There's a first time for everything, and for the Michigan Wolverines that statement rings true now that they've reportedly offered 2016 recruit Isaac Nauta.
Nauta is a freshman, and according to Kyle Meinke of MLive.com who cites Steve Lorenz of 247Sports, he's become the first freshman to ever receive an offer from Michigan:
The Wolverines have offered 2016 defensive end Isaac Nauta of Buford, Ga., according to 247Sports.com's Steve Lorenz. Nauta is currently a freshman at Buford High School, and is believed to be the first freshman ever offered by Michigan.
"According to Isaac, that's what they told him," Lorenz said. "Remember that the process has been speeding up, so that's probably why the first one happened now. It helps that this kid is a hell of an athlete, but it's also part of a changing atmosphere where coaches are working harder and earlier."
Lorenz goes on to explain the probable process behind the decision to offer Nauta, per Meinke:
"Freshman offers are naturally rare, and Nauta is even more rare in that he didn't have to camp at Michigan, but the coaching staff is constantly scouting kids from all four classes," Lorenz said. "When the cream rises to the top early, they and other schools wouldn't hesitate to make an offer anymore."
As a freshman in high school, Nauta already checks in 6'5'', 240 pounds. He's listed as a tight end and strong-side defensive end, and he already has offers from Clemson, Virginia Tech and Tennessee, with Michigan now joining that list.
Clemson and Virginia Tech are listed as "warm interests" on his 247Sports interest list, though there is plenty of time for that to shake up.
Now that's an understatement...
Frankly, though, there's going to be a time soon enough where freshman offers won't even make breaking news like this, and one could argue that this is only news because it's Michigan and this is reportedly the first time the program has ever offered a freshman.
The recruiting process is changing as players get better, stronger, quicker and faster earlier. Nauta is only a freshman, but he's already comparable in size to No. 1 overall 2014 recruit Da'Shawn Hand—who checks in at 6'5'', 247 pounds. Hand has much more experience and size is the only comparison that should be drawn right now, but it's more than worth noting that a freshman is just as big as 2014's No. 1 recruit.
That's a shocking revelation to say the least, but as the game continues to progress—especially at the youth level—this will become the norm.
Soon, perhaps in the next five to ten years, elite youth players like Nauta and Moses will be one of many, and coaches will have to make offers earlier and earlier just to have a chance to stay on said recruit's radar for the next four to five years.
Football is king in the United States, and as our athletes continue to progress and grow, the game will become more physically demanding and challenging. Many would argue that playing college football is essentially a job, but I would make the case that even high school football players nowadays have to treat training for the season and the recruiting trail as a full-time gig.
If college football is becoming a job, the interview process is certainly starting earlier and earlier. Underclassmen are being recruited at a growing rate, and soon we may see the youth levels below high school become a recruiting ground for the biggest, most influential college coaches as well.
At what point is it too much, and at what point are we robbing our youth of the chance to just be a kid and enjoy the game of football?
Believe me, I love football just as much as the next guy (I coach high school football), but even I can see that this trend in college football is becoming a bit disturbing.
As the recruiting process becomes intensified at a younger age, so does the pressure on our student-athletes (keyword: student).
For a player like Nauta, Michigan's offer is sure to be one of many and he may end up being one of the more sought after recruits in the 2016 class when all is said and done.
Don't question his talent or his potential, and it's certainly something about which he can be proud. There's a deeper issue at play here though, and it doesn't involve Nauta, or any recruit for that matter.
It involves the process of recruiting and its many flaws.
How early is too early?
I'll let you discuss below.