Lane Kiffin Offered A 6th Grader

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Bruce Feldman reported Monday that FAU head coach Lane Kiffin offered a scholarship to a 2023 quarterback prospect. For those keeping track, a 2023 “recruit” equates to someone not yet in junior high.

In the summer between my sixth and seventh-grade years, I was preoccupied with mastering the fatalities on Mortal Kombat 3 and riding my bike around the neighborhood. While I loved basketball and envisioned scenarios with myself playing in a Final Four, I’d put zero real thought into my college future.

I also had another eight inches or so to grow.

Point is, kids change dramatically from the end of elementary and high school graduation: physically, psychologically and emotionally. The wunderkind whizzing spirals in seven-on-seven camps as a seventh grader may not develop as projected.

Recruiting is inherently based on calculated risks. That risk is amplified the younger the prospect. Few should know that more than Lane Kiffin, who offered a USC scholarship to middle schooler David Sills seven years ago. The offer grew increasingly tenuous as Sills progressed through high school, and he was well off of the Trojans radar once National Signing Day 2015 arrived.

Of course, Lane Kiffin was out at USC for the previous year-and-a-half. Likewise, I’ll risk teeing myself up for @OldTakesExposed (assuming Twitter still exists in 2023) and guarantee Kiffin won’t be the FAU head coach when it comes time for Pierce Clarkson to sign with a university.

At a time when Kiffin has been feeding SEO-abusing content aggregation sites fodder with public overtures to Kanye West, Kim Kardashian and LeBron James, this latest news feels like a publicity stunt. The fledgling FAU program isn’t exactly dominating headlines in the autumn or during offseason, and Kiffin hire felt like a publicity move from Day 1. Nothing since has dissuaded me from the opinion — in large part because FAU continues to generate more national media buzz than rival FIU, which made the better hire in Butch Davis.

Beyond the likelihood of Kiffin changing jobs between now and 2023, the Clarkson offer shares other similarities to the 2010 Sills offer. Sills was an understudy to Clarkson’s father, Steve, the “quarterback guru” Feldman cites in his report. Clarkson’s past campers include noteworthy names like Matt Barkley and Matt Leinart.

Clarkson’s camps have also generated a fair bit of scrutiny. The 60 Minutes piece aired in 2013 presents an even-handed look at the reality of such programs.

I covered a similar camp in 2010, the same year Lane Kiffin offered David Sills. The camp I worked — unaffiliated with Clarkson — included prospects entering their senior year of high school, to children entering the sixth grade. Hearing 11-year-olds recite lines obviously coopted from parents or coaches about being on business was jarring. I spoke with one parent, whose son had yet to reach high school, who said he wanted his son to start as a freshman — in college.

Unless college sports governing bodies — whether that’s the NCAA or conferences — decide to intervene, the influence of recruiting will continue this youthful trend.