At 6’1” and 215 pounds, Dylan Moses already has more than enough size to be an NFL running back. He also sports a 40 that would be more than competitive with the group of gifted ball-carriers who were showcased at the NFL Combine.
The problem, however, is that he won’t graduate until summer. To be slightly more specific, he won’t be graduating eighth grade until this summer.
Despite his age—or specifically, his lack of—Moses is an in-demand commodity. He has now drawn the interest of and offers from two of the country’s most potent football programs. The secret is out; although, this is far from the first time we’ve seen a junior high athlete receive looks from colleges.
It’s not the norm (yet), but it could be soon enough.
With new recruiting legislation and the ever-increasing competitive nature of the game-within-the-game, scouting is going to become more in-depth, more complete, and it will start earlier than before.
If this is what pushes you over the edge when it comes to recruiting, I have to ask…where you been?
In the specific instance of Dylan Moses, the legend began to spread like wildfire when he received a scholarship offer from Nick Saban Alabama’s Junior Day this past Saturday.
He’s considered an elite prospect for the class of 2017, and if that sounds like a long way out, that’s because it is. Still, despite how bizarre this all sounds and seems, it seems slightly less bizarre when you watch Moses on the football field.
This, clearly, is not your average eighth-grader.
Edward Moses Jr., Dylan’s father, spoke to Al.com about the unique experience in Tuscaloosa, while also providing some insight into a long recruiting process that is in its infant stage:
"We got the invitation to come to Alabama's Junior Day a few weeks ago and to be honest we were kind of surprised. When we got there, Coach (Burton) Burns took us around and introduced us to the entire coaching staff and they all seemed very interested in Dylan. They treated him like a five-star recruit."
"We met with Coach Saban after lunch and he talked to Dylan about his future and what he needed to do to achieve his potential as a student and as a football player. When he said he was offering Dylan a scholarship, we asked a lot of questions just to make sure we knew exactly what he meant. Coach Saban said the Alabama staff believes Dylan has a chance to be the best player in the country in the Class of 2017 and they were ready to offer him a scholarship. That's when the fireworks started going off in our heads."
Alabama isn’t alone in its early courting efforts. LSU actually offered Moses as a seventh-grader, getting a jump on getting a jump. Moses will play his high school ball at University Lab High School in Louisiana, which is more or less in LSU’s backyard.
Outside of Moses, USC made headlines when they offered quarterback David Sills—now a premier quarterback prospect for the 2015 class—a scholarship at the age of 13.
Going back a bit further, quarterback Chris Leak actually committed to Wake Forest before hitting high school to play with his brother. His brother eventually transferred, and Leak later decided to take his magnificent spirals to Florida, where he won a national championship.
Although Chris Leak is far from a dinosaur, the recruiting world has transformed drastically since his departure from the Gators. It’ll likely continue to change, especially now that the NCAA Board of Directors approved Proposal 11-2 earlier this year.
This will allow schools to hire staffs separate from coaches who can be involved in the recruiting process, minus off-campus visits. Other than that, they will become an ultimate resource, especially for those teams with extra money to spare.
Alabama has been at the forefront of this move, and the hiring of Kevin Steele as director of player personnel signifies that this change is already upon us. Others with the cash to do so will soon follow.
These staff additions will greatly increase the activity involved in the recruiting cycle, and it will also start the process earlier on. With the coverage of recruiting also booming, we’ll likely hear more about younger, talented players getting looks from marquee destinations.
Despite the fact that this trend may be getting underway, there simply aren’t many players with the physical gifts of Dylan Moses at such a young age. Although the word on these players will get out quickly, and there will be staffs in place tasked with locating them more efficiently, there will only be so many eighth-graders capable of drawing interest from the major programs.
This is about relationship-building and the beginning of a very long process. None of this is finalized until the very moment that letter of intent is faxed in, and until then it’s all about making an impression.
Alabama and LSU have decided to be the first to make a big impression, in the hopes that it will pay off down the road.
Verbal agreements and scholarship offers—especially for players still far, far away from a college campus—are a show of faith by the school and a tactic to remain relevant. It creates a great headline, but both of these mean very little in the grand scheme. After all, we've seen how much this handshake deal means over the course of a single high school senior season, let alone several.
Recruiting in general seems to be spiraling towards areas unknown, but offering a scholarship to an eighth grader isn’t groundbreaking. With the new rules in place—including unlimited text messages and other forms of contact going forward—the NCAA seems content with embracing this kind of competitive environment.
Hopefully coaches and adults will use discretion, especially with younger players still years away. Age isn’t as much a concern for me as the pressure that is mounting in all areas, for all athletes, high school-seasoned or not.
On the flip side, most college programs don’t have the luxury to center their attention on 2017. And even if they do, much of their time and resources—even with a new, larger staff in place—will look at what’s most directly ahead. Jobs are on the line year-to-year, and just how many members of a team will be there when National Signing Day 2017 finally rolls along?
As for Dylan Moses, we, like every major school in the country, will keep an eye on him going forward. Will he turn out to be the talent many believe? Will he eventually sign with LSU? Alabama? Will Nick Saban be coaching at Alabama if and when he does?
Speaking of which, I wonder if we’ll still be using fax machines by then.
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