Graduating high school early and enrolling at a university has become more common in recent years. The University of Florida took in eight early enrollees this year and those players were able to ease into the new schedule, get used to college classes and the grind of playing a collegiate sport at the highest level, while balancing a social life and schoolwork.
For the rest of the 2014 recruiting class, that timetable will be sped up. They’ll enroll this summer, having to acclimate quicker than the members of the class that decided to give up the last semester of their high school careers to jump into the next stage of their career.
As the children’s classic “The Tortoise and the Hare”, slow and steady wins the race. Florida’s biggest impact freshman last year was Vernon Hargreaves, who did not enroll early like other freshmen.
Each player is different and the time that it takes to adjust will vary. One thing is for sure, following a 4-8 season Will Muschamp and his coaching staff will not hesitate to play a freshmen if they feel like that player will help the team get wins on Saturday in the fall.
With that being said, let’s take a look at five freshmen who haven’t arrived on campus but could be impact players this fall.
Thomas Holley (DT, 6-4, 303)
The sky is the limit for Holley, who has only been playing football for two years. A basketball player for four years in high school, Holley has great footwork, exceptional size for a player his age and has shown an ability to press the pocket from the inside.
Will Muschamp has gone on record saying that he is not happy with the production or the depth on either line of scrimmage and Holley could find a role in the defensive line rotation early on in his career as a Gator.
Gerald Willis III (DE/DT, 6-3, 275)
Florida finished tied for 12th in the SEC with just 19 sacks in 2013. Losing Dominique Easley and Ronald Powell won’t help that number and places a huge burden on Dante Fowler’s shoulders to be the pass rush that Florida lacked a season ago.
Luckily, Florida has a great pass rusher set to join him this summer in Willis. The Louisiana product spurned the hometown LSU Tigers in favor of blazing his own path in Gainesville and the Gator fans will be grateful for that decision.
Willis is an explosive player with a mean streak. Willis will likely start his career playing defensive end or BUCK linebacker but has the frame to add size and slide inside eventually.
Treon Harris (QB, 5-11, 186)
As soon as new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper arrived in Gainesville he mae a point to get Harris to sign on the dotted line.
Score one for Roper.
Harris is a supremely talented athlete and underrated as a passer because of how athletic he is. Harris has played some big time high school football at perennial powerhouse Booker T. Washington High School in Miami and is a natural leader.
With Jeff Driskel firmly planted as the starting quarterback and Will Grier months ahead having enrolled early, Harris will have a hard time finding a starting role but should see the field.
Roper has shown an ability to find ways to best utilize his players and Harris is simply too good of a player to not get a couple of packages a week where he can come into the game and spark the offense.
C.J. Worton (WR, 6-1, 171)
Another late edition to the recruiting class, Worton can figure in early as a slot receiver in Florida’s new offense. Worton doesn’t possess breakaway speed but he is a very smart receiver with soft hands who isn’t afraid to go across the middle and catch the ball in a crowd.
Worton is flying under the radar now, but the opportunity will be there with Florida using more three and four-receiver sets this season.
Watch for Worton to be able to acclimate to the scheme quickly and make an impact this fall.
J.C. Jackson (ATH, 6-0, 185)
Jackson is an athlete. It’s as simple as that.
Defensive backs coach Travaris Robinson told Jackson throughout the recruiting process that Jackson would stick on the defensive side of the ball — something that played a big factor in Jackson’s recruitment — but he won’t be limited to just playing cornerback.
Jackson did it all at Immokalee High School, playing cornerback, receiver as well as returning punts and kicks. He’s electric with the ball in his hands and Jackson will at the very least make a huge impact on special teams in 2014.
Don’t be surprised to see him earn the starting job returning punts or kicks as well as jumping into the rotation n the secondary early on during his freshman campaign. Jackson could also be used on the offensive side of the ball but that move won’t be a permanent one or one that you are likely to see too much of in 2014.