Early enrollees have become an important piece of roster development in football.
Coaches rely on guys who can come in a few months early and contribute by the time fall hits. Recruiting is an inexact science, and a number of players don’t reach potential in spring.
This is a look at 10 players that struggled to reach expectations this spring and will likely enter the fall as possible redshirts. No matter the reason for failed development, these players struggled this spring.
Florida State lost a wealth of talent along the defensive line after 2012. DeMarcus Walker was expected to be an answer as an early enrollee, but troubles with the NCAA Clearinghouse (h/t Orlando Sentinel) sidelined his spring.
Walker was able to do some drill work on his own to the side of practice without instruction, but not having a position coach in your ear is a huge disadvantage.
The talented defensive end was on his way to playing time before this hiccup with eligibility caused him to miss practice. The delay may not be Walker’s fault, but it has caused him to struggle this spring.
He has fallen behind in the race for playing time.
Expectations weren’t sky high for Ramsey heading into spring, but they were close.
Ramsey was a top 100 player (via 247Sports Composite) in the 2013 recruiting class, choosing Georgia over Alabama and Clemson, to name a few.
He took to Athens and studied behind veteran starter Aaron Murray and incumbent backup Huston Mason. Ramsey also played behind third-stringer Christian LeMay.
By the end of spring, Ramsey was not wowing the crowd with his numbers, but he has shown flashes of future success. Still, not landing in the second-string discussion is a bit disappointing for this top recruit.
Returning from an ACL injury is not an easy task, but that’s what Brookins was trying to accomplish in his first spring in Wisconsin.
Over the course of the 15 practices with the Badgers, he learned the system and progressed, but he is not expecting playing time heading into the fall. He took a backseat to fellow early enrollee Sojourn Shelton.
Brookins will be a very good defender once he settles in Madison, but this spring, he was behind the curve with his knee injury.
The Tigers were trying to piece together a manageable offensive line this spring, hoping Devonte Danzey could be a part of the new solution.
Unfortunately, the learning curve was a little larger than expected, and the powerful offensive guard was relegated to second-string reps. Entering spring, Danzey was a little weighty, and that also hurt his starting prospects.
This spring was a bit of a disappointment, and there will be a lot to digest over the summer for Danzey. He may be able to enter the discussion this fall.
D.J. Ward came into Oklahoma with eligibility issues (h/t Dallas News) that looked to sideline him in 2013, but he gained clearance right before spring practice started.
He's expected to be a star in the future for the Sooners, but after 15 practices, he wasn’t able to crack the two-deep.
Ward will see playing time this fall and will be a future star, but his spring didn’t live up the hype that was expected out of Norman.
Head Coach Tim Beckman
Illinois put together one of the worst offensive efforts in football last season. Tim Beckman was expected to bring a major swing of offensive success in year one, but it didn’t happen.
Heading into spring, help was expected to arrive in tight end Christian Dilauro. He is a big-bodied tight end who will serve the Illini well in the passing game.
His spring was not terrible, but he didn’t do anything that made him stand out and earn playing time. Dilauro could progress a lot this summer, but nothing this spring puts him into the lineup next fall.
Chris Johnson was a dangerous dual-threat quarterback in 2013 (h/t 247Sports) who was expected to challenge for the No. 1 spot at Baylor this spring.
He was just as athletic as advertised when he landed on campus, but he struggled with accuracy issues that pushed him down the depth chart.
Seth Russell took the edge for No. 2 from Johnson this spring and is leaving him behind in the battle against Bryce Petty for the starting spot.
Johnson has the look of a premier quarterback, but he has a lot of development to undergo before he hits the prime time.
John Kenny was the only early enrollee for the Hawkeyes in the recent recruiting cycle. He walked into a position that needed bodies, but after spring, he is not inside the three-deep.
The Hawkeyes have experience in the first two units, but Kenny not pushing for time in the three-deep is surprising.
He may earn some snaps on special teams, but at this point, a redshirt may be in order. That is disappointing for the high hopes that led into his first spring as a Hawkeye.
Steve Sarkisian is constantly looking for playmakers on offense, and this recruiting cycle, he landed one in Troy Williams.
A top dual-threat quarterback in the 2013 class, Williams was hoping to enter the Huskies system and challenge for the backup position this spring. While he did show progression this spring, Cyler Miles is standing in his way to No. 2.
As good as Williams is, Miles has a year in the system and overtook him this spring as the sitting backup. Williams couldn’t do enough to make an impact.
Wendell Smallwood is a bruising-type back who landed in West Virginia this spring.
There were whispers of playing time this fall before spring, but the spring game proved that Smallwood could use a year of development before hitting the field.
During his live spring game coverage, Alex Sims with Bleacher Report noted that “Smallwood will be really good for WVU in a couple of years, but he may need some time to develop.”
With a loaded backfield, this isn’t a huge concern for the Mountaineers offense. But redshirting is not where Smallwood wanted to be after spring.