Early Enrollees

As I read through the ACC Area Sports Journal’s annual spring football issue this week, I was struck by the number of early enrollees already making headlines around the league…

Miami: In Coral Gables, early enrollees are standing out in terms of both quantity (eight) and potential impact at key positions.  An si.com article earlier this month profiled DT Marcus Forston, who should get significant playing time.  PK Jake Wieclaw may start in the opener against always-powerful Charleston Southern, and others who may move to the top of the depth chart by late August include QB Jacory Harris, LB Arthur Brown, LB Sean Spence, and WR Aldarius Johnson.  Note that four of the eight played together last year for Northwestern High in Miami, which beat then #1 Southlake (TX) Carroll in front of 30,000+ last September to break Carroll’s 49-game winning streak.  Head coach Randy Shannon may have taken the in-season maturity cliché a bit too far when he said “those guys will be able to contribute right away.  They’re not true freshmen anymore. They’re more like redshirt freshmen.”

Clemson: Tommy Bowden did his best SEC impression by getting six football players enrolled in January, including one holdover signee from 2007’s class.  DE Da’Quan Bowers stole the show in the spring game by dominating when in, recording four TFL (including two sacks).  Bowers was the top-rated end by most recruiting services last year, and the #1 overall recruit in at least one publication.  Will he be next in line on the 1st-round train, following in the footsteps of pass rushers Gaines Adams & Phillip Merling?  Bowden played the rookie game by keeping him on the second team through the spring, but admitted after the spring game that “he’s shown that he’s going to be able to help us next year.”  You can bet Alabama QB John Parker Wilson will have his jersey number in mind in the season opener in Atlanta.

Florida State: An unheard-of 10 freshmen were redshirted last season, and only a handful of starters do not return in Tallahassee.  Yet because of injuries, attrition, and impending suspensions, three recruits (all slated to play defense) to participated in spring drills for FSU.  LB Nigel Bradham is battling for a starting role, and may have little competition according to the Tallahassee Democrat, at least for the opener against Western Carolina.  DB Terrance Parks may contribute right away in a reserve role and on passing downs.

Boston College:  Among the three early enrollees in Chestnut Hill, the big name is RB Josh Haden.  Josh is the brother of 2007 Florida early enrollee Joe Haden, who started 12 games last year for the Gators in the secondary.  The Boston Globe reported that by the end of spring the younger Haden had moved into the “primary running back slot.”  At 5-8, he may not carry a full load in the opener at Kent State, but as head coach Jeff Jagodzinski bragged, “he brings some explosion to our backfield.”

NC State: The incoming freshman generating the most buzz in Raleigh is still in high school in Chantilly, VA.  Head coach Tom O’Brien went as far as to say last month that “we certainly have a highly regarded freshman coming in the fall in Mike Glennon.  We want to give a look at him when we get to August so it will probably be a situation that won’t be solved until we go into the first game.”  Mike is of course the younger brother of rising VPI senior Sean Glennon, who is in a battle for the starting QB job himself in Blacksburg.  One early enrollee making noise in the spring was Dwayne Maddox, who the Charlotte News & Observer observantly observed “has the potential to be a four-year starter,” perhaps beginning with the 2008 opener at South Carolina.

Georgia Tech: The lone early enrollee to participate in new head coach Paul Johnson’s initial spring foray in Atlanta was Tyler Melton, a holdover from the Yellow Jacket’s 2007 class, who reportedly “took community college classes and cleaned golf carts at a course in Houston last fall” while rehabbing a knee injury.  Johnson raved about how much of an advantage the extra spring will provide, and Melton appears locked into at least a second-string WR spot heading into his team’s opener at home vs. Jacksonville State.  The turnout for GT’s spring game (8,500, the largest since 1987) hinted at the optimism surrounding the program and the new man in charge.  The usual questions about the feasibility of Johnson’s triple-option offense (spring game was roughly 75% run, 25% pass) in the ACC remain, but consider what he said upon taking the job: “During the past six years at Navy, we played 29 BCS teams, in the large part from the ACC. We averaged almost 30 points against them.”  Interesting logic and perhaps yet applicable to his current offensive personnel, most of which was recruited by his predecessor Chan Gailey.

Maryland: Ralph Friedgen’s February haul included four players who completed their high school curriculums early and planned to enroll in January.  The four were joined this spring by two grayshirts from the prior year’s recruiting class.  Two of the three receivers signed in February were already enrolled, as were both tight end prospects, indicating new OC James Franklin’s may be looking to inject some new blood into the Terps’ offense in time for the opener versus the Blue Hens of Delaware.

Wake Forest: Jim Grobe departed from his convention of years past and got three February signees enrolled in time for spring practice.  The Fayetteville Observer reported that two – OL Joe Looney and TE Joe Dixon – will see playing time in 2008 while the third (OT Garrick Williams) will likely be redshirted, more the norm for Grobe’s freshmen.  Looney was listed on the post-spring two-deep at guard, and Grobe even went as far as to suggest that the 3-3, 315-pound Floridian “has done some really good stuff.  I really like that kid right now, and I think with this summer to be here, and then with an August under his belt, that’s a guy that has a chance to help us as a freshman.”  Sprits are high in Winston-Salem heading into the opener at Baylor, with Grobe praising a growing fan he once had to look for “with a search warrant” and commenting that “there’s nothing there’s nothing more glaring” than the lack of a proven starter at long-snapper.  Certainly could be worse.

Duke: Stud DT recruit Vince Oghobaase created waves nationally when he committed to Duke back in 2005 over Miami, Oklahoma, and several other national powers.  Oghobaase created waves in Durham when he enrolled early in order to participate in spring football practice.  Three years later, Duke has another early enrollee – defensive back Randez James.  The USA Today noted James “progressed to the point he should see considerable playing time in the fall.”  New head man David Cutcliffe clearly has a positive opinion of early enrollment, likely molded by springs spent in Oxford & Knoxville.  He had this to say regarding James: “In his particular case, he needed the reps.  Had Randez missed spring practice, he’d have had a hard time helping us. Because he’s been here this spring, Randez will be able to help us in the fall.”  James Madison comes to town on August 30th, but don’t look for ESPN Gameday to be there.

Virginia (none)

Virginia Tech (none)  

North Carolina (none)

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