Prior to the early 2000’s college freshmen football players reported to camp in August and were thrown into the fire. Many schools had freshmen report a day before the returning players in order to try and acclimate them to the practice schedule so they wouldn’t be lost.
Things have changed drastically over the past few years and this year the Georgia Southern Eagles have 16 mid-year enrollees including eight freshman who were able to start the semester in January.
Eagle head coach Clay Helton feels this is very important as it not only gets the players adjusted to college life, but they are also able to participate in spring football and weight training.
“What really helps so much is them to be able to have a nine-week strength and conditioning program,” said Helton. “They are also here with the older guys through all that. They learn how to compete from guys like Dillon Springer, Justin Ellis and Todd Bradley-Glenn. They learn what leadership is and how to work as well as what the standard is and now, they are out here making plays.”
Helton said he and his staff made an effort to bring in as many early enrollees as he could in order to get a jump on the Eagle culture and be able to put them through their strength program.
“This is a transition that is happening throughout college football and is so important,” said Helton. “We were really proactive to get as many as we could in here. The other thing that is a little new is as soon as our other freshmen recruits graduate in May they will be coming right here to join us and get a head start rather than reporting in July or August.”
Among those early signees is freshman quarterback Zak Rozsman from Walton High School. Rozsman passed for 6,000 yards and 50 touchdowns in 37 career high school starts and is soaking up the knowledge that comes with being here early.
“I thought it was important to get a head start not only from the school aspect but getting into the playbook as well,” said Rozsman. “I think there is such an advantage to early enrolling as opposed to coming in the summer. I have gotten into the playbook and strength program and really getting a chance to see what college is like. It was a great decision.”
Freshman defensive lineman Ky Tayo comes to Georgia Southern from Spring Valley High School in Columbia S.C. Tayo was a first-team all-state selection as a senior as he posted over 60 tackles including 11 for loss.
“Getting a head start on the rest of the freshmen who will be here in the summer is a great thing,” said Tayo. “It is so nice to be able to adjust to this environment and college in general and not have everything thrown at you all together in the summer. Being able to learn from the seniors and the other guys on the defensive line has been nice and just getting to know them in the spring I feel we can all be even closer with the summer as well.”
Eagle freshman defensive back Ashton Whitner comes to Georgia Southern from Greenville South Carolina where he was rated as a three-star recruit and the number 39 player in the entire state of South Carolina.
“It was so important to me to be able to enroll early, said Whitner. “Everyone I had talked to recommended that I get here as early as possible. I made sure to talk to my guidance counselor my junior year so we could plan things out in order for me to be able to enroll early. I am so glad I was able to do it because there is so much to learn and this gives me more time to get things worked out before fall camp.”
The Eagles will hold their first scrimmage of the spring Saturday at 3:15 at Paulson Stadium.