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The SEC enrolled 72 recruits early in the 2014 cycle.
Enrolling early is a fairly new trend that is clearly used by one league more so than any other.
Fans always ask how the SEC does it? How can one league become so dominant? The simple answer is it cares more. The SEC is more dedicated to winning championships than your favorite conference, from the last graduate assistant on the sidelines to the last row of fans in the nosebleed seats at Neyland Stadium to the big-dollar donors and $7 million coaches.
It’s why enrolling early has become such an important aspect to SEC recruiting. This league more than any other mercilessly ignores senior prom in exchange for spring practice. While on the surface, a few extra months of work shouldn’t change the course of a coach’s career, enrolling players early can be extremely beneficial.
And the rest of college football needs to follow the SEC’s lead.
The hardest part of true freshman life in major college football isn’t on the field. Athletes are more prepared physically than ever to contribute early. It is the mental side of the game that is tough to adjust to — and that includes little things like finding a classroom or learning a road map.
Eight extra months of practice time to acclimate to college life, learn to function independently and work with teammates all while not having to worry about wins and losses is invaluable. It also allows athletic departments to fudge scholarship numbers forwards or backwards to accommodate the NCAA.
Just look at how many high school athletes who should be still in high school are already on an SEC campus today:
Butch Jones' No. 5-ranked class was clearly about size and roster turnover. He signed 36 players and 14 of them are already enrolled. The offensive skill positions got a big boost this spring with the additions of names like Josh Malone, Jalen Hurd, Daniel Helm and Ethan Wolf. Otherwise, the line of scrimmage got plenty of help as three offensive linemen and a pair of D-liners enrolled early for the Vols. This is one of the largest classes of early enrollees in history and should help churn the depleted Tennessee roster quickly this spring.
|Josh Malone||WR||6-3||195||Gallatin, Tenn.||No. 36|
|Jalen Hurd||RB||6-3||227||Hendersonville, Tenn.||No. 40|
|Daniel Helm||TE||6-4||225||Chatham, Ill.||No. 198|
|D'Andre Payne||DB||5-9||176||Washington, D.C.||No. 264|
|Ethan Wolf||TE||6-5||243||Minster, Ohio||No. 325|
|Dimarya Mixon||DE||6-3||263||Compton, Calif.||No. 579|
|Neiko Creamer||ATH||6-3||223||Wilmington, Del.||No. 638|
|Coleman Thomas||OL||6-6||299||Max Meadows, Va.||No. 639|
|Jakob Johnson||LB||6-4||240||Stuttgart, Germany||No. 642|
|Ray Raulerson||OL||6-5||275||Tampa, Fla.||No. 849|
|Emmanuel Moseley||DB||5-11||165||Greensboro, N.C.||No. 857|
|Von Pearson||WR||6-3||185||Newport News, Va.||No. 4 (JC)|
|Dontavius Blair||OL||6-8||300||Anniston, Ala.||No. 8 (JC)|
|Owen Williams||DL||6-2||285||Macon, Ga.||No. 113 (JC)|
The Gators need some offensive help and Will Muschamp and new coordinator Kurt Roper got some with this group. Will Grier is a special athlete who could be ready to help at quarterback in the fall because he will get a full spring to get accustomed with the Gators' program, offense and campus. With the loss of two stud cornerbacks, Muschamp also added some needed depth to the secondary with two of the top rated players in the class in Jalen Tabor and Duke Dawson.
|Jalen Tabor||DB||6-1||188||Washington, D.C.||No. 14|
|Will Grier||QB||6-2||190||Davidson, N.C.||No. 48|
|Duke Dawson||DB||5-10||190||Cross City, Fla.||No. 194|
|Nolan Kelleher||OL||6-6||305||Mt. Pleasant, S.C.||No. 356|
|Brandon Powell||RB||5-9||175||Deerfield Beach, Fla.||No. 400|
|Taven Bryan||DL||6-5||260||Casper, Wyo.||No. 533|
|DeAndre Goolsby||TE||6-4||230||Derby, Ky.||No. 535|
|Kavaris Harkless||OL||6-5||275||Jacksonville, Fla.||No. 809|
|Drew Sarvary||OL||6-6||318||Tallahassee, Fla.||No. 150 (JC)|
Alabama welcomed eight new faces to campus this spring, including the top player in the class (Cam Robinson) and the No. 4-ranked quarterback in the nation (David Cornwell). In all, Nick Saban enrolled five top-100 prospects early and will have them for spring practice. He also brought in two four-star junior college players, both of which will help bolster the defensive line.
|Cam Robinson||OL||6-6||325||Monroe, La.||No. 4|
|Tony Brown||DB||6-0||195||Beaumont, Texas||No. 9|
|Hootie Jones||DB||6-2||215||Monroe, La.||No. 50|
|David Cornwell||QB||6-5||240||Norman, Okla.||No. 79|
|Cam Sims||WR||6-4||200||Monroe, La.||No. 84|
|Dion Hamilton||LB||6-0||240||Montgomery, Ala.||No. 203|
|Jarran Reed||DL||6-4||310||Goldsboro, N.C.||No. 13 (JC)|
|D.J. Pettway||DL||6-3||255||Pensacola, Fla.||No. 15 (JC)|
Texas A&M (7)
Kevin Sumlin will get some immediate help from his early enrollees at two key positions. Wide receiver and offensive line got much deeper with the addition of five-star prospect Speedy Noil. Three blockers, including two elite junior college prospects, should help rebuild the depth along the offensive front quickly. Sumlin also gets his prized gem in the form of the nation's top quarterback, Kyle Allen, onto campus early.
