Football’s early enrollees ‘locked in’ to adjusting to football, college life
Sophomore cornerback Josiah Scott was an early enrollee in spring 2017.
He walked into Spartan Stadium wide-eyed, and collected 30 tackles, 10 pass deflections and two interceptions in 2017 — enough to earn All-Big Ten honors from the coaches and media.
Now, the Hamilton, Ohio native gets to help current early enrollees adjust to college football and life in college.
“I basically tell them all the time, ‘I’ve done this before. I know the ropes and how to go about things,’” Scott said after practice on March 27. “I feel like they’re really taking what I’ve been telling them, and all the older guys, what they’ve been telling them, and they’ve been applying it. They’ve been really working hard in film, the weight room and on the field.”
The Spartans have seven early enrollees this spring: defensive backs Xavier Henderson and Kalon Gervin, wide receivers Julian Major and Javez Alexander, quarterback Theo Day, linebacker Edward Warinner and offensive lineman Dimitri Douglas.
Scott said all seven of them have been successful so far this spring.
Some are doing better than when he was in their position a year ago.
“They may be able to go out and play this year because they’re showing a really good traits of things coming in,” Scott said.
One of these players is Henderson, who defensive backs coach Paul Haynes said is practicing on the starting defense as a nickel cornerback.
“Xavier has been awesome,” Haynes said after practice on March 27. “Very athletic, can play man-to-man. And again, we’re just throwing him in the fire, just throwing him in the fire and covering big time wideouts and he’s getting better.”
Henderson said part of this, plus the decision to enroll early, was to get familiar with the playbook, not the physical aspect of it.
“Most of the guys in our class and most of the guys that play at Michigan State are athletic already,” Henderson said. “So I come up here and I can run with some of the guys, but knowing what I’m doing and trying to play with knowledge so I can play faster is probably the biggest part.”
Henderson isn’t the only learning the playbook. Day also enrolled early to get familiar with the playbook and said MSU’s playbook “is something” compared to his high school’s, Divine Child.
“I think I did a pretty good job at it and I think I’ve shown it,” Day said.
And then there’s college, trying to find your classes across the 5,192 acre MSU campus. Actual freshman stuff.
All of which Scott has been impressed by so far, especially academically.
“Whenever I go in for tutors, they’re always in there, even if they don’t have to be, just getting that extra work in,” Scott said. “I always see them doing their work all the time in the lounge at our dorm or at the student athlete building, so they’re putting in the hours in the schoolwork as well.”
Junior safety David Dowell said the early enrollees have been learning from their elders, so they can try and figure out how they fit into MSU football.
“Everybody has a specific path and how they’ve got to handle things,” Dowell said. “You’ve got to just get thrown into the fire. It’s about as much as you can pick up and just trying to continue to play fast as you do that.”
The early enrollees will have their first chance to showcase what they’ve learned so far to the Spartan fan base on April 7 at the annual spring game.
To some, it might be intimidating.
But from what freshman coach Don Treadwell has seen, he said he doesn’t think the first public game will affect how the freshmen perform.
“They’re so well locked in, I think it’ll be a byproduct and by the time they actually have people in the stands,” said Treadwell, who is also the assistant defensive backs and special teams coach. “But you know how it is. When you’re an athlete on the field, you honestly really wouldn’t know if there was someone in the stands or 500 (fans).
“That being said, there’s so much good competition right now. They’re doing a good job of just saying, ‘Let’s just take it one day at a time, because I have to give it all I have today. And then when come out again next time in practice, I’d better be ready to suit up again, because the competition level is very good.’”
For Henderson, the spring game will just be a stepping stone into what his goal is, which is to mimic what Scott did a year ago: Get into the secondary rotation.
“All the guys are back, the DB’s are back so we have so many dudes and so much experience,” Henderson said. “Just trying to learn from them and see if I can maybe get in there on the DB position a little bit like Josiah (Scott) did.”
And for Treadwell, he now has to coach this young, competitive group.
“We’ve got quality young men here,” Treadwell said. “They’re all just anxious to learn, and to get to know (the media). But most importantly, they want to perform well so they’re just all ears.”