One of the strangest dynamics of the collegiate recruiting process is the shift from being recruited to suddenly being part of a large team where suddenly you're not so exceptional.
It's a difficult shift, something that's oftentimes new to players who enter college used to hype and constant positive feedback.
Devonta Freeman had to experience that last year.
"When I first came in as a freshman I was lost. I didn't know a whole lot, I didn't know how to deal with the whole college thing, period," said sophomore tailback Devonta Freeman. "But as it went on I learned how to deal with time management, my studies, school and the playbook at the same time. Right now, I'm still learning but when I first came in everything happened so fast it's kind of like I just got thrown out there and I had to learn as the season went on.
"My whole freshman year I was still learning so it was kind of hard for me to play because I was kind of nervous at the same time. Not scared or anything like that, just nervous that I might mess up or have an MA or some play EJ would call I wouldn't know what to do. I was thinking not reacting."
A lot's changed since his freshman year, Freeman now feels more at home in the playbook and much better assimilated into the college lifestyle. The game has become less of a blur to him.
"Now when EJ calls a play, even if he messes up I've been in the playbook so much I know what he means," Freeman joked.
Still, fresh off his own freshman lessons, Freeman has noticed some of the same lessons being learned by this year's incoming class, first and foremost: humility.
"It's pretty much like that with every freshman," said Freeman of the adjustment period to college. "Even me, I was the man in my city so it's just like a lot of freshmen I come across and talk to they're just like, 'I'm gonna play, I wanna play, I wanna get on the field man it looks so easy.'
"At the end of the day you've got to know what you're doing, the coaches have to feel like they can really trust you before they can throw you out there. "
That can take time, some freshmen hit the ground running and others can take a couple of years to fully adjust. Jimbo Fisher made a good point after practice the other day that sometimes kids are more ready than others, but it doesn't mean at the finish line they'll be better than the kids they started out faster than. Everyone grows at their own rate.
One thing that can really throw a wrench in that though, is injury. Something Freeman dealt with on and off last year and during spring practice.
For freshmen who have never been hurt before, this can be especially devestating.
"When you're a freshman, coming in it's like you were the man in your city or you were highly recruited or the number one running back wherever you're from," said Freeman. "When you come into a college and you get injured, you already have high expectations to play. When you get injured you feel like the coaches forgot about you, or everybody forgot about you."
That's a lesson Freeman had to learn during spring practice when a back injury held him out of action. He continued immersing himself in the playbook and taking mental reps from the sideline and worked on improving even without being able to play. It's a lesson he credits senior Chris Thompson with teaching him and one he's currently imparting to freshman Mario Pender.
As for 2012, full healthy, Freeman feels poised for a big sophomore year. After a freshman season that felt at times chaotic and at times overwhelming, things have finally clicked.
"Right now I'm very confident, I feel like I can go out there and play hard, play fast, play strong, everything. It's just like this," said Freeman, snapping his fingers.
"Everything happened so quick."