A central part of Auburn’s recent recruiting strategy is bringing in players at mid-year.
The Tigers announced seven mid-year enrollees for 2017 including high profile Baylor quarterback transfer Jarrett Stidham.
Stidham along with in-state prospects K.J. Britt and Malcolm Askew participated in handful of bowl practices on campus for the Sugar Bowl.
“I think more than anything it gives them an idea of what a practice routine looks like,” Malzahn said earlier this month. “Get around the drills, what drills you'll be doing. Get around your teammates. There's nothing like getting out there with your teammates in a practice-like situation. Give them more of a foundation.”
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Offensive lineman Nick Brahms, junior college tight end Salvatore Cannella, linebacker Chandler Wooten and quarterback Malik Willis will join the group for spring practice.
Auburn’s seven early enrollees put them in the middle of the pack in the SEC this season, but the program’s 24 mid-year additions the last three years are the second most in the conference.
Alabama’s league-leading 12 early enrollees this season gives them 28 during the same time-span.
For the first time, there are three programs in the conference (Mississippi State and Arkansas) with double-digit mid-year signees.
The conference is on pace to have a record 93 early enrollees this year, nine more than the previous mark set in 2015.
According to Malzahn, if a student-athlete is on track academically it takes little convincing from the coaching staff to get them on campus early considering participation in spring practice gives players — transfers or freshman — a better shot at seeing the field early.
Five of Auburn’s nine early enrollees from the program’s 2016 class played last season with defensive lineman Marlon Davidson and wide receiver Kyle Davis taking the most reps of the group. Davidson was the week one starter opposite Carl Lawson on the defensive line when Auburn opened the season against Clemson.
John Franklin III played in all 13 games making one start at quarterback.
Junior college transfer defensive lineman Paul James III and freshman running back Malik Miller had spots in the rotation early in the season, but injuries prevented them from having a larger role.
The head start helped the coaching staff get “more information” on last year’s freshman going into fall camp.
The other distinct advantages early enrollees have include the opportunity to go through the team’s offseason workouts with strength and conditioning coach Ryan Russell and develop an early relationship with their respective position coaches.
“You know, that player-coach relationship, there’s nothing better than going out on the field and getting used to each other and the expectations for each position coach,” Malzahn said in the spring.