James Franklin okay with offering scholarships to middle school prospects


“The earlier the better.”

Don’t expect James Franklin to be in an uproar about recruiting 7th and 8th grade middle school prospects. He’ll even recruit them in the womb, via Tennessean.

“If I see a 6-foot-6 man walking in the mall with his wife, and she’s 6-2 and she’s pregnant, I’ll go up and offer their unborn child,” Franklin said.

Slightly exaggerating, the relationship-driven Franklin sees no problem with offering scholarships to younger players, and he says it causes no harm to any of the parties. But he would only do it in a no-brainer type of situation.

“Well, if you look at other sports, tennis and basketball, they’ve been doing these things or similar stuff forever. If you look at tennis, that happens all the time. It’s different for our sport. I can’t speak for any other coach or any other program, but we would only do that if a kid is a no-brainer, and I don’t know how many no-brainers there are to play in the SEC in fifth and sixth grade.”

Franklin isn’t the only coach who holds these sentiments.

Mark Stoops, Nick Saban and Les Miles all have offered verbal scholarships to middle school prospects in the last two years.

Most recently, Stoops offered a scholarship to a 7th grader Jairus Brents, who attended the Kentucky football camp this summer. He competed with senior receivers and won several different one-on-one battles, making three INTs and batting down several others. No-brainer.

LSU and Alabama have both offered 8th grade phenom Dylan Moses. Moses isn’t your typical middle school prospect, sitting at 6-1, 215 pounds and owning a 34” vertical with a 4.40 40. That’s Derrick Henry type of ability. No-brainer.

Which brings us to the question everyone asks: should there an age limit on verbal scholarship offers?

It’s truly different for every prospect. Of course recruits’ attitudes and physical statures change from 7th or 8th grade into high school. But if you’re good, you’re good. And both Brents and Moses have legitimate D1 talent.

Verbal offers are not written offers and are not set in stone. Prospects can’t receive written offers until their senior year, so what’s the big deal about a verbal offer?

Credit coaches with evaluating players and making relationships early in the recruiting process. That’s an added advantage for schools like Kentucky and Vanderbilt, who live and die on their ability to make relationships with prospects.

We’re talking about five or six more years before these recruits reach their senior year and ready to sign a Letter of Intent. It’s a stretch to say any coach in their current position will still be at their current school when the prospect becomes a senior.

I do expect the NCAA to address this subject, but defining a verbal offer gives way to a tremendous gray area.

If anything, verbal offers to a middle school prospect puts him on the map, and it should motivate him to continually develop his game.

Photo credit: Don McPeak-US Presswire



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  • It was only a matter of time before schools started to scout and recruit at the middle school level. Football, at all levels, has advanced greatly in the last decade. I have no problem with middle school players receiving early attention from scouts. This sort of thing has existed for a long time with baseball and basketball. The only potential problem will be from boosters, staff, agents, etc becoming too close with these kids, and thus posing the risk of illegal benefits. Since this newly publicized outreach towards younger football players has recently become prevalent, I’m sure the NCAA has already begun talks on possibly regulating this issue.

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