When athletes perform on the big stage, big things tend to happen for them. Nathan Tilford, a wide receiver from Upland, California, is no different in that respect. The rising ninth grader has made big waves, as a 6'2" 190-pound pass-catcher on the 7-on-7 circuit. He's not even in high school and he has been outshining some of his older opponents.
That is how you earn yourself a scholarship offer from the University of Southern California, as ESPN reported.
Now, it must be stated that no official offer can come from a school prior to September of a player's junior season. Add that to the fact that Lane Kiffin is on shaky ground as a head coach, so possible staff changes from the head coach on down are a very real possibility. Basically, what you have is a head coach hoping he made the big leap to get in on a projected true talent early, and a player who has to hope the offer stands through his signing year of 2017.
Chalk it up to another in the long line of non-committable offers that exist in the college football world.
The big thing here, with Tilford, is the growing influence of the 7-on-7 scene. As we hit on last week at Your Best 11, the world of 7-on-7 is gaining ground and becoming another proving ground for athletes. Kids are getting out there, they are competing and schools are noticing.
In the grand scheme of things, 7-on-7, against older and more physically mature players, is likely a better barometer than bad middle school or Pop Warner football, where kids like Tilford are bigger, faster and stronger.
And while you're at it, get on how dumb the coaches are at the eight schools that, per Rivals, have reportedly offered Tilford's fellow class of 2017 stud, Dylan Moses.
Recruiting is all about leverage, and one avenue that carries a lot of weight is being the first school in on a player. We saw Ole Miss ride the being-first wave to a phenomenal class in 2013, and other schools are looking to do the same. The offer is all about getting in on the ground floor, showing the kid that you liked him the most and liked him first.
Like Sills and Moses, the Tilford ride will be an interesting one to watch. The rising ninth grader certainly appears to have the size, speed and skills to grow into a big-time prospect. He also has four years to work hard, go to class and stay out of trouble.
The 7-on-7 circuit is a fixture in the recruiting process for skill players. Guys like Tilford will continue to pop onto the radar as the sport grows and their reputations start growing before they even play a high school game.
Now, they just have to match their touch football performance with their full pads game.