The Alabama Crimson Tide began it's spring camp a week ago, surely with all eyes on what would be the first ever BCS National Championship trifecta.
Along with a roster full of returning talent, coach Nick Saban welcomed into the fold nine freshmen who are already on campus; they have graduated high school early and enrolled in classes at Alabama.
While the spring practice season is limited to a mere 15 practices, it also comes with additional and irreplaceable conditioning and film time.
The value of this time cannot be accurately priced for the youngsters who are looking to prove their worth and work their way into the rotation come game time. For those who have the opportunity to do it, it's a great opportunity.
Among the new kids on the block are a pair of quarterbacks, Cooper Bateman and Luke Del Rio along with highly touted running back Derrick Henry.
Early enrollees are nothing new for the Tide, although Saban dismissed the thought of encouraging it for all players in a 2012 ESPN.com article by Alex Scarborough.
To me, we don’t ever encourage guys to enroll early, Saban said. To me, that’s their choice. You only have one senior year in high school and I’m not always sure that that’s the best thing for guys to give that up, but if they want to do it and get started on their college career and come in early and get ahead academically as well as football-wise, I think that’s fine.
Saban's somewhat surprising view on enrolling early did not stop star Tide players such as Dee Milliner, Trey DePriest and T.J. Yeldon along with JUCO transfers Jesse Williams and Quenton Dial from doing so in previous years.
For one thing, getting a head start on the competition most definitely provides these athletes with an advantage over those who must wait until summer to arrive.
In Henry's case, by the time fellow freshmen running backs Alvin Kamara, Altee Tenpenny and Tyren Jones arrive at the Capstone, he will have already adjusted to life on campus.
He will also have gained a tremendous amount of experience working with both the coaching staff and his more experienced teammates and be well aware of the practice routines and expectations long before the other incoming freshmen.
Whether or not this will pay off in the long run for these newcomers will be determined over the next few months. Nonetheless, it appears to be an ongoing trend throughout college football and may become more of the norm than the exception in coming years.
One thing is all but guaranteed, though.
After spending the spring working with strength and conditioning coach Scott Cochran, these young men should be in the best shape of their lives when the steamy dog days of summer arrive and practice resumes.
Here are the nine freshmen that are already participating in spring camp, along with their positions and jersey numbers:
Cooper Bateman, quarterback, #18
Luke Del Rio, quarterback, #14
Raheem Falkins, receiver, #80
Derrick Henry, running back, #3
Brandon Hill, offensive lineman, #73
O.J. Howard, tight end, #88
Parker McLeod, quarterback, #15
Jai Miller, defensive back, #19
Kieran Williams, tight end, #89
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