By Ells Boone
On Tuesday, Stanford Athletics announced that two football signees from the Class of 2021, quarterback Ari Patu and defensive back Jaden Slocum, will get a jumpstart on their Stanford experience and enroll for the spring quarter. This is the first time ever that the University has allowed a student-athlete from any sport to enroll early. Both Patu and Slocum signed with the Cardinal during the early National Signing Period back in December.
According to Cardinal Sports Report, Stanford is the last non-service academy FBS school to have early enrollees. Enrolling early has been a rising trend over the past few years in college football, including at many other schools in the Pac-12. Arriving months in advance allows for incoming players to get a head start in the strength and conditioning program, gain a better grasp of the playbook and, in general, be more prepared to play at the collegiate level in their first season. Outside of football, it allows for the student-athletes to get acclimated to campus, make friends and adjust to the new level of academic rigor.
Nationwide, in the 2018 football recruiting class — now juniors in college — 101 members of the NCAA’s top 15 recruiting classes enrolled early.
Patu hails from Folsom, California. He is ranked the No. 14 dual threat quarterback in the country by the 247Sports Composite rankings. His older brother, Orin, is a redshirt freshman outside linebacker for Cal, which will make for an interesting sibling rivalry for the next few years. Enrolling early will give Patu a chance to learn the offense and even insert himself in the battle for the starting quarterback job alongside junior Jack West and freshman Tanner McKee. Last season’s starter, Davis Mills, declared for the 2021 NFL Draft on Dec. 31 after a season in which he completed 129 passes for 1,508 yards and seven touchdowns.
Listed by Stanford as a cornerback, Slocum will make a cross-country trek to the Farm from Alpharetta, Georgia. He spent most of his high school years playing safety, garnering scholarship offers from schools like Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Michigan and Notre Dame. Slocum will join a cornerback position group that has seen more than its fair share of injuries over the past few seasons. Sophomore Kyu Blu Kelly, junior Ethan Bonner and sophomore Salim Turner-Muhammad were the main contributors at the cornerback slot during the 2020 season.
While the Cardinal has finally decided to join the early enrollment trend, it remains to be seen if this will be a permanent thing in the years to come.
“The disruptions caused by COVID-19 and the nontraditional 2020-21 academic calendar provided a unique opportunity for these two student-athletes to begin their Stanford journey early, and we are grateful that this arrangement was supported by our university administration,” stated Jaquish and Kenninger Director of Athletics Bernard Muir.
The other 19 members of the 2021 signing class will not be arriving on campus early, and Stanford has not explained why Patu and Slocum in particular were provided with the opportunity.
Spring quarter begins Mar. 29 and the currently enrolled football team is scheduled to return Feb. 21, assuming public-health conditions permit.