Then I guess there would be nothing wrong with offering AJ McCarron's offspring while still in the womb?
At first blush, the idea of handing a college scholarship offer over to a middle school player is absurd. Year after year former 5-star high school players wash out of college football programs because they’ve failed to develop physically or mentally as college coaches had once projected and hoped. Predicting the development path of a middle-schooler would obviously be even more difficult.
That hasn’t stopped coaches from chasing younger and younger prospects.
While at Tennessee, Lane Kiffin reportedly offered a scholarship to then-13-year-old Evan Berry, the brother of current NFL safety Eric Berry. Upon landing at Southern Cal, Kiffin grabbed a commitment from then-13-year-old quarterback David Sills. Now 16, Sills is wrapping up his sophomore year of high school and is still committed to the Trojans.
Ex-Kentucky basketball coach Billy Gillispie took heat in 2008 for coaxing commitments out of then-15-year-olds Michael Avery (now at Sonoma State) and Vinny Zollo (now at Furman). Myles Brand — the NCAA president at the time — said the recruitment of middle-schoolers is “nothing we want to be widespread.”
Last summer, LSU’s Les Miles offered a scholarship to a Baton Rouge eighth-grader-to-be named Dylan Moses. Nick Saban did the same at Alabama’s Junior Day this past Saturday. Saban and Alabama are on top of the football world at the moment so the Tide’s offer to Moses is getting much more ink than Miles’ offer.
Moses’ father Edward said of his 6-1, 215-pound son:
“For Dylan, excitement spilled over. When he heard those words from Coach Saban, ‘We’re offering you,’ you could see him light up. It was shocking because we were going in thinking we were just going to get a tour of what Alabama has to offer.
To hear, ‘You’re impressive, keep your grades up, we want you to come here, and we’re offering you a scholarship now,’ I can even put that into words.”
But is this kind of thing good for a young man who’s still three years away from driving? That depends on the teen, his parents, and his upbringing. There are countless stories of young players — not necessarily eight-graders, mind you — who failed to live up to expectations… or who allowed high expectations to go to their heads.
But there have also been success stories. You might have heard of a kid named Tiger Woods who showed off his golfing skills to Mike Douglas at the ripe old age of two. Two!
So long as the coach offering up an early scholarship honors his end of the bargain — a huge if if you follow recruiting — then this one gets a thumbs-up from MrSEC.com. But that’s the rub. If Moses turns out to be mediocre high school player for some reason, we would be very surprised if Alabama or LSU still has a spot for him come National Signing Day 2017. That would also be true if he were currently a high school junior, too. Scholarship offers have a funny way of disappearing after poor on-field/on-court performances.
In the end, most players and families should know that there’s nothing binding about an offer. Only a signed scholarship has value.
And for schools chasing kids who’ve barely cleared puberty, what’s to lose? If the kid fails to develop into a top college prospect, his scholarship offer will go bye-bye. If he does turn into a star then the school will have gotten an early leg up on rival schools’ recruiting efforts.
It seems ridiculous to make these kinds of offers to middle school kids, absolutely, but in the end it’s really nothing more than a recruiting ploy.
In case you haven’t seen highlights of Moses in action, check out #2 in the video below: