Saturday, February 6, 2010

Robbin' the cradle

I know what you're thinking: "How can a college football blog go a full three days past National Signing Day without even mentioning it? It's one of the biggest days of the year! What kind of fan are you, anyway?"

Response: Not a very good one, obviously. I've actually been working on a Signing Day recap but have been somewhat detained by work. Lo siento.

In the meantime, though, this happened:

Lane Kiffin really is getting a jump on recruiting.

No sooner had the Trojans new coach put the finishing touches on the Class of 2010 recruits, that he turned his attention to the Class of 2015.

That's right, 2015.

On Thursday evening Kiffin received a verbal commitment from 13-year old wunderkind quarterback David Sills of Bear, Del.

OH THE HUMANITY WON'T SOMEONE THINK OF THE CHILDREN?!? Fortunately, we're not talking about a legal contract here. Kiffin extended a scholarship offer -- which can be withdrawn at any time if the athlete doesn't hold up athletically or academically -- and Sills accepted, something he can back out of at any time. He's not being sold into slavery.

To me, what's more surprising than a 13-year-old committing to USC is that this hadn't happened before. Just look at the infestation of agents and AAU coaches in college basketball. They know about every 11-year-old with Division I potential, and when college coaches find out about a guy, they don't hesitate go after him -- age be damned.

This came from the West Lafayette Journal & Courier just a couple weeks ago:
Recently, Purdue coach Matt Painter and Indiana coach Tom Crean attended a Decatur Central eighth-grade game to watch 6-foot-7 Trey Lyles.

In early December, Illinois coach Bruce Weber was in the stands to watch Larry Austin, a Champaign (Ill.) Grant Middle School eighth-grade guard, play against Washington Middle School.

Recently, the NCAA added seventh-graders as official recruiting targets.
Yes, seventh-graders -- kids the same age as Sills.

The thing that will always make football coaches a little more hesitant to offer a young kid a scholarship is the importance of physical development in football. A middle schooler who's 6-foot-3 and can handle the ball like a point guard is probably a safe bet to be an excellent basketball player at some position. You can't say the same about football; a dominant Pop Warner running back might put on 50 pounds and become a lineman, or his growth might come to a halt and he'll fall behind physically. It's a different ballgame.

But if you're a coach and you see a kid you know is gonna be good, you don't wanna risk missing out on him because some other guy saw him and offered him a scholarship first. Remember Chris Leak, the Florida starter when Tim Tebow was known for nothing but the jump pass? He was a one-time can't-miss prospect himself, and he was offered a scholarship by Wake Forest when he was an eighth-grader. With talent like that, sometimes you just know.

I actually first heard about Sills roughly a year ago. Why? Because he was featured in a CBS Sportsline article as the next big-time recruit (CBS is obviously waaaaay ahead of Lane Kiffin in the scouting department). This is from Dennis Dodd on February 13, 2009:
David Sills is available. Just in case there's a college coach who hasn't heard of the game's next great quarterback, let's review: Sills is captain of his team. Rocket arm. Mad smarts. Breaks down defenses like he's speed reading Dostoyevsky novels.

The most renowned QB teacher in the country says Sills "could very well redefine the quarterback position one day," and "is well on his way to becoming one of the most polished, pro-ready prospects ever to be recruited out of high school."

Just to be clear: David Sills is 12. A sixth-grader, three years away from even playing in high school.
When a nationally renowned QB coach says that you could be "one of the most polished, pro-ready prospects EVER," you're probably pretty good. See for yourself:

Yeah, that's pretty good for a 13-year-old. He also looks like he's about 72 pounds, so I'm hoping he bulks up a bit before he starts getting hammered by Pac-10 defensive linemen. But Sidney Crosby was built like a stick when he was 13 too, and that wouldn't have stopped any college from offering him a scholarship (his parents actually went to court when he was 13 to try to get him into major juniors, which is typically reserved for ages 17 and 18).

What I'm trying to say is that it's happening in all sports, and it's happened before in football (see Chris Leak); Kiffin's just the first to make news by offering a seventh-grader instead of an eighth-grader. Expect to see it a lot more in the future.

And if you're looking for a job (aren't we all?), Rivals and Scout should have some junior high scouting positions available soon ...