Early enrollees begin career with distinct advantage

In early September of 2006, I had my first-ever test in college. Intro to Psychology, with my dad Dr. Carskadon as the professor, oddly enough.

All through high school, teachers told us how much harder college is, how much more you have to study and how very little university teachers care about failing you.

7-19-2010With that fear in mind and heart, around 8 p.m. the night before, I found a comfy couch in my dorm lobby, set out my notes and books and started studying. 12 hours later, I was in the same spot, exhausted, hungry and still not sure I had studied enough. My first (and last) all-nighter was a touch stressful.

And yes, there’s a sports-related reason for sharing the story of my most sweated exam.

Mississippi State, and Dan Mullen, to be specific, announced that football signees Chris Jones and Trent Simpson enrolled in classes and began working out with the team today, bringing the total to 15 in MSU’s freshman class to enroll early.

Jones, a defensive end and one of the top players in the country in the 2013 signing class, will now enjoy an advantage with his teammates that many of us, myself included, never got.

He has time to adjust. They can get acclimated, learn how college works and get a jump-start on preparing for football, all in the calm, quiet months of summer with no practices, no games and just one or two classes, rather than four or five.

Often, coaches will say an immediate-impact freshman “really helped himself out by getting to campus early,” or something to that end.

On the other side, coaches will also sometimes point out how some players blossomed later than expected because they started late.

MSU opens fall camp on August 1 this year, and in seasons past, the freshmen (or even junior college players) who didn’t make it early are easy to spot.

Hands on their knees, shoulders slumped and maybe a trainer nearby offering encouragement in the form of, “Don’t throw up on the field.”

The difference from young to old is, of course, usually clear, but the condition of those who arrived early and those who are in their first collegiate activity is as stark as day and night.

In between spring practice and fall camp, only strength coach Matt Balis is allowed to see and work with the team. He’s also the toughest coach the players will encounter, the one who makes them lift, run and train.

A summer with Balis is the best preparation for two-a-days at The Farm in 100-plus degree heat, as tough as it may be.

The transition out of high school is difficult (and exciting, to be sure) for anyone, particularly athletes, who in addition to taking on a college education, must go from being the top athlete on the field in most situations to practicing and competing against the nation’s elite.

I had a tough enough time balancing psychology with the usual activities of a college freshman.

Being able to get the first test out of the way in the summer, in both weight rooms and classrooms, is a significant advantage for these 15 new freshmen.

No one wants to pull an all-nighter the day before running into 300-pound behemoths in front of 55,000 people.

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