The future is now...at least in college football recruiting departments.
Tyreke Johnson, an eighth-grade student at Trinity Christian Academy in Jacksonville, Florida, remains months away from his first freshman quiz but already holds more college scholarship offers than the majority of opponents he'll face this fall.
Ohio State is the latest in a long line of programs to extend an offer to the 6'1", 175-pound athlete, according to ElevenWarriors.com reporter John Brandon. Johnson is the latest in a long line of junior high students being swarmed by coaches fishing for a signed letter of intent four years down the line.
There are hundreds of rising seniors across the country who've won state titles and set school records without even a glance from Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer.
Johnson, a gifted playmaker who is closer to elementary school than his senior year, can now boast he has an open opportunity to compete for the two-time national champion.
These days, he's hardly alone as a football phenom who arrives at the high school educational level with at least a few offers in hand. Sure, these stories remain relatively rare, but the shock value has steadily decreased in recent years.
Ohio State is one of several squads that opted to enter this particular recruiting race at an incredibly early stage. Florida State, Miami, UCLA, Virginia Tech and LSU are among a growing list of schools already keeping tabs on Johnson as a primary target.
Think these programs are getting a little ahead of themselves and giving into hype?
Verlon Dorminey, the head coach at Trinity Christian, believes it's been validated since Johnson's seventh-grade season.
"Honestly, you could see this kid in the Heisman Trophy race," Dorminey told MaxPreps reporter Stephen Spiewak in March 2013. "He's that type of kid. He's somebody's poster child for a program. He's somebody you want out front, portraying what your program really is."
It's lofty praise for a prospect who is currently viewed as a safety but could certainly grow into a linebacker—heck, even an edge-rusher—by the time he finishes physically maturing in high school.
Admittedly, the potential is clearly in place when you watch the video highlights Johnson has created so far during his small sample size of a football career.
He follows in the footsteps of older brother De'Andre Johnson, a four-year starter at First Coast High School in Jacksonville. De'Andre, a member of the 2015 class, committed to Florida State before his sophomore season.
Big bro may have hit prime time early, but Tyreke is approaching practically uncharted territory with his rare and rapid collection of scholarship offers at this stage.
Still, he has company, and the crowd is likely to grow exponentially in coming years.
USC quarterback commit David Sills, who will be a senior this fall, pledged to the Trojans in seventh grade. Four years and one regime change later, USC is looking toward a future with 5-star commit Ricky Town and Sills is exploring alternatives.
Louisiana linebacker Dylan Moses held six SEC offers before he played a high school snap. He became the first member of LSU's 2017 class less than a month into his freshman season.
And now here we are, ready to watch the dominoes fall for a 2018 class that is largely still wrapping up its final stretch of eighth-grade events.
Even if Johnson chose a university today, he wouldn't be the first member of the 2018 class to commit. Eighth-grade Texas quarterback Zadock Dinkelmann already committed to LSU in February.
However, it's vitally important to remember that verbal commitments are non-binding for both parties.
Dinkelmann could commit to 20 universities during the next four years, and only No. 20 would reap the benefits. Life as an LSU pledge could become just another adolescent phase.
Immense uncertainty defines college football recruiting today.
It's tough enough to keep a 3-star senior cornerback in your class until signing day. Now try to maintain a solid pact with a celebrated 14-year-old who's set to receive countless campus invites throughout his high school career.
College football's hierarchy could look completely different in 2018, particularly when you consider the high turnover rate among college football coaches.
Will Les Miles be at LSU in 2018?
We don't even have an idea of who the President of the United States—well underway with their second full year on the job by then—will be when members of the 2018 class move into their college dorms.
Still, it's compelling to watch a collection of the game's great coaches clamoring for attention from an athlete who just recently received the right to attend PG-13 movies without adult supervision.
The recruiting trail continues to stretch further, making a committed high school sophomore practically seem like a seasoned veteran of the process.
Maybe Tyreke Johnson will ultimately win that Heisman Trophy, capping off nearly a decade of involvement with the team he eventually chooses and leads. Then again, maybe he won't.
As surreal as it all seems, wouldn't you rather be the coach who took a chance on the wunderkind from junior high than the coach who joined the pursuit too late to be relevant?
That's the question now facing the men who receive multimillion-dollar contracts to deliver programs to the promised land. So far, their responses have swiftly ushered college football into a new, bizarre and still-growing recruiting era, for better or worse.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!