Trend of having players graduate high school early to start college practice
In what is turning into an annual occurence, it appears Michigan will have one of its new recruits (Ryan Mallett) graduate early from high school so that he can enroll at U of M for the Winter Semester while his high school classmates will still be enjoying their senior year. Kevin Grady (sophmore) and Carlos Brown (freshman) are previous early-entry Wolverines. I oppose this trend as I believe that high school players should graduate with their high school class as the players need time to develop and mature before they engage in the rigors (athletic, academic and social) of college life at U of M.
Kevin Grady graduated early from East Grand Rapids High School in Grand Rapids, MI so that he could attend the 2005 Rose Bowl (and participate in the bowl game practices) with the team as well as participate in the 2005 spring practices. Normally, Kevin would not have started practicing with the team until he enrolled for classes for the Fall Semester in August, 2005. However, by virtue of his early enrollment, Kevin was able to practice with the team during the eight months prior to his commencing his freshman season in 2005. The extra practice may have paid off as Kevin was one of only six true freshman to see game action in 2005 and Kevin was the team's 2nd leading rusher on the season with 483 yards. He also led the team in rushing touchdowns with five.
Hoping to duplicate the freshman success of Kevin Grady is this year's early-entry player: Carlos Brown. Carlos, like Grady, is a running back. Carlos was able to participate in 2006 spring practices with U of M because he enrolled as a Winter Semester student after graduating early from Heard County High School in Franklin, GA. U of M looks to be planning to utilize Brown in many different ways in 2006.
As noted previously, current committed recruit and high school senior Ryan Mallett of Texarkana, TX apparently plans to graduate high school early (December, 2006) and enroll in U of M for the Winter Semester of 2007. Mallett, as everyone who has not been hit in the head repeatedly with a mallet knows, is the all-everything QB who is projected to be a 3-year starter for the Wolverines. Mallett hopes the early-entry will allow him more time to learn the offense and study film.
There is certainly a benefit to the team and maybe even to the player to having the player enroll at U of M early. However, I think the negatives far outweigh the positives. Most 17 and 18-year old high school seniors are ill equipped to deal with the daily pressures that go along with being a member of such a high profile team at such a tender age. While the new player gets the opportunity to practice with the team by enrolling early, the player is also being thrown instantly into the craziness of campus life where everyone wants a piece of the program's new "savior." Furthermore, the early-entry player is left relatively unprotected in that he does not have the support network of other incoming freshman players to rely on. He immediately has to find his place among his more experienced teammates while he is viewed as the young newbie who has to show he belongs. That is a lot to ask of anyone.
The downside to throwing a high school student (even a supremely talented one) into the college ranks before his time is that the player's development could be irreparably damaged. Young superstars need to be nurtured and brought along. If a player gets off to a poor start, has his confidence shaken, has trouble meshing with the upper classmen and/or becomes homesick the player's growth and development as a Michigan player could be stunted and that will hurt both the player and the program.
As it is, the recruiting process intrudes on the high school experience of the blue-chip prospects. It becomes too much, however, when the college experience begins before high school even ends. There is plenty of time (four years) for the players to perform in the pressure cooker of "The Big House." Let the high school blue-chippers do the graduation walk with their classmates and have the fabulous freshmen start together in the fall as they have traditionally done. Go Blue!