When the Huskies opened spring drills this week, just one member of the Class of 2012 was enrolled and on the roster — running back/linebacker Ryan McDaniel.
McDaniel, however, is injured and isn’t participating in drills (for what it’s worth, he’s been wearing a jersey the color of the offense and hanging out with the running backs, so that appears to be his initial position though nothing has been stated — and as noted, his knee injury means he can’t do anything on the field right now, anyway).
A few fans have asked me why UW doesn’t have more early enrollees — meaning they graduated from high school early and enrolled ahead of the rest of their class — which leads me to think that maybe there’s a thought out there that there have often been quite a few.
The reality is there usually aren’t more than a couple, and it’s a trend that’s only really been in vogue the last half-decade or so, anyway.
There are some obvious on-paper advantages to enrolling early — a player gets a head start on potentially creating a role on the team with an extra spring practice and ability to take part in other official team functions; he also can count as an initial enrollee in terms of the NCAA scholarship limits in either the class he signed in, or the previous year, giving the team some scholarship flexibility.
But it’s also asking a lot of a player to graduate early from high school and give up the final few months of high school life. Usually, the guys in the best position to do it are those who have known for a few years that they are definitely getting scholarship offers and undoubtedly will be playing college football. For some, who maybe haven’t gotten offers until later in the game, it may not really be possible to push the academic timeline ahead that quickly. Also, some guys simply may not want to do it. My take is no kid should ever feel pressured into giving up that time of his life.
It seems to make the most sense for either quarterbacks — who have the most to learn — or those who for reasons of depth issues or their own ability may have a legitimate chance to earn immediate playing time.
Here’s a list of UW players who enrolled early since 2007:
2011 — Austin Seferian-Jenkins.
2010 — Nick Montana, Jesse Callier, Victor Burnett, Deontae Cooper.
2009 — None.
2008 — Chris Polk.
2007 — Ronnie Fouch.
I’m not sure that list proves one way or the other whether enrolling early makes much of a difference.
Of that list, Seferian-Jenkins is probably the one it would seem to have helped the most, though he’s also so talented it’s hard to say he wouldn’t have had the season he had no matter when he arrived.
Both QBs on that list never won the starting job (other than due to injury) and later transferred. Burnett also never made an impact and was eventually dismissed for off-field reasons without ever playing.
Polk obviously went on to have a historic career at UW. But it’s hard to know whether enrolling early factored into his later production — like Seferian-Jenkins, maybe he’d have just been that good, anyway. The jury is still out on Callier, and Cooper has had two unfortunate knee injuries and has yet to play.
It seems like too small a sample size to really conclude anything, though it’s surely a trend that will continue — though just given the realities of pulling it off, usually for no more than a couple of players a year.