What’s the hurry?
That’s my reaction when I see a high school student graduate in the middle of his senior year to get a head start on his college football career.
It’s become a popular thing at Ohio State and other elite football schools in the last 10 or 15 years.
This year eight of the Buckeyes’ 26 incoming recruits started school and their football careers in January after graduating early from high school. Last year, nine did it.
Sixteen years ago when Maurice Clarett graduated from high school early it was unusual. But now it’s not at all surprising.
Even the schools known for stricter admission requirements like Notre Dame, Stanford and Northwestern do it.
Notre Dame had a school-record seven early enrollees this year. Northwestern, where coach Pat Fitzgerald used to preach against early enrollment and didn’t have anyone come in early his first eight years as head coach, had five early enrollees.
Alabama had 12 recruits enroll early and the average for Power Five conferences is five recruits choosing to pass up their final four or five months of high school. So, like in so many other ways, the fear of being left behind is in the driver’s seat in college football.
Do players ever regret leaving high school behind them before their classmates?
Most who graduate early say they have no regrets. And it’s possible they don’t. But it’s also possible there are some who do regret it but are conditioned not to say that.
Maybe they are reluctant to revisit a youthful decision or don’t want to appear to be criticizing their football program. And players are taught there’s no complaining in football beginning in their midget league days.
Whatever a person chooses, that’s their decision. They can succeed with or without enrolling early. And they also can fail after starting college early or later.
In Urban Meyer’s first Ohio State recruiting class in 2012, Jacoby Boren, Joshua Perry, Cardale Jones and Michael Thomas enrolled early. But Taylor Decker and Pat Elflein didn’t.
In 2013, Eli Apple, J.T. Barrett and Tyquan Lewis passed up the second semester of their senior year of high school, but Joey Bosa, Vonn Bell, Gareon Conley, Ezekiel Elliott, Darron Lee and Billy Price didn’t.
In 2014, Raekwon McMillan and Curtis Samuel were among the early arrivals. But Marshon Lattimore, Sam Hubbard, Jamarco Jones and Jalyn Holmes chose to graduate with their classes.
In the Meyer era, you can count nearly 10 early enrollees whose hopes were dashed by injuries, bad decisions, too much talent ahead of them at their positions or just finding out that Ohio State might not have been as good a fit for them as they thought it was.
The bottom line? If enrolling early is what some athletes want and it works out the way they planned, it can be a good thing. But a student should never feel pressured into making that decision.
Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414 or on Twitter at @Lima_Naveau.