How young is too young during the athletic recruiting process?

Recruiting 101Correspondent INovember 8, 2008

In order to really jump into this article, I must relay a story of what a current Division I college coaching staff is doing.  This staff made a name for themselves at the mid major level and went to a number of NCAA tournaments.  While they never won a game there, the team making this tournament was a huge jump for the program and made this staff a hot commodity during coaching searches.

While this staff was at the mid major school, they seemed to push the envelope by offering prospects earlier and earlier during the basketball recruiting process.  They stepped up and offered a kid before his junior year and even extended a scholarship to a prospect before he had logged a minute of varsity basketball.  This prospect was going into his sophomore year and has developed into a talented 7-footer.  The coaches were impressed with him at their camp and saw enough to throw an offer his way, which he quickly accepted.  In the end, the majority of kids that this staff offered so early in the process ended up at the school because they were able to foster a great relationship with them.

This staff has moved to the Big 12 conference and has struggled in their first two years there.  But during that time, this coach has taken offering young kids to a new level.  Before the staff coached their first game at the school, they offered a prospect during the fall of his freshman year.  This was before he logged a minute of varsity basketball action.  Now this athlete is a junior and remains committed to the program.  As they showed here, this staff is not afraid to throw out offers early.

But now this school has taken things to another level.  They currently have three scholarship offers out to prospective recruits in the Class of 2012.  For those unsure, the Class of 2012 is the current class of freshman who have been in high school for a little over two months.  Because it is so early in the school year, none of these players have logged a single varsity minute and none have competed in a varsity practice for that matter.

Obviously the coaches did their due diligence by scouting the athletes and talking to as many people around them as they can to get more information about them.  But is this really the way to go?  I talked about one of these athletes a while back and they ended up extending the offer during the spring of his eighth grade year.  By that time, he didn’t even have a high school picked out.

Maybe these recruits end up as national recruits and the only reason they attend this school is simply because the coaching staff offered so early and showed that faith early on.  But is this not rocking the cradle?  Are they going to start scouting seventh grade tournaments in their search for the next big time player in the area?  What happens if all three of these kids commit to the school and two turn out to be marginal players?

How young is too young is a tough question to answer simply because the recruiting process does keep getting younger and younger.  As this staff has shown, they have the ability to find outstanding players early on and are not afraid to offer.  The good news is that for the most part, this has not translated over to football recruiting all that much.  But could it in future years?