There’s a benefit for freshmen recruits willing to eschew their final months of high school — waving goodbye to things such as senior cut days and the prom — to step onto campus early and thrust themselves into spring practice.
The SEC has seen its share of early enrollees go on to contribute in their true freshmen years. And you don’t have to look far back into time to find examples. Quarterbacks Jacob Eason of Georgia and Ole Miss’ Shea Patterson both became starters for the Bulldogs and Rebels, respectively, during the 2016 season.
Same goes for Arkansas DT McTelvin “Sosa” Agim (25 tackles, five TFL) and Auburn DE Marlon Davidson (35 tackles, six TFL) each tallied 2.5 sacks and earned starting assignments this year as a result of graduating from high school early.
Who are some of the players from this year’s class emboldened by the success of motivated freshmen before them? We look at some of the best early enrollees who could potential make a significant impact right out of the gate during the 2017 campaign.
The appearance of Baylor transfer Jarrett Stidham — the potential impact quarterback that Gus Malzahn has been seeking for quite some time — wasn’t the only early enrollee at practice as Auburn preps for its Sugar Bowl matchup against Oklahoma.
While they won’t be eligible to suit up against the Sooners, the pair of defensive specialists will gain valuable experience heading into the spring by simply being around a program steeling itself for a major bowl game.
Britt is a 4-star talent out of Oxford, Ala., ranking No. 14 in the state of Alabama, according to 247 Sports. Askew, listed as an athlete and No. 11 prospect in the Yellowhammer State, arrives in Auburn after choosing the Tigers over several suitors, including Alabama.
The next line of great Florida defensive backs could be getting an early look this bowl season and spring with the arrival of Shawn Davis in Gainesville. Davis, a 3-star cornerback out of Miami Southridge High School, will likely move to safety — an area the Gators needs big bruisers, such as Davis, with the departure of Marcus Maye this year. Even at 5-11, 190-pounds, Davis is a big hitter and excellent ball handler and is coming off a season in which he helped lead the Spartans to a Florida state title.
Kemore Gamble is also champing at the bit to begin chomping for the Gators. The 4-star tight end chose Jim McElwain’s program over offer from Alabama after spending his high school days alongside Davis at Miami Southridge.
LSU is facing the potential departure of up to 13 starters from this year’s squad, meaning the likelihood of a true freshman coming in and making an early impact isn’t so farfetched of an idea. Among them could be Austin Deculus, a 4-star offensive lineman out of Cy-Fair (Texas) High School. Deculus might as well join the college ranks. At 6-6 and 331 pounds, he’s more man than high school student.
Ed Orgeron is wasting no time in getting the future of the Tigers in camp, as possibly five of the top nine recruits from the 2017 class could be in the LSU facilities come January. That group also includes 4-star safeties JaCoby Stevens and Grant Delpit.
Like Sosa Agim before them, Arkansas expects a high number of early recruits to join the Hogs this winter. Among them are talented offensive linemen and tight ends, staples of any Bret Bielema roster. The Razorbacks offensive line is young and will only lose senior LT Dan Skipper. But his departure is a big one and could open up a spot somewhere along the line for either 4-star Dalton Wagner or 3-stars Kirby Adcock or Shane Clenin to see some action as freshmen.
The early arrival of 4-star Jeremy Patton could benefit from working under Jeremy Sprinkle, the man he can potentially replace at tight end.
The South Carolina defense can use some help up front. Future relief could arrive early in the form of SDE M.J. Webb. The 4-star recruit out of Madison County (Ga.) High School is already working out with the Gamecocks, primarily in the defensive tackle position, although there’s no telling where he’ll end up come fall. Webb, who is 6-2 and 271 pounds, provides head coach Will Muschamp with plenty of options and flexibility.