ATLANTA - Taylor Bennett keeps a look out for his newest Georgia Tech teammates, Steven Threet and Derrick Morgan.
Several times each day, Bennett drives past Bobby Dodd Stadium. And he always slows down at the intersection of Techwood Drive and Bobby Dodd Way to see if Threet or Morgan are waiting for the campus shuttle.
"You don't want to ride the Stinger bus if you don't have to, trust me on that," said Bennett, who like Threet and Morgan graduated high school a semester early to enroll at Georgia Tech. "It's like Brussels sprouts. You can deal with them here and there, but have too much and you get sick of them."
Bennett speaks from experience. None of his teammates picked him up at the bus stop in January 2003 during his first semester at Georgia Tech. And he was too shy to flag down teammates.
"I was just a pitiful freshman," Bennett said. "I had no pull. My teammates didn't know who I was."
College life is hard enough on early enrollees, even heralded football players like Threet and Morgan. Most are away from home for the first time in their lives and lack the support system their fellow freshmen have by virtue of starting school together in the fall.
The drawbacks to enrolling early end with the social difficulties, Bennett said. Academically and athletically, Threet and Morgan will be ahead of the rest of their recruiting class.
"It is harder on the guys in the fall because they're all trying their best to show what they've got in football, and that takes a lot of energy and concentration," Georgia Tech coach Chan Gailey said. "Those first few weeks of classes are pretty overwhelming. Early enrollees don't have anything these first three or four weeks of classes."
Threet and Morgan won't feel the performance anxiety typical of freshman during preseason practice either, Gailey said. He wants them to compete with the veterans - and both should, Threet at quarterback and Morgan at defensive end - but developing physically and learning the schemes are priorities.
Doing so puts them in better position to compete for playing time in the fall, Gailey said. That's Morgan's mindset, anyway.
Said Morgan, a 6-foot-4, 260-pound native of suburban Philadelphia: "I can get my body in shape and get classroom hours under my belt. I'm going to be ready when the fall comes."
The early enrollment trend is not exclusive to Georgia Tech. Heralded high school stars across the country started their college careers this month.
National champion Florida had nine early enrollees, and rival Georgia had seven. The Bulldogs' most heralded recruit in years, quarterback Matthew Stafford, enrolled last January.
And one of college football's most talked-about stars this decade, Ohio State's Maurice Clarett, enrolled early.
The trend will continue to be popular because it has no obvious dangers, Gailey said. So long as thoughtful teammates stop to offer rides.
Reach Adam Van Brimmer at (404) 589-8424 or firstname.lastname@example.org.