February 05, 2010
Last year, a fairly ridiculous story made the rounds wherein Lane Kiffin, then the new head football coach at Tennessee, reportedly offered a scholarship to 14-year-old Evan Berry, younger brother of UT All-American Eric Berry and soon-to-be high school freshman, who reportedly accepted. Now at USC, Kiffin apparently figured on Thursday that was setting the bar a little too low -- why target eighth-graders, after all, when you can get to them in seventh grade:
According to the Wilmington News Journal, Bear, Del., seventh-grade quarterback David Sills committed Thursday night to accept a football scholarship from USC.
The 13-year-old, who attends Red Lion Christian Academy, told delawareonline.com "my heart was beating so fast" when he talked to Kiffin.
Red Lion high school varsity coach Eric Day confirmed that Kiffin recently offered the teen a scholarship, and that Sills committed, according to the Wilmington paper.
I offer this brief pause to allow you to stop laughing and/or crying. OK, we good?
Onward: Sills is a camp kid, already molded and polished enough to star in at least one earnest promotional video set to a Fountains of Wayne song for his high-priced private coach, Steve Clarkson (or, as he prefers to refer to himself, "Steve Clarkson, Dreammaker"). If he were to eventually join the Trojans, he'd enter as a member of the class of 2015, five full seasons from now. In the meantime, he hopes to pass the seventh and eighth grades and begin studying for his driver's license, among more lurid pursuits.
I maintain, as I did last year when I wrote about the younger Berry, that the usual recruiting parlance of "offers" and "commitments" is rendered virtually meaningless when extended to players too young to have taken a varsity snap. It's almost a contradiction in terms, like a four-sided triangle or something. Coaches aren't allowed to extend official, written scholarship offers until Sept. 1 of a player's junior year in high school -- still three-and-a-half years away for Sills. Even though the scouting process begins much earlier than that for many players, any story that employs the offer/commit language prior to that point is only serving a publicity-seeking sideshow, a grotesquerie of a process that's grotesque enough to begin with. It's no coincidence that both incidents of unabashed middle-school stalking in the past year have been attributed to college football's resident carnival barker, Kiffin, who will push any button for a headline but can't even promise with a straight face that he will be at USC in five years. (Has anyone asked Evan Berry about his "commitment" to Tennessee since Team Kiffin hightailed it for L.A. last month?) That's all Sills' "commitment" is: A weird, slightly disturbing and ultimately empty headline.
In the meantime, USC has landed its first commitment for the class of 2011 from a local player with three seasons of high school play under his belt. That one I'm willing to acknowledge, but in the recruiting business, nothing's in the bank until a signature is on the page.
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Top photo of Kiffin with assistants Monte Kiffin, James Cregg and Ed Orgeron via Sports Illustrated's excellent gallery of the recruitment of Seantrel Henderson.