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Thursday, May 5, 2011
SEC East early enrollees this spring

By Edward Aschoff

Every year it seems as though more and more high school prospects take the immediate plunge into college life by graduating from high school early.

Instead of getting fitted for prom tuxes, they're getting fitted for pads. Instead of kicking back after school, they're getting kicked around by seasoned vets daring them to even look at their practice field.

It’s a major wake-up call for those who partake in such a transition, but it can really pay off for these young athletes. Getting a head start on college programs not only gets your game in better shape, but your mind and body go through complete overhauls as well.

Over the next two days we'll take a look at some SEC early enrollees and how they did this spring.

Today, we start in the East:

Florida

Jeff Driskel, QB -- He was the most heralded recruit in Florida's 2011 class and rightly so. Driskel was the top quarterback prospect in the nation. However, he struggled to pick up Charlie Weis' pro-style offense at first and played catch-up for most of the spring. He started to pick things up toward the end and finished the spring game with 58 yards on 3-of-8 passing.

A.C. Leonard, TE -- Florida really didn't use the tight end position last season, so getting Leonard on campus early was a major plus. He drew high praise from coaches and players and should complement Jordan Reed, who moved back to tight end from quarterback, nicely in the offense. He caught three passes for 18 yards in Florida's spring game.

Georgia

Christian LeMay, QB -- LeMay didn't play football during his senior year of high school, so it's understandable that he was a little rusty entering spring. LeMay has the tools to be a star in this league and seemed to steadily improve with every practice. However, Georgia's coaches seemed to have pegged Hutson Mason as the No. 2 quarterback behind Aaron Murray. LeMay looked pretty poised in the spring game, leading a 10-play, 75-yard comeback scoring drive.

Chris Conley, WR -- Outside of veteran Tavarres King, none of Georgia's receivers really seemed to make much of a statement this spring. Conley is a guy the staff will rely on, but it looks like he'll play the waiting game for now. His time was used to learn this spring and he didn't record a catch in Georgia's spring game.

Kentucky

Maxwell Smith, QB -- Smith's arrival this spring really helped the Wildcats as far as depth at the quarterback position. He not only added a body to the position but he was pretty tough competition for starter Morgan Newton. During Kentucky's spring game, Smith completed 10 of 21 passes for 99 yards and had a 54-yard touchdown pass.

Tim Patterson, LB – He didn’t have the best spring, but it looks as though he’s immersed in learning mode at the moment. The advantage for him is that he can lean on veteran linebackers to help him get accustomed to the college game. Patterson has a lot of potential, but he’s still got a ways to go exiting the spring.

South Carolina

Kelcy Quarles, DT -- Some thought he might take one of those defense tackle spots this spring, but he was listed on the Gamecocks' second team coming out of spring. Quarles, who was an All-American in high school, impressed his coaches this spring and should get playing time this fall. The next step in his maturation is being able to have that spring momentum roll over into summer workouts and fall practice.

Martay Mattox, DB – Mattox started the spring at cornerback and then moved to free safety. He left spring moving back to cornerback. He was a quarterback in high school, so his defensive abilities are a bit raw, but he’s a solid athlete. With that athleticism, the Gamecocks’ staff will probably use him on special teams to start, but with time, he could grow into a solid contributor.

Tennessee

Marcus Jackson, OL -- It's not often that a true freshman offensive lineman comes in and makes an immediate impact. Enter Jackson, who worked most of the spring as the starting left guard for the Volunteers. Jackson, a high school All-American, was one of the more athletic linemen in his class and certainly impressed his coaches from Day 1. The thing about Jackson is he was demoted at one point this spring and fought his way back into the starting rotation.

Justin Coleman, CB -- Coleman also made the most of his early enrollment. It took him a little time to really get noticed out there, but after a solid spring game, in which he lined up opposite playmaker Justin Hunter at times, Coleman enters the offseason as co-starter at one of the corner spots.

Vanderbilt

Vanderbilt had no freshmen early enrollees this year.