In the Spring of 2010, a forgotten former Florida Gator began attending classes and going through workouts at Auburn University. With a full spring under his belt, he entered the season ready to take the Tigers to new heights. He did so, and the Auburn Tigers won a national championship and Cameron Newton had one of the most dominant college football seasons in recent memory.
Other coaching staffs have taken notice of what Cam Newton and other “early enrollees” (players from the junior college or high school levels who graduate at the conclusion of the fall semester and enroll a full semester early at their college choice) have been able to do for their programs.
With two weeks left to go until National Signing Day, some coaching staffs are already enjoying the fruits of their labor with premier players of the Class of 2013 signed, sealed, delivered, and already taking classes on campus. These players will be utilizing spring to get up to speed on what it means to be a college student and a college athlete, and the extra time will better prepare them to contribute immediately next season.
The recent movement to get players enrolled early has become a point of emphasis.
“It’s very important for players to get acclimated to college life and the demands that a new chapter poses as quickly as possible,” said Kevin Noon, Publisher of BuckeyGrove.com, who added “that is why you are seeing a trend of more and more players enrolling in school earlier.” These players will be expected to compete right away.
While it’s unlikely that any of these junior college or high school early enrollees will turn out to be the “next Cam Newton,” here is a brief look at some of the players and programs benefitting from this opportunity.
1. USC–The Trojans have enrolled only five athletes, but they made it count with three members of the Breitbart 25 (QB Max Browne, S Leon McQuay III, and ATH Su’a Cravens) and two other four star prospects (RB Justin Davs and CB Chris Hawkins). Getting Max Browne, the consensus top quarterback of the Class of 2013, on campus is particularly big for the Trojans. Ryan Abraham, Publisher of USCFootball.com noted that, “when you get a guy like that who can lead recruiting efforts and enroll early, he just ends up being an overall leader for the recruiting class.”
Abraham and others also believe Browne is perhaps the leading candidate to win USC’s starting job this spring.
2. Georgia–Mark Richt and his staff identified that they would need some early help on defense and they got it. Out of an astounding thirteen early enrollees, the Bulldogs will have eight new players for this defense this spring led by Trey Matthews whom Jake Rowe, Recruiting and Football Analyst at UGASports.com, said “stood out” as a player who could make an impact as a starter for the Bulldogs next season.
3. Florida–It is clear that the Gators made finding linebacker help an priority as three of the eight early enrollees for Florida project at that position. They are led by Rivals.com five star Alex Anzalone. I also expect four star receiver DeMarcus Robinson who went back and forth between Florida and Clemson over the course of his recruitment to be a factor in the Gators’ rotation.
4. Michigan–The Wolverines signed six players ranked as four stars by Rivals.com to bring some help to Brady Hoke’s team. Offensive tackle Kyle Bosch, who could project inside, could push for a starting job on the interior while defensive back Dymonte Thomas and tight end Jake Butt could also make similar pushes.
5. Notre Dame–Brian Kelly was able to add some good depth to his program with the early signing period. I will be watching tight end Mike Heuerman to see if he can make a run to fill Tyler Eifert’s shoes. James Onwualu could get a head start at the running back position if that’s where the coaches put him, and wide receiver Corey Robinson is another of the five four star prospects who could make an impact for the Irish next season.
1. Derrick Henry (Alabama)–The#6 ranked player according to Breitbart Sports has already enrolled with the Tide, and, as an extremely physically mature prospect, I expect him to compliment T.J. Yeldon and fill the void left by the NFL-bound Eddie Lacy.
2. Lavon Hooks (Ole Miss)–The #2 JUCO in the country according to Rivals.com will be a big part of Hugh Freeze’s rebuilding efforts at Ole Miss. According to Neal McCready, Publisher of RebelGrove.com, Lavon Hooks provides the elite “interior presence” that the Rebels need to compete right away. At 6’4″, 295 lbs., Hooks will be an immediate contributor. Ole Miss also will be adding dynamic athlete Nickolas Brassell to their roster this spring.
3. Eli Apple (Ohio State)–Ranked #17 in the 2013 class according the Breitbart Sports, Apple is an impressive corner who could look for immediate playing time in a Buckeye secondary that will be depleted due to graduation. Cameron Burrows, another four star early enrollee, looks to get in on the competition as well.
4. Deon Long (Maryland)–Having bounced around from signing with West Virginia, attending Hargrave Military Academy, New Mexico, and, most recently, Iowa Western Community College, Long is a dynamic athlete who will provide a potent threat in the Terps passing game along with freshman sensation Stefon Diggs.
5. Cameron Artis-Payne (Auburn)–Landing Artis-Payne out of Allan Hancock Community College was big for new head coach Gus Malzahn who takes over a Tigers team that is thin on running backs. He is a physical back who could make an immediate impact. Ben Bradley from Hutchinson Community College could be another early enrollee that competes for a starting spot for the Tigers.
Follow Cole Muzio on Twitter @ColeMuzio. Follow Breitbart Recruiting on Twitter with #BreitbartREC.