November 17, 2012; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; A LSU Tigers helmet sits on the field following a game against the Ole Miss Rebels at Tiger Stadium. LSU defeated Ole Miss 41-35. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

College Football Recruiting: How Young Is Too Young?

Middle school is an awkward time in ones development, perhaps even more so than high school. Your life is at the crossroads of true childhood, and the very earliest phases into adulthood.

Most still cling to childlike delusions of grandeur as if they were reality. But for eighth grader Dylan Moses, grandeur is reality. At 6-foot-1, 215 pounds, the Baton Rouge, La. native is already the size of many Div. I running backs — if not bigger.

He’s also head-and-shoulders above his peers on the football field, as this highlight video can attest:

Hometown LSU already has a scholarship offer in to the Class of 2017 prospect — re-read the year to let that sink in. The flying car will be commercially available by then, right? — and Alabama matched it at its Junior Day.

The title “Junior Day” is obviously more a suggestion than a rule.

A shaky precedent is set with this move. Recruiting is already looked on as a somewhat unsavory process. Here’s stand-up comedian Dan Soder with a pretty accurate summary of the prevailing sentiment of following recruiting:

If you ever want to question your football fandom, read the Twitter mentions directed at high profile recruits. Recruiting is a necessary facet of building a winning program, but not always the most pleasant.

The pressure and vitriol that comes along the recruiting trail is disconcerting enough when applied to 17 and 18-year-olds. To extend it to 14-year-olds is just maddening.

But before I diverge too far down a Helen Lovejoy-esque path of won’t somebody PLEASE think of the children!, let’s examine this through a less emotional scope.

The world of basketball recruiting experienced a similar shake-up in 2008, when the Kentucky Wildcats received a verbal commitment from middle schooler Michael Avery. Like Moses, Avery was a physical anomaly among his peers: 6-foot-4 with a highly evolved game.

Fast forward to last year. Avery was an inch taller and no longer leaps-and-bounds ahead of his class. In fact, Avery was no longer a Div. I prospect. He instead landed at Div. II Sonoma State.

There’s certainly no shame in signing with a Div. II school. Most high school-level basketball players would gladly accept such an offer, but most high schoolers weren’t offered spots with the most storied program in their given sport.

There’s never a guarantee a recruit will pan out, but it’s especially difficult to predict four years into the future. For Moses’ sake, I hope he does continue to develop his game and remains an elite-level prospect into 2017. I look forward to seeing him sign his letter of intent, then be accused by rival fan bases of receiving his new flying car from a booster.

But if his peers bypass him for one reason or another, what then? What if — God forbid — something happens that keeps him from playing? There are those who criticize recruits for de-committing, but their outrage should instead be turned on pulled scholarship offers.

It’s also not as if LSU and Alabama are programs that need to jump into a youngster’s consciousness ahead of everyone else — both are national powerhouses already on the radar of every youngster who dreams of playing college football.

Maybe the answer is to let schools send young prospects letters; get that advantage on the recruiting trail early. But a scholarship offer should be treated as binding, and only rescinded on grounds of academic, ethical or legal transgression.

Tags: Alabama Crimson Tide Football Louisiana State Tigers

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