UCLA head coach Jim Mora
UCLA has offered an athletic scholarship to quarterback Lindell Stone (Dawson Middle School, Southlake, Texas), according to an ESPN report.
The 6' 2", 190-pound, 15-year-old just finished eighth grade. "We're really not focused on recruiting right now," Stone told ESPN.
"We're more focused on getting on the field at high school and helping a team win a championship, but this is big. It's finally showing how hard I've worked."
UCLA is not the first school to offer a scholarship to a kid before he set foot in high school. In 2010, USC offered quarterback David Sills (Red Lion Academy, Bear, Del.) at the ripe of age 13. Sills has committed to USC.
For some adults, the thought of grown men fawning over and recruiting a youngster is repulsive. Others are trying to wrap their heads around this alarming recruiting trend.
Bill Redell, who coached Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen at Oaks Christian Academy in Westlake Village, Calif., expressed shock when USC head coach Lane Kiffin offered Sills.
"To be honest with you, I think the whole thing's out of whack," Redell told ESPN's Mark Saxon in 2010.
"I don't mean to say the staffs at USC and UCLA are going to Pop Warner games, but they're getting wind of guys way early."
Technology has made identifying potential recruiting targets much simpler, as coaches can now just watch a prospect's highlight reel on YouTube. They can also follow the prospect's daily routine via social media. A personal in-home visit is not required.
But offering a boy who probably thinks going out with a girl for three weeks constitutes a long-term relationship makes most adults a little squeamish. It sounds a little predatory.
The NCAA has no rules against offering scholarships to players in middle school. It is game on. And there is a method to all of this madness.
UCLA is on a roll. The Bruins are two-time Pac-12 South champions. Its class of 2013 was ranked No. 7 by 247Sports. Football programs that are trending up need to keep their names in the news. In the recruiting world, publicity is tantamount to success.
Stone is entering high school in a state that is the holy grail of recruiting. Building a pipeline into Texas is high on any head coach's list of priorities, especially a high-profile school in Texas.
Should the NCAA limit the age in which a prospect can be offered a scholarship?
Southlake's Carroll High School has won eight state titles in football. It has produced elite talent, including Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Chase Daniels and New York Jets quarterback Greg McElroy. The school now has an incoming freshman who will be associated with UCLA.
Football players talk to each other about recruiting, especially regarding which schools they are interested in and which schools have offered them. Freshman usually do not have a lot to offer in those conversations—except for Stone.
He may never commit to UCLA. Or he may remember the school that first offered him a scholarship and sign with the Bruins. He may recruit his teammates to sign with UCLA if they are being recruited by the Bruins. He will talk about UCLA on the Longhorn Network. That type of recruiting advantage is priceless.
In the dog-eat-dog world of recruiting, any advantage seized outweighs the criticism that follows.
The Bruins have one-upped the state's two flagship universities—Texas and Texas A&M—by offering Stone right under their noses.
In 2017, we will find out if Stone is wearing powder blue, burnt orange or maroon under center. In the meantime, the madness will continue.