|Speedy Noil||WR||5-11||190||New Orleans, La.||No. 8|
|Kyle Allen||QB||6-3||200||Scottsdale, Ariz.||No. 10|
|Zaycoven Henderson||DT||6-1||310||Longview, Texas||No. 219|
|JJ Gustafson||OL||6-5||310||Dallas, Texas||UR|
|Jermaine Eluemunor||OL||6-4||315||Danville, N.J.||No. 7 (JC)|
|Avery Gennesy||OL||6-5||310||Southhaven, Miss.||No. 9 (JC)|
|Josh Reynolds||WR||6-4||190||San Antonio, Texas||No. 37 (JC)|
Mark Stoops did an excellent overall job with this class and his much-maligned offense should get a big boost with seven early enrollees. Drew Barker is the QB of the future in Lexington and is one of the highest rated players in this class overall. He will be joined by three other skill position prospects in wideouts Thaddeus Snodgrass and T.V. Williams and running back Mikel Horton. This is a strong group for the Cats.
|Drew Barker||QB||6-3||217||Burlington, Ky.||No. 119|
|Thaddeus Snodgrass||WR||6-1||180||Springfield, Ohio||No. 304|
|Mikel Horton||RB||6-1||223||West Chester, Ohio||No. 380|
|T.V. Williams||WR||5-10||165||McKinney, Texas||No. 687|
|Dorian Hendrix||LB||6-0||230||Huber Heights, Ohio||No. 761|
|C.J. Johnson||DT||6-3||275||Columbia, S.C.||No. 30 (JC)|
|A.J. Stamps||CB||6-0||190||Vicksburg, Miss.||No. 215 (JC)|
Ole Miss (7)
Only two true freshman early enrollees signed with Ole Miss so Hugh Freeze's class features mostly junior college prospects, one transfer and one prep schooler. But at least they are highly touted, as Marquis Haynes was the No. 5-rated prep school prospect in the nation and all three JUCOs are ranked in the top 50 nationally. Christian Morris comes to Oxford from UCLA after signing there originally in the 2013 class.
|C.J. Hampton||DB||6-1||195||Meridian, Miss.||No. 96|
|Kendrick Doss||QB||6-2||215||Florence, Ala.||No. 610|
|Marquis Haynes||DE||6-3||225||Jacksonville, Fla.||No. 5 (PS)|
|Christian Russell||LB||6-1||235||Fayetteville, N.C.||No. 25 (JC)|
|Fahn Cooper||OL||6-5||315||Crystal Lake, Ill.||No. 28 (JC)|
|Jeremy Liggins||ATH||6-4||295||Oxford, Miss.||No. 48 (JC)|
|Christian Morris||OL||6-6||290||Memphis, Tenn.||Transfer|
Gus Malzahn didn't get too many true freshman early enrollees (2) but he brought in quality junior college prospects. D'haquille Williams is considered the top JUCO player in the nation and he should help on the outside in short order. In fact, a total of three pass-catchers enrolled early to help Nick Marshall and the passing attack this spring.
|Stanton Truitt||WR||5-10||185||Monroe, Ga.||No. 317|
|Chris Laye||TE||6-5||240||Cumming, Ga.||Unranked|
|D'haquille Willams||WR||6-3||205||LaPlace, La.||No. 1 (JC)|
|Derrick Moncrief||S||6-3||225||Prattville, Ala.||No. 11 (JC)|
|Xavier Dampeer||OL||6-2||300||Mendenhall, Miss.||No. 194 (JC)|
Gary Pinkel didn't bring in much elite talent but getting five new faces on campus early is a big help. Brandon Lee is the only nationally ranked freshman joining the roster early and he should help fill out a depleted front seven. Kenya Dennis is a quality JUCO prospect who also will help rebuild depth on the defensive side of the ball for Mizzou.
|Brandon Lee||LB||6-2||215||Indianapolis, Ind.||No. 276|
|Logan Cheadle||DB||5-9||175||Lee's Summit, Mo.||Unranked|
|Michael Fairchild||OL||6-4||275||Overland Park, Kan.||Unranked|
|Marvin Zanders||QB||6-2||185||Jacksonville, Fla.||Unranked|
|Kenya Dennis||DB||6-0||200||Raymond, Miss.||No. 100 (JC)|
Bret Bielema didn't have a great National Signing Day overall. The rest of the SEC West kept improving while the Hogs missed out on all of its big NSD targets. Getting four names onto campus early, however, will allow this class to help the winless Razorbacks address their needs sooner. In particular, the passing game should get some help this spring with two wideouts and a quarterback enrolling early in Fayetteville.
|Rafe Peavey||QB||6-2||212||Bolivar, Mo.||No. 355|
|Chris Murphy||CB||5-10||180||Marietta, Ga.||No. 622|
|Jared Cornelius||WR||6-1||185||Shreveport, La.||No. 907|
|Cody Hollister||WR||6-4||205||Bend, Ore.||No. 232 (JC)|
|Edward Paris||S||6-1||190||Arlington, Texas||No. 42|
|Brandon Harris||QB||6-2||195||Bossier City, La.||No. 75|
|Nick Fitzgerald||QB||6-5||220||Richmond Hill, Ga.||Unranked|
|Jocquell Johnson||OL||6-6||307||Jackson, Miss.||No. 97 (JC)|
|Jacob Park||QB||6-3||200||Goose Creek, S.C.||No. 114|
|Abu Lamin||DT||6-4||295||Fayetteville, N.C.||No. 16 (JC)|