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About the only thing more trendy than NIL’s across college football is the increasingly common habit of top recruits enrolling early. It’s becoming more rare for top prospects to hit campus in late summer or early fall. Most big-name prospects are now enrolling in winter, hoping for a chance to play early and often.
That trend, according to Notre Dame coach Marcus Freeman, actually has little to do with playing time.
“The most overrated thought is that you have to come in the winter in order to play as a freshman. It’s just not true,” Freeman said in an interview with Tim O’Malley of Irish Illustrated.
Freeman referenced recent Jets first round pick, Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner whom he coached at Cincinnati, as proof: “Listen, Sauce Gardner came in in June and we knew at fall camp, (Mike) Mickens walked over to me and said after 3-4 days ‘He’s going to play.’”
The 36-year-old Freeman, who was named head coach of the Irish on January 8th, was adamant that coaches will find who can and can not play regardless of when they hit campus. “It doesn’t take long to see the guys that can help you,” Freeman told O’Malley. “Those guys that can play here as freshmen, you pretty much know really early in their practice days that they’re going to help you as a freshman.”
He later stated that even those freshman who don’t play right away (regardless of when they report), should not be overlooked. “Some guys have it (but) some guys develop, so never write a guy off because he’s not playing as a freshman. But some guys are going to be instant impact guys.”
Notre Dame and a handful of early enrollees open the season on September 3rd with a visit to Ohio State.