LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- ESPN is reporting that the University of Kentucky football coaching staff has offered a scholarship to a 13-year-old seventh-grader out of Indiana.
Get ready. Cries of astonishment -- and some criticism -- are sure to follow. They shouldn't. We identify gifted kids in other pursuits all the time (though not nearly enough) and colleges know who they are through various camps or programs.
That's all that's happened here. UK had Jarius Brents in its football camp, thought he was outstanding, and extended the offer. ESPN reported that UK coaches put Brents up against receivers who will be high school seniors in the upcoming season and Brents responded with three interceptions and several breakups.
Don't expect the offers to end there. Brents is scheduled to attend camps at Louisville, Vanderbilt and Western Kentucky over the summer.
He's 5-8 and 152 pounds. His Godfather, Chris Vaughn, is a former wideout at U of L. ESPN reported that Vaughn works Brent and other prospects out.
The kid told ESPN: "It's not a big deal, it's just an offer. It's a good accomplishment, but I'm focusing on being the best cornerback ever and working hard."
In other words, he knows what he wants to do. It may be unusual for most seventh graders. It's not unusual for a gifted seventh-grader.
A couple of months back, Katlyn Gilbert, a seventh grader out of Indianapolis, made a verbal commitment to the Evansville women's basketball team.
Louisville coaches reportedly have been keeping an eye on Tyreke Jackson, a seventh-grade cornerback and wideout who is expected to play a full varsity season as an eighth grader in the upcoming season.
While I don't think these offers and commitments amount to much -- for starters, what coaching staff can reasonably be expected to still be at any college program seven years from now? -- I don't think they're the end of the world and, in fact, I think coaches alerting kids of this age what is possible for them is not a bad thing.
I've heard the criticism that these kids shouldn't be offered too much too soon. But believe me, they know how the system works in this day and age. If a college offer gets them thinking about college and what it will take -- athletically and academically -- to get there, I don't see the problem.
In fact, academics has moved away from the model of identifying the best and brightest in middle schools and grade schools and challenging them more, to the detriment of those kids.
The only real problem is going to come if these very young kids, barely into their teen years, begin to come under the kind of public scrutiny and interaction of high school athletes, with thousands of Twitter followers and over-the-top fans of schools trying to contact them and blow smoke at them about their schools.
And therein lies the problem. Kids this age can handle scholarship offers. But can they handle the attention? Michael Avery committed to Kentucky when he was in the eighth grade. His high school games started to sell out. He was on the front page of national websites. The pressure was a lot to live up to, and in the end, too much to live up to -- not to mention that Billy Gillispie, the coach who offered, was gone after only two years at UK. In the end, Avery wound up going to Sonoma State.
If kids this young start being commoditized by the recruiting industrial complex like their older counterparts, I'd support NCAA legislation of the type that failed in 2011 to ban this kind of early offer. Otherwise, this kind of thing isn't really hurting anyone, and actually could be a good thing for some.
Saturday, August 30 2014 3:51 PM EDT2014-08-30 19:51:46 GMT
The University of Kentucky football team got some big plays from young players and a steady start from quarterback Patrick Towles to pound Tennessee-Martin 59-14 in their first season opener at home since 2007.More >>
The University of Kentucky football team got some big plays from young players and a steady start from quarterback Patrick Towles to pound Tennessee-Martin 59-14 in their first season opener at home since 2007. More >>