Seven Early Enrollees Who Are Standing Out at Spring Practice
Pay attention, guys such as Su'a Cravens, Derrick Henry and Eli Apple are going to have a major impact on the national landscape over the next three or four years.
What do they all have in common?
Each of them was an early-enrollee at their program of choice.
Early-enrollees can play a huge part in a college football team's success, Johnny Manziel being the most recent and perhaps effective example.
Manziel's extra time with the program payed huge dividends as he got a jump start on learning Kevin Sumlin's offense, then parlayed that jump start into an excellent season capped off by winning the Heisman Trophy.
The players on this list are the early-enrollees who have impressed so far early in spring practice, and will continue to do so as spring rolls along.
And the term "spring" is used loosely here.
7. O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama
As if the Alabama offense needs another weapon.
O.J. Howard, the 5-star recruit and early-enrollee who plays tight end for the Tide, is a physical, athletic player who will create all kinds of matchup problems for Tide opponents.
In practice thus far, he has been raw, but shown the skill and potential to contribute immediately to he Alabama offense.
Howard will have an impact early and often during his career in Tuscaloosa.
6. Kelvin Taylor, RB, Florida
Taylor has his work cut out for him in trying to earn snaps, given Matt Jones' emergence at the same position.
However, he has displayed the physical tools to be a great back, and the moves needed at the position to make an impact in the SEC.
Taylor, the son of former NFL and Gator running back Fred Taylor, came to the Gators from high school after breaking Emmitt Smith's record for most rushing yards by a varsity player in the state of Florida.
While it's still early in the offseason process to tab him as the greatest thing to ever hit Gainesville, after Tebow and Weis of course, wide receiver Quinton Dunbar is impressed:
Quinton Dunbar on Demarcus Robinson and Kelvin Taylor: "Both of them are going to be studs." #Florida
— Bryan Holt (@Bryan_Holt) March 20, 2013
5. Eli Apple and Cameron Burrows, CB, Ohio State
Urban Meyer has to fill all kinds of holes in his secondary, but appears to have the talent to do so.
Burrows and Apple(formerly Woodard) have stepped up into the second position on the depth chart on either side of the Buckeye's secondary.
Both of them have excellent on-ball skills, making great breaks and showing the potential to defend at an elite level in the Big Ten.
As recently as March 26, Apple was making big plays and remaining aggressive in spring practice.
Freshman corner Eli Apple had a nice pick-6 off Cardale Jones today, but he was flagged for being too physical.— Brandon Castel (@BCastOZone) March 26, 2013
If he continues to stay aggressive, he and Burrows each have a legitimate shot at cracking the two-deep in the OSU secondary.
4. Kenny Bigelow, DT, USC
There are changes in the works for USC, not only the introduction of stud recruit Kenny Bigelow to the nose tackle position, but also the change from the 4-3 defense to the 3-4.
The man has his work cut out for him, transitioning from end to nose tackle, and trying to learn how to play the position.
In spring practice, he has shown flashes of brilliance, earning some praise from Coach Kiffin and encouraging Trojan fans who have wondered how that position would be filled.
In spite of his occasional struggles with the transition, Bigelow has impressed with his ability to learn a new position, new defense and anchor a defensive line that has some major potential in 2013.
3. Steve Elmer, OT, Notre Dame
Steve Elmer has the talent and physical tools to be an excellent offensive lineman at the collegiate level.
He moves well, has the strength to block just about anyone, and has technique that is mature beyond his experience.
However, he missed the first practice of the spring for Notre Dame with some kind of stomach illness.
Not a good way to start practice.
The Irish have since had three practices, and Elmer has not yet made anyone stand up and take notice.
Beginning the season by missing practice then under-performing is a sure way to gain the ire of fans.
The sickness is out of his control, but still, that's rough.
2. Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama
The rich just get richer.
Alabama early-enrollee Derrick Henry earned comparisons to Trent Richardson, a punishing former Alabama back who has moved on to a promising young NFL career.
Henry has impressed in spring drills, displaying ridiculous skills carrying the ball for a man his size. At 6'4" and 243 pounds, he's huge.
Thus far, the five star recruit has done nothing but impress, and given the potential he possesses, will continue to do so.
1. Su'a Cravens, S, USC
USC has some major holes in the secondary, especially after the departure of safety T.J. McDonald.
Enter Su'a Cravens.
The former 4-star recruit is making his mark on the USC secondary, displaying the ability to make big plays and contribute to a defense that has some concerns entering 2013.
Earlier this month in practice, Cravens was all over the field, playing either the nickel position or safety, and appeared comfortable playing both.
His ability to make plays on the ball will help improve the USC secondary.