Teams set to benefit from early enrollees

Butch Jones has an extremely strong class of early enrollees coming in. AP Photo/Wade Payne

There are conflicting viewpoints when it comes to the benefits-to-drawbacks ratio of early enrollees.

Alabama coach Nick Saban emerged this month as someone who believes joining a college program a few months early creates a “smoother transition,” despite the high school senior missing his final semester. The Crimson Tide are backing that philosophy up, bringing in eight January enrollees.

Then there are those coaches -- I recall Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops being one -- who think it is more difficult to enroll in January, because you’re joining a team and school year at an odd time. It can be alienating.

Plenty of teams believe midterm enrollees can make big, immediate impacts. Look at Tennessee, which brought in 14 newcomers in January.

The Vols lead off our list of teams that could benefit most from 2014 early enrollees, and several are SEC programs seeking immediate help.

Tennessee Volunteers

Potential impact players (ESPN300 rank): WR Josh Malone (43), S Todd Kelly Jr. (59), RB Jalen Hurd (70); WR Von Pearson (JC50 2), OT Dontravius Blair (JC50 26)

Georgia had 13 early enrollees in 2013 so, naturally, its SEC East rivals in Knoxville, Tenn., had to one-up the Bulldogs with 14 in 2014. The common denominator is need. Georgia was left depleted on defense a year ago, and the Volunteers have significant turnover on both sides of the ball.

Upon arrival, Butch Jones and his staff knew this day was coming; the personnel transition was sort of a delayed one. The skill spots have been bare for a year, so Hurd, Malone and Pearson could all compete for time immediately. Blair, as a juco, could fill some of the voids on the offensive line.

Hurd is the player I’ve heard most about from coaches in the region.

“Good kid,” said another SEC assistant who got to know the Nashville-area product while recruiting him.