Wait, you guys get to wear helmets? What is this foppery?
After a weird low of just three guys showing up last January, a third of Michigan's signees (so far?) for the 2019 class have arrived on campus and started participating in workouts. I thought it worth going over the Michigan history of early enrollees and seeing if a jump on their development has much of an effect on their careers.
Enrolling Early: History and Statistics
The practice only became common in college football in the mid-2000s, and Michigan's first January participant wasn't until 2005. Unsurprisingly the number drops during coaching transitions; 2008, 2011 and 2015 had just four early entrants between them. This year's was only the second class that could commit in December and you're really committing to the school if you graduate early and start college classes before you know who your position coach is going to be.
These numbers have a ton of noise in them, but they do tell us a few things. I highlighted the big differences I noticed:
|Michigan Recruits 1990-2018||Early Enrollees||Fall Enrollees|
|Players in Study||71||576|
|Avg ☆ Rating as Recruit||4.10||4.01|
|Started 1/+ game(s) as True Fr||24%||9%|
|Redshirted (as Fr, not medical)||42%||65%|
|Did not earn degree||30%||25%|
|Did not complete eligibility||50%||43%|
|Played in the NFL (if eligible)||18%||25%|
The extra spring practice does seem to matter when it comes to freshmen who contribute early, but it also seems to lead to greater attrition; even counting the players on the team—a good many of are yet fated to leave with eligibility remaining—HALF(!) of Michigan's early enrollees left Ann Arbor before their clocks ran out.
Michigan football scholarship recruits, 1990-2018 (transfers removed)
By their second year on campus the fall enrollees have caught up, and from there the higher attrition and tendency not to redshirt catches up. Just three early enrollees in my study had any starts as a senior: 11 for Devin Gardner in 2014, 11 for Bryan Mone last year, and 5 for Kevin Grady in 2009. Note that none of those three redshirted (on purpose) their first years.
Michigan is currently projected to start five to seven (Ruiz, DPJ, Black, Kemp, McKeon, Ambry, and Ben Mason) of the 16 non-freshman early enrollees currently on the roster, versus 17 to 19 of the 44 non-freshman fall enrollees they have. That tracks with the history of early enrollees versus fall enrollees in the data above.
But we should talk about the noise because there are different reasons for players to enroll early. My suspicion here is there's a certain type of player who committed to Michigan when there was a perception of early playing time available, and subsequently a lot of what we're seeing above is an effect of a certain type of early enrollee winning some of those open jobs, while those who don't are leaving early.
So let's do this anecdotally. I did this by organizing by the reasons they enrolled early, those being:
- The Class Quarterback: because early enrollment is common for this position
- The Immediate Need: because the guy is expected to be a big contributor by Week 1
- The Immediate Competitor: because he was expected to be college-ready out of high school
- The Came to Play: because he's going to shock the world by being a big contributor by Week 1
- The Get Outta Dodge: because dorm life >>>> past life
- The Collegian: because he's just done with high school
[After THE JUMP: weapons of choice]