Early enrollment gains steam among college football recruits

Former Goose Creek standout Tramel Terry opted for early enrollment at the University of Georgia. Buy this photo

Decisions. Decisions. What’s a blue-chip high school football player to do?

Early enrollment by the numbers

EArly Enrollment

3 — Players enrolled early at USC in 2013

13 — Players enrolled early at Georgia in 2013

15 — Players enrolled early at all colleges in 2002

141 — Players enrolled early at all colleges in 2010

Goose Creek’s Tramel Terry had the opportunity to graduate from high school in 3½ years and weighed the pros and cons of enrolling early at the University of Georgia.

If Terry remained in high school, Goose Creek’s ‘Big Man on Campus’ could bask in the glory of being South Carolina’s Mr. Football. He could flash his state championship ring and arrive in style at the prom.

Or he could enroll in time for spring semester at Georgia, essentially giving himself an extra semester as a college freshman. He could adjust to college life, work out with his teammates, learn the playbook and be eligible to participate in spring practice.

Terry, a 6-0, 190-pound running back/wide receiver, opted for college. Enrolling early has become increasingly popular in college football. USA Today reported that a total of 15 football players across the country enrolled early in 2002. That number grew to 141 in 2010 and shows no signs of slowing down.

Terry is one of 13 players to graduate from high school early and enroll at Georgia for the spring semester.

“I started thinking about enrolling early when I was a sophomore,” said Terry, who injured his knee in the Shrine Bowl in December and will not be able to participate in spring practice. “I want to graduate from college in three years. That was one reason. Another was building a relationship with my future teammates.”

Who enrolls early? A majority are skill players (quarterbacks, running backs, receivers) who have the athletic ability to make an impact in their first season. The last three Heisman Trophy winners all enrolled early: Johnny Manziel, Robert Griffin III and Cam Newton.

The verdict on enrolling early is still out. South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier, who won the Heisman in 1966, said enrolling early is not necessary to be successful.

“Half the time, they come in early and still redshirt,” said Spurrier, who had three players enroll early this year. “It really depends on the player and the situation. Some of these kids come in early because they are tired of high school. They think they are ready. I would want to go to the prom and graduate with my class. Of course, I also played basketball and baseball, so I was busy year-round.”

Terry is the first major recruit from the Lowcountry to enroll early.

“I’m not a big prom person,” Terry said. “I don’t care if I miss it. I do plan to walk with my class at graduation. That’s important to me. But my future also is important. That’s why I enrolled early.”

Summerville’s A.J. Green remained in high school all four years and led the Green Wave to a state basketball championship in 2008. In the fall of that year, he was the starting wide receiver at Georgia and was considered by many to be the best freshman player in the country.

Fort Dorchester’s Carlos Dunlap didn’t enroll early. But the defensive end made an impact his freshman season at Florida in 2007 and was named the MVP of the BCS National Championship Game his sophomore season.

Another Fort Dorchester player, Robert Quinn, didn’t enroll early, and for good reason. He underwent brain surgery his senior season in 2007. That didn’t stop him from winning a state wrestling championship four months later. He played early his freshman season at the University of North Carolina.

Terry might be the first major recruit from the Lowcountry to enroll early, but he won’t be the last. Goose Creek coach Chuck Reedy said junior running back Caleb Kinlaw is contemplating graduating early next year.

“It’s something you can’t decide on at the last moment,” Reedy said. “You can’t wait until your senior year. It takes a lot of work. You have to work hard and work with the guidance counselor. You have to be organized.”

Terry’s father, Emory, didn’t pressure his son to enroll early.

“I just wanted to make sure he took care of his business,” the elder Terry said. “I just wanted to make sure he took his SAT and ACT well in advance. Tramel knows how to prioritize so he was ready.”

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