With USC football flailing on the field but as dominant with in-state recruits as ever, head coach Lane Kiffin continues to seek out recruits from a group of players college football fans traditionally never would have even considered. Kiffin is recruiting middle schoolers, and recruiting them hard.
The latest apple of Kiffin’s prep recruiting eye is a wide receiver prospect named Nathan Tilford, an Upland (Calif.) High incoming freshman who possesses a unique blend of speed and skill that has plenty of recruiting analysts and fans projecting him as a can’t miss future prospect.
Those analysts and admirers include members of Kiffin’s staff, with former Tennessee quarterback Tee Martin allegedly blown away with Tilford’s performance at the Body by Tra 7-on-7 tournament and the recently completed USC summer camp.
"He looked the part,” Upland recruiting coordinator Mike Esquivel told Rivals.com’s Adam Gorney. “He had a great camp. Tee Martin really liked him. Coach (Lane) Kiffin really enjoyed what he saw."
As one might expect, for all of Tilney’s promise, there are also plenty of questions. The receiver currently stands just 6-foot-1 and 175 pounds, dimensions that are likely to grow, though no one knows just how much. If he didn’t grow, Tilney would be a rather diminutive wide out for a program as notable as USC.
For their part, Kiffin and co. are clearly convinced that the 14-year-old’s athleticism would make up for anything he might lack in size, and the Trojans’ early interest might pay off. Tilney already has scholarship offers from both USC and Arizona State, but his mother admitted that unlike fellow Class of 2017 phenom Dylan Moses -- who has already received scholarship offers from Alabama, LSU, Texas and others, but has given no indication about where he might eventually land -- Tilney might commit to USC before the summer is over.
"He got offered today and his mom wanted to talk to me tonight before we told everybody," Esquivel told Rivals.com.
"He's thinking about committing but he did not commit today. There is definitely high interest in USC. It always has been his No. 1 school since he was little."
Given his current age, perhaps Esquivel should have said "... his No. 1 school since he was little(er)." That might be a bit more accurate.