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Now Kentucky Lowers the Age Bar and Offers Scholarship to 7th-Grader

Aug 5, 2011; Lexington, KY USA; Kentucky Wildcats helmet and football sit on the field during media day at  Commonwealth Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports
Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports
Barrett SalleeSEC Football Lead WriterJune 14, 2013

Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops has been on fire lately, securing the commitments of seven players in the class of 2014 just in June.

The most recent splash was the commitment of Stanley Williams from George Walton Academy in Monroe, Ga.—the No. 5 all-purpose running back in the class of 2014, according to 247Sports.com.

The immediate future looks great for the Wildcats, but the distant future doesn't look too bad either.

According to ESPN.com, Kentucky lowered the bar and offered a scholarship to class of 2018 cornerback Jairus Brents after the seventh-grader—yes, seventh-grader—attended a camp in Lexington.

The 5'8", 158-pounder was put into a group of receivers in the class of 2014, and came away with three interceptions and several breakups, according to ESPN's report.

Not bad, but should there be an age limit for making verbal scholarship offers?

If a program thinks a player is good enough and wants to make an impression, of course not. 

Brents went up against the big boys, and came away with a big day. That's impressive whether he's in seventh grade, ninth grade or a senior in high school.

As my colleague over at the Signed, Sealed and Delivered blog Andrew Kulha points out, several big-time programs including Alabama, LSU, Florida, Florida State, Nebraska and UCLA have made offers to eighth-grade phenom Dylan Moses.

The 6'1", 215-pound linebacker/running back runs a 4.46 40-yard dash according to Nola.com. That isn't just potential, that's legitimate Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) talent.

Should programs worry about the character of kids changing between middle school and the time they graduate?

Sure, but that's a concern for every prospect, regardless of age.

When young kids like Brents, Moses or USC quarterback commit David Sills get offers in middle school, neither party actually believes this is a set-in-stone offer. No offer before a prospect's senior season is. Alabama head coach Nick Saban even went on the record recently detailing how no offer to a quarterback is "committable" until he personally sees the prospect at camp.

There's always work to be done.

Semantics don't mean a thing in the recruiting game.

Commitments aren't really commitments until national signing day, and offers aren't really offers the prospect's senior year of high school.

Before that, offers and commitments mean about as much as the promise ring you gave your eighth-grade girlfriend. You like each other, and maybe some day you will get married. But do you REALLY think that you'll stay together forever?

Nope.

That doesn't mean that verbal offers to middle-schoolers won't be addressed by the NCAA. It probably will. But how do you define a "verbal offer"?

Is a coach saying "we want to offer you a scholarship" different than "we'd love to see you on campus"? Where will that line be drawn?

Recruiting is a contact sport, and semantics will always play a part. There will be loopholes and grey areas no matter what, especially when coaches are always looking to make that first big impression on what they feel could be a potential superstar.

But above all else, be happy for the kid. Getting offers from big-time college football programs in middle school is pretty sweet, and gives the prospect plenty of incentive to stay focused.

 

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