Opinions vary when discussing early enrollment, but the benefits that a student-athlete gains from the process cannot be questioned.
When Aaron Lynch was tabbed as an early enrollee, people speculated on how the extra time would help polish his game for the 2011 season. That goes without saying. What people fail to look at is the maturity that Lynch brought with him to South Bend.
Physically, there was no question that Lynch was in the right place, but the way that he has adapted is what makes the transition easier.
"Aaron knew what he had to do since his sophomore year in high school to be an early enrollee," said Alice Lynch, Aaron's mother. "He had his class schedule planned out that far in advance. He knew what kind of hard work it would take." Lynch came in with a GPA over 3.0, reinforcing what his mother stated.
The five members of the group of early enrollees—Ishaq Williams, Kyle Brindza, Brad Carrico, Everett Golson and Lynch—each brings with him a new level of preparedness that is relatively new to the Irish since they started taking early enrollees in 2006. This is a reflection of the type of players that Brian Kelly is recruiting.
At 6'6" 260, Lynch has already benefited from his extra time with strength and conditioning coach Paul Longo, adding 10 pounds of mass to his frame. His efforts in the Blue-Gold game were literally awe-inspiring and possibly a big reason that many fans stayed glued to their seats in less than desirable conditions. Lynch finished with seven tackles, one-and-a-half for loss, and wreaked constant havoc in the backfield.
Lynch's play during his high school career drew him 16 offers, but it was his play in the Army All-American Bowl Game that showed he was a step ahead of the competition. He piled up 2.5 sacks and once again ruined the day of would-be ball carriers and quarterbacks. What this translates into is that before stepping on the Notre Dame campus, Aaron Lynch showed that he was capable of competing with the best in the nation.
Alice Lynch is Aaron's biggest fan, and it wasn't easy for Aaron being away from home at first, which makes him just like any student in that respect.
"In the beginning it was very hard for him being away from home and trying to handle the college courses. He has had to change his study habits a little bit as well, but he knows what he has to do and he's handled it quite well. He definitely has to work very hard in the classroom just as he has been working hard on the field. He knows what he has to do and he will do it," Alice stated.
Making these adjustments sooner rather than later should help Lynch both on and off the field. "Aaron starting early was one of the best decisions he has made. I am so proud of him. It hasn't been very easy for him, but Aaron is doing fine. Aaron has finally adjusted to being away from home and adapting to the college life," Alice went on to say.
Aaron Lynch adapting to college life now should also prove to be beneficial to the members of his class that haven't arrived on campus yet. With Lynch having the lay of the land, he can provide leadership to the student-athletes who will be homesick when they arrive. Leadership like this somehow makes a person less homesick when he is the one showing newer people the ropes.
There is no question that Lynch will prove to be a leader on the field, but when a student-athlete with his level of maturity is able to provide leadership off the field, special bonds are made.
While Lynch will surely benefit by enrolling early, one could almost look at it as a sacrifice. Aaron Lynch will be paving the way for his future teammates by traveling the road first.
Jim Sheridan is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained first-hand.