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Nate Sudfeld attends tiny Modesto (Calif.) Christian School, where he holds the title - literally and figuratively - of big man on campus.

The 6-foot-5-inch Sudfeld is the school's star quarterback, a heralded recruit who's viewed by many as one of the country's best pure passers. He boasts a 4.14 GPA, a sunny outlook and a golden arm.

And yet, Sudfeld says, he can't wait to move on to college.

"I'm going to come in early and get the routine down," Sudfeld said. "I've been told that it's better, and it is. Plus, I've got nothing better to do than just go to school."

Sudfeld is one of a growing number of Arizona Wildcats recruits who plan to graduate from high school early and start their college careers in January, continuing a national trend.

Tight end Taylor McNamara and offensive tackle T.D. Gross are expected to join Sudfeld at the UA this winter, six months earlier than the rest of the 2012 recruiting class.

A fourth player, center Beau Boyster, is also on track to graduate early, with one catch. He is petitioning his school, St. John Bosco in Bellflower, Calif., to waive one semester of religion credit.

Though the UA athletic department doesn't keep statistics, compliance director Bill Morgan says more players than ever are choosing to enroll in school early.

The Wildcats already have one on their roster, freshman quarterback Daxx Garman. Arizona could add more as its recruiting class grows. The Wildcats have received verbal commitments from nine players, including McNamara, Gross and Sudfeld; they could add as many as 16 more.

"They're definitely up," Morgan said about early enrollments. "In the last 20 years, we'd have one guy every two or three years. Now we're up to several a year."

NCAA rules grant full scholarship benefits, including tuition and books, to any scholarship athlete who has graduated from high school - regardless of when the player enrolls. Football players have five years to play four seasons. Because football is a fall sport, players can arrive on campus for the start of the spring semester without it affecting their eligibility "clock."

The early start makes a full scholarship extra-valuable, UA recruiting coordinator Dave Emerick said.

"If you come early and then you redshirt, it's possible we can pay for 5 1/2 years of school," he said. "I think it's more of a trend nationwide. More kids are hearing about it and wanting to do it."

USC, facing NCAA sanctions and scholarship limits, allowed nine players to start school this winter. The University of Texas and Southeastern Conference schools have used the provision for years as a way to get players into their system early.

Players who arrive on campus early get a head start on weight training, film work and academic counseling. They can take part in spring drills, typically held in March and April, before the rest of the incoming class arrives.

Garman, who enrolled in January after graduating early from Southlake (Texas) High School, said he's "noticed a lot of change - but the biggest notice is in workouts."

The 6-foot-3-inch freshman has put on 15 pounds of muscle since arriving in Tucson, and has plans to add a bit more as he competes with Bryson Beirne and Matt Scott for the backup quarterback's job in fall camp. Garman took part in spring drills, and has spent countless hours watching film and adjusting to the speed of college football. He even picked a major: business management.

"I have more time on my hands to figure out everything and be a more mature football player," Garman said.

Officially, Arizona's coaches neither encourage nor discourage early enrollment. But McNamara and Sudfeld both said their UA recruiters were thrilled with their plans.

McNamara first learned about early enrollment from Avery Walls, an All-America safety in high school who graduated from high school last December and promptly showed up at Cal. Four months ago, McNamara - a standout at San Diego's Westview High School - met with his counselors to see if he could do the same thing.

"They made sure I was taking the right classes and scheduled the right classes for my final term," McNamara said. "Most kids can do it; there's just no reason to, unless you want to get in early for something like football."

There are trade-offs, as Arizona's recruits will soon learn. The final semester of high school can be a time for personal touchstones, whether it's senior prom, class trips or "walking" with classmates at graduation.

McNamara believes the sacrifice is worth it.

"They'll let me come back for prom if I want to, but prom? I've never been a big party-hearty guy," he said.

Sudfeld plans to take his school's annual Disneyland trip with his high school classmates, even if it means leaving college for a few days to do it.

Certain things, the big man on campus said, are too good to pass up.

"It'll be my last hurrah," he said.

Up next

• Aug. 4: First day of camp

• Sept. 3: NAU at Arizona