National Signing Day is only days away, but several of the state’s top prospects have begun their college careers. They graduated from high school early and enrolled in college classes this month.
Why do it? To get a head start athletically and academically. The early birds get to go through offseason workouts and participate in spring football practices -- providing advantages over fellow members of their recruiting classes who will arrive in the summer.
Here are insights from some of the early enrollees:
• B.J. Bostic, Georgia Tech: He’s the “country boy” from Jefferson County who is new to the big city. “I’m used to two-lane roads,” Bostic said with a laugh. “That’s a big difference to Atlanta, where you have these massive freeways and all the tall buildings.” Bostic hasn’t really gotten homesick yet, as he had to return home (a four-hour round trip) for a couple of football banquets. “It hasn’t been as hard as I thought it would be, at least so far. I do miss my own bed, my momma’s cooking, and being around my dad. It’s just something I’ll deal with. I guess I’m growing up and becoming a man.”
Fortunately for Bostic, to ease the transition, he has his cousin Chris Crenshaw, who also plays football at Tech. Bostic thought about finishing out his senior year, as he was a valued member of the basketball and track teams. “I wanted to get here and see what the college life was all about.” The quarterback reported at 5-foot-10 and 158 pounds. He couldn’t believe the scales. Bostic says he has been eating a variety of meats, including his beloved cheeseburgers, in order to gain weight.
• Kolton Houston, Georgia: If the Buford offensive lineman hadn’t picked Georgia, he would’ve elected to stay in high school. “It works out good because [Buford] is only 45 minutes away, and I can go home for the night, if needed.” Houston shares an apartment with another offensive lineman, A.J. Harmon. The two have become fast friends, and often compete in Xbox games. “When you live with someone, you almost become family with them. A.J. and I talked about a lot of stuff other than football. It has been a lot of fun.”
Houston says he avoids the party scene. “If I have free time, I’m studying my school work or my playbook, or reading from the Bible. I’m not the ‘party type.” Houston says it has been tougher on his parents than him with starting college early. “When you stay second semester, I guess your family has time to get used to the idea of you leaving. Everything happened so fast this year, with [Buford’s] football team making it so far in the playoffs. We didn’t have time to really think about college, and all of sudden it was time to go.”
• JaWuan James, Tennessee: The worst nightmare in enrolling early is having your college coach leave after reporting to campus. It happened to the North Gwinnett offensive lineman, who was attracted to Tennessee because of Lane Kiffin, who took the job at USC the night before James was scheduled to begin classes. James left campus to ponder his situation and returned to Tennessee last week. “I think if JaWuan had wanted to get out, he could’ve gotten out,” North Gwinnett coach Bob Sphire said. “He hadn’t attended classes nor met with his advisors. But after thinking about, [James] ultimately decided that Tennessee was where he wanted to be, no matter who was the coach.”
Another North Gwinnett offensive lineman, Austin Shephard, left early for Alabama. “I’m not crazy about kids enrolling early,” Sphire said. “I’d like to see a kid finish out his time in high school like a normal student. When you lose guys like that, you lose your leaders around the school and community.”
• Tai-ler Jones, Notre Dame: It was a good move for Jones, the All-State wide receiver who followed his father’s footsteps to Notre Dame. The Irish have a new coach (Brian Kelly), which gives Jones the same opportunity to make an impression as the team’s veterans. “By getting here early, I’m learning the playbook at the same pace as everyone else. At worst, I thought I would have more experience in the offensive schemes than the other freshmen that report in the summer.”
College has been sort of a culture shock for Jones, who has celebrity status around Gainesville High. “I left a place where everybody knows you in the community. Now I’m going to a school where no one knows me. Basically, you have to make a name for yourself all over again.” Jones says he hasn’t felt homesick, but talks with his parents every day. “They keep us so busy around here that you don’t have time to think about home.”
• Charles Perkins, Georgia Tech: He was Tech’s first commitment for 2010, which made it only natural for him to begin early. Perkins attended Collins Hill, one of the state’s largest high schools, but he was surprised to see around 300 students at the lecture sessions in his Macroeconomic and Sociology classes. “There’s a lot more freedom in college,” he said. “The professors don’t put pressure on you to do the work. Either you do it, or you don’t. We do have mandatory study hall, and the academic advisors stay on top of us to do the work.”
The bulky tailback shares an apartment at Maulding Hall with two other midyear enrollments -- Sandy Creek defensive back Isaiah Johnson and Bostic. They laid down “ground rules” the first night together. “No one wants to live in a messy place, so we talked about keep everything clean,” Bostic said. “We don’t leave dirty dishes in the sink. They go in the dishwasher, and we run it every day.” Perkins was smart enough to bring a mini-fridge to store treasured snacks and drinks in his room. “Great investment,” Perkins said. “I’m hoping to get a motor scooter sometime soon to get around campus.”
Download the new AJC app. More local news, more breaking news and in-depth journalism.