (players won’t redshirt), we’re heading down a path where these guys are getting in the game.”

Hunt, a 5-foot-8, 189-pound cornerback, said he felt he had a good chance to not redshirt.

“I had a feeling just because of the way I have been performing,” he said. “I’ve been working hard in the film room just as much as the older guys and all the help they’ve really been giving me, like Rashaad (Reynolds) and Sean Martin, the things they’ve been telling me, I’ve really been doing correctly and fixing any mistakes that I have.

“From the moment they started putting me at second string nickel, I feel like I’ve just been being productive every time and staying consistent.”

Hunt said one of the reasons he chose OSU was the possibility of playing as a true freshman.

“I felt like the depth chart was pretty low and I know that DBs are kind of highly recruited right now,” Hunt said. “And when I met coach (Rod) Perry and he told me (OSU was) looking for more corners since we have so many older guys who have only a year or two here, he was all like, ‘if you compete like I know you can, you could possibly get on that field.’ So I took that to heart.”

Joining Hunt in the defensive backfield will be Arnold, a 5-11, 207-pound safety.

Arnold said it was good knowing the Beavers didn’t want him to redshirt.

His mindset now is to be a positive influence to the team.

“To come in, work my butt off, make plays on the field and do well in the classroom really,” he said.

Like Hunt, Arnold has had a positive experience with the veteran players as Ryan Murphy has taken him under his wing.

“(Murphy) was happy for me, proud of me,” Arnold said. “He just told me to keep going out there working hard and don’t get a big head with this. Stay focused on what the prize is for the team and not for myself as an individual.”

Arnold isn’t about to let up.

“Just stay focused on just going out there and make plays, show that I can become a starter, become in the rotation with the ones,” he said.

Songy, a 6-0, 210-pound linebacker, has gotten a chance to shine with an injury to starter D.J. Alexander and he’s made the most of that opportunity.

He said it was a relief to find out he would not be redshirting.

“It was a blessing and it was also an honor to be able to step onto the field with some of these great players, to be able to step up to the plate and have that experience under my belt for the upcoming years,” he said.

“Being a freshman who doesn’t redshirt, I feel like I’m being given bigger shoes to fill. I definitely want to do my part as a player on the team and work as hard as possible. Give 100 percent all the time.”

Steve Gress is the sports editor of the Corvallis Gazette-Times. He can be reached at steve.gress@lee.net.

Sports editor of the Corvallis Gazette-Times and Albany Democrat-Herald

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