Just as the door was about to close on the college football recruiting class of 2010, University of Southern California head coach Lane Kiffin managed to snag one more stud player. That player, blue-chip quarterback David Sills of Bear, Del., informed Kiffin last week that he plans on joining the Trojans when he graduates high school in 2015.
Yes, you read that right. Sills, a 13-year-old seventh grader at Red Lion Christian Academy in Delaware, verbally committed to attend USC after he was personally offered a scholarship by Kiffin.Sills is prohibited from actually signing a letter of intent until he graduates in five years, so for now he is limited only to a verbal agreement. As absurd as this sounds - it's true.
The 6-foot, 145-pound quarterback is believed to be the youngest player ever to receive a scholarship offer from a major college football program. Leave it to Kiffin, who most recently bolted from the University of Tennessee to stir the pot early in Southern California. Kiffin was informed of Sills and his unique playing ability by private quarterback "coach-to-the-stars" Steve Clarkson, who has worked with Sills and, among others, current USC quarterback Matt Barkley and former Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen.
According to Clarkson in an interview with ESPN, however, Sills has the ability to be even better than those guys. That's a bold statement considering last season Barkley was a 19-year-old true freshman starter for the Trojans and Clausen threw for 3,700 yards and 28 touchdowns for the Fighting Irish. Regardless, Sills' commitment has generated a firestorm of media criticism, which poses the question: Is he just too young?Many say yes, and some even go as far as to say that the pressure of a Division I scholarship on a kid who isn't even in high school borders on child abuse.
The fact is that 13-year-old boys are awkward, fragile creatures that should be more concerned with acne, girls and video games and less concerned with training, breaking down film and a football career. A lot of blame also falls on Kiffin, who offered the middle school student a scholarship in the first place. Don't be fooled, a lot can happen in five years. Bodies sometimes don't develop the way they are expected to and all of a sudden, gifted youngsters become average once their classmates grow up a little.
Also, people, especially kids, are prone to changes of heart - Kiffin knows all about that, just ask any Tennessee Volunteer fan. Plus, knowing Kiffin, five years is more than enough time for him to get tired of sunny Southern California and relocate to more a more glamorous location, say Dallas, Texas - should Wade Phillips fail to live up to his contract … just a thought.
Realistically, Sills may never step foot on campus and Kiffin should have waited at least a couple years. Let the kid have a childhood, he can worry about football later. That view does have its dissenters, namely Sills' father, David Sills IV, who voiced his opinion in an interview with ESPN.
"I understand people's opinions and I respect that everybody is allowed to have an opinion, but I don't really have a problem with people young, old or in between getting recruited. I don't think it's a big deal," he said. The older Sills also compared his son to a "phenomenal mathematician" or a "great piano player," all of whom, he thought, are prodigies and would be wrong to hold them back.
The world of sports definitely has had its share of prodigies. Some may remember a 3-year-old golfer showing off against comedian Bob Hope on "The Mike Douglas Show" in 1978. Well, that little boy is all grown up now and 32 years, 14 major championships and a crashed Cadillac Escalade later he has reportedly just left a sex rehab clinic in Mississippi.Then there is the "Chosen One."
It's already been seven years since the Cleveland Cavaliers selected 18-year-old LeBron James with the first pick in the NBA Draft, but before that King James was a superstar at St. Vincent-St. Mary High School in Akron, Ohio. More recently, there's Sports Illustrated cover boy Bryce Harper who was dubbed "Baseball's LeBron" despite being only 17 years old.
Harper, who has drawn comparisons to Justin Upton, Alex Rodriguez and Ken Griffey Jr., also owns the longest homerun in Tropicana Field history at 502 feet and it is reported that his fastball can reach up to 96 mph on the gun.It still remains to be seen if Harper and Sills will live up to the hype surrounding their names but as for now that's all it is - hype.
The bigger question is, how will the Sills case in particular affect recruiting? Will college coaches come to their senses or will they follow in Kiffin's footsteps? Judging by the competitiveness of college football, it may very well be the latter. Playgrounds around the country, beware.