For several years, Lane Kiffin offering a USC scholarship to a seventh grader was the go-to tale when discussing football recruiting getting started at younger and younger ages. Middle school recruiting is far from unheard of in some other college sports, such as gymnastics, but it’s not exactly something football fans were used to.
That might not have been the official record (and since these offers are non-binding and schools are unlikely to have any of the same coaches by the time these kids graduate high school, there can’t be an “official” record), but if any sixth graders had football scholarship offers, they didn’t attract much attention.
In 2017, however, Kiffin’s record has fallen three times so far, according to reports.
At FAU, Kiffin topped himself by offering a seventh grader and then a sixth grader.
A month later, Hawaii made a lot of headlines by reportedly offering a local fifth grader ...
... but that wasn’t necessarily a new record at the time. This one by Illinois went under the radar, but it was retweeted by Illini offensive coordinator Garrick McGee at the time, all but confirming the claim publicly.
And now, according to the same source (former Louisville defensive back Mike Evans), Nevada’s exceeded everyone by offering a scholarship to a 9-year-old.
That one hasn’t been confirmed by local media or any staffers, that I’m aware of.
Evans, who runs a training and branding facility in Los Angeles, told ESPN:
"It's a new day and age," said Evans, who grew up in Los Angeles and played safety at Louisville and Nevada. "When I played, there weren't any direct connections to the universities like it is with social media now. When you see the De'Anthony Thomases and the DeSean Jacksons, these kids were Bunchie and Hadon at this age. Now you get to see them at a national level. If you saw De’Anthony at this age, you would have given him a look early. When you see Bunchie, you've never seen a kid that age move like that."
Has this all gotten way out of hand? Mountain West Connection, which covers two of the teams offering pre-adolescents this summer, says:
The nature of the modern college game is fleeting, the agents of such actions never in place long enough to see such wild swings come to fruition.
If Nick Rolovich maintains Hawaii’s upward trajectory, and even if he falters, he’ll leave the island in two or three years.
If Lacaden continues to develop in the manner of, say, recent Alabama signee and fellow Hawaiian Tua Tagovailoa (who, ironically, is the only 2017 dual-threat QB ranked ahead of Ohio State signee and former 12-year-old recruit Tate Martell and who didn’t receive his first offer until he was a junior in high school), there’s zero chance he sticks to a commitment to the Warriors.
It’s showmanship for the recruiting mill and nothing more.
Pre-teens might not even end up playing football when they get to college, and that’s even assuming they go to college. That seventh grade QB whom Kiffin famously offered at USC? He’s a West Virginia wide receiver now.
Still, indecision reigns for the 17-year-olds who have gone through the recruiting process for only a few years. One can only imagine what goes on in the minds of someone not even old enough to watch a PG-13 movie.