"Redshirt freshman" refers to a player in his second year of college -- an academic sophomore -- in his or her first year of athletic competition.
There are a number of reasons why a player might take a redshirt year:
- He might feel he needs an extra year to develop physically before competing at the Division I level
- He might want the extra time to get acclimated to the college, the team, or the system
- He might not have an opportunity to play right away due to depth at his position, and might take a redshirt season rather than spend a year on the bench.
Students can take redshirt years in any sport, but it is most common in football. The term is derived from the red practice jerseys traditionally worn by players not on the active roster.