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Youth Football Players Being Recruited as Eighth Graders

How early is too early when it comes to offering college scholarships to players? Last week the big news was that the Miami Hurricanes made formal offers to three eighth grade youth football players. Owen Pappoe, James Cook and Blake Hinson were made offers for the 2019 recruiting class. But Miami isn’t the first to do this. We are only five years removed from the first eighth grade offer by Lane Kiffin at USC for David Sills of Bear, Delaware.

What is the harm in these early offers? One of the issues is, a lot of times the coach making the offer isn’t even coaching the team when the player finally is ready to go to college. Many High School football players make their college choice based on their comfort level with the coaching staff. With the college football coaching merry go round we see today, the odds that eighth grader would be playing for the same head or position coach at that college may be pretty slim.

Are eighth grade youth football players just out of puberty really understand the criteria they should be using to determine what college makes the most sense for their needs? Heck they don’t even know what their needs are. In most cases, they probably don’t have a field of study picked out to even know if that college offers it.

Putting out offers to eighth graders who have yet to even take a snap in a High School game, seems too early. What happens to that offer if the player doesn’t pan out or it goes to his head and he ends up not being a good fit for the college offering? Do we really want to put this kind of pressure on 13 year old kids? Do they really need coaches and recruiters with their numbers on speed dial, hounding them with calls and texts for the next five years of their lives?

Then we get into the whole camp question. Right now camps are a huge business. Many kids feel they have to go to these camps to showcase their skills and get noticed. Yes, the recruiting services will rate you higher if you attend and perform well at camps.

But do most players need to attend camps? All of the 3-4-5 star players who have been rated off their on field production and film, probably won’t need to. The camps will mean that instead of 12 offers, they may now have 15, instead of 25 offers, they now will have 30. With the information age we now live in and the widespread use of HUDL, there are fewer and fewer kids with legitimate skills that get overlooked.

Camps make a lot of sense for a kid who say lives in Wyoming, South Dakota or Montana where the population centers are small, the geography is spread out and where college recruiters don’t spend a whole lot of time recruiting. On the other hand, if you are a top player in Dallas, Texas camps probably don’t buy you much.

What I would hate to see is what often times does happen, a marginal player with no chance of making a college roster spends a small fortune in personal training and camp visits that could have went towards his college education. Yes, I’ve seen kids who were non-starters on their JV team who are under 240 lbs and running 6.4 forties go all over the country to attend these camps. I would hate to see eighth graders chasing those same elusive dreams.

Are those of us coaching youth football ready for the onslaught of unreasonable parents who will now say that we are “ruining” their sons football future because we aren’t featuring him or maybe not even playing him in the position he will play in High School? Hopefully these offers don’t signal a new gold rush for recruiting youth football players, it’s something the sport doesn’t need right now.

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