Your Kid’s Not Going Pro

A Youth Sports Blog

13-year-old quarterback commits to USC

with 5 comments

David Sills says it’s always been his dream to play football at USC, and good for him that new coach Lane Kiffin is fulfilling it by offering him a scholarship. The catch is that Sills can’t use it for another five years, what with him only being in the seventh grade.

I mean, you hear of kids graduating early so they can go to spring practice before their freshmen year, but I’m not sure Sills can finish his high school courses before the end of junior high.

Sills is a 6-foot, 145-pound seventh-grader who is, presumably, talented, and also well-known within the youth sports-industrial complex. Kiffin heard of the Delaware native when he got a tape from Steve Clarkson, a quarterback guru who students have included current USC quarterback Matt Barkley, who started last season as a freshman (slacker). From the Los Angeles Times:

Clarkson said he phoned Kiffin on Thursday to inform him that one of his pupils, Santa Ana Mater Dei quarterback Max Wittek, had received a scholarship offer from Florida.

“While we were talking, I said, ‘I’m going to give you the scoop on a kid,’ ” Clarkson said.

Clarkson told Kiffin that the 6-foot, 145-pound Sills might be better than Clausen or Barkley, who started 12 games for USC in 2009. Then he instructed Kiffin to watch a video of Sills on his website.

“He calls back . . . after going through all the NCAA stuff, and says, ‘I’m prepared to offer this a kid a scholarship right now. Will he commit?’ ” Clarkson said.

[youtubevid id=”mYn1OFxvsls”]

I don’t know if this is THE highlight tape Clarkson sent Kiffin, but Clarkson did put together this Sills highlight video.

[youtubevid id=”NUb8F8Ltru0″]


By the way, this is not the first time Lane Kiffin’s name has been linked to a barely-into-puberty commitment. In his one year at Tennessee, Kiffin offered a scholarship to 13-year-old quarterback/safety Evan Berry, whose father and brother had also played at the school. While he was an assistant at USC, Kiffin made an offer to a then freshman-in-high-school-quarterback — Barkley, who by happenstance will be Kiffin’s starting quarterback now that he’s back at USC.

Current Indianapolis Colts head coach Jim Caldwell, while head coach at Wake Forest, offered a scholarship to quarterback Chris Leak when he was in the eighth grade. And it’s not just football. In 2008, Kentucky’s then-head basketball coach, Billy Gillespie, made waves by offering a full ride to California eighth-grader Michael Avery.

As ridiculous as recruiting pint-sized prospects sounds, I understand how it happens. For the school, it gets an early lock on an elite athlete, well before anyone else even thinks of recruiting him. For the athlete, the offer amounts to a sure thing that, in theory, will keep other coaches at bay and let them develop in less of a recruiting hothouse.

Of course, nothing ever really goes as planned. Leak decommitted from Wake Forest after his older brother, recruited in a naked attempt to get Leak himself, transferred. (Leak ended up at Florida.) When Gillespie was fired after the 2008-09 season, Avery decommitted, enrolled in a private high school in Florida, joined an AAU team in Indiana, and put himself back on the open market. (No word yet on whether Berry changed his mind after Kiffin left Tennessee for USC.)

There’s always the risk, too, that the athlete doesn’t develop as expected, or gets hurt. Leak was a star at Florida, but he topped out at six feet — not an elite size for a quarterback. Sills’ highlight tape looks great, but until a letter of intent is offered and signed, Kiffin can pull his offer at any time if Sills doesn’t grow much more, or breaks his arm, or develops a drug habit, or whatever peril can happen in the next five years.

But these early, early commitment go a long way toward explaining why you can find lists of the best fourth-grade basketball players in the nation. For competitive reasons, coaches are compelled to scout, and project, younger and younger players.

By the way, the NCAA followed Avery’s early commitment by, in early 2009, declaring seventh- and eighth-graders male basketball players “prospective athletes,” meaning schools could not recruit them. There is no indication yet that the same clamps will be put on football coaches.

Written by rkcookjr

February 5, 2010 at 11:06 am

5 Responses

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  1. I live in Knoxville, TN. Lane Kiffin and Ed Orgeron only care about themselves. Kiffin’s ego would not fit in the Pacific Ocean.

    Maybe by the time this 13 year old kid graduates from high school Lane Kiffin will again be an NFL head coach. Then this kid can skip college football and go directly into the pros. Wouldn’t that just be great! Let kids be kids and enjoy the life a little. The parents of this kid ought to see a physiatrist.

    I am happy for USC. This school and the state of CA deserve these two classless people.

    Thank you USC. We will see you on probation!!!


    February 5, 2010 at 2:55 pm

  2. Right-O, Bob. I wonder how this trend will play out in youth basketball, where school really isn’t a necessary step (See: Brandon Jennings forgoing the NCAA to play in Italy for a few years) like it is in football.

    What if some hot-shot 15-year-old power forward decides to skip high school altogether? I’m sure you heard of the San Diego center who skipped his senior year in high school to play in Israel:

    Will we see 12-year-olds in Spain? What’s your take?

    Kevin Mack

    February 5, 2010 at 3:27 pm

  3. Hey, easy on the “the state of CA deserve” business, Rocky Top. I get the bitterness and I also loathe the Trojans, but don’t generalize the whole state. Can’t we all just get along … and root for UCLA?

    Kevin Mack

    February 5, 2010 at 3:30 pm

  4. Kevin

    Sorry-I got carried away. I have a problem with your state being broken becuase the illegals are soaking up all of the tax money and no one seems to care. And then there is Speaker Nancy P.

    In our part of the country integrity and honesty are expected. Kiffin and Orgeron have neither.

    I have a great friend of over 40 years from college who lives in Pasadena.




    February 5, 2010 at 3:37 pm

  5. My first take is that I have to adjust my jaw upward after it dropped ready rockyroad’s tea-bagging posts. Somehow if Lane Kiffin had stuck around and Tennessee won, rockyroad would think Kiffin walked on water. Given the scandal that Tennessee has put up with over the years, I’m not sure rockyroad should be wagging his finger elsewhere.

    Anyway, on Jeremy Tyler, I wrote in my old blog that if you have the talent and opportunity to leave early, why not?

    Reportedly Tyler is having some trouble adjusting in Europe, but Jennings did, too. That’s part and parcel of being a teenager suddenly thrust in the cutthroat pro game in a land far, far away.

    My first post here was on Bryce Harper, a 16-year-old leaving high school after his sophomore year to get his GED and go to community college to get ready for the MLB draft:

    In both cases these are prodigies who have at least reached close to full size before moving ahead. Sills isn’t going anywhere for a while, though. However, all of this is why youth sports is professionalized at younger and younger ages, and why, between this and cuts to school sports, athletes will develop largely outside the school bubble (and a lot do already).

    Bob Cook

    February 5, 2010 at 4:44 pm

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