Aledo Bearcats running back Jase McClellan rushed for 1,527 yards and 20 touchdowns during the team’s championship run last season. He was awarded with numerous accolades, including MaxPreps national freshman player of the year.
Soon after, the recruiting floodgates opened for McClellan.
McClellan’s hard work — making visits and going to camps — paid off quickly. He went to Norman, Okla., on July 29 and after spending the day at the University of Oklahoma, the incoming sophomore committed to the Sooners.
“Jase is obviously a great football player and he deserves everything that’s coming to him, but he’s 14 years old,” Aledo coach Steve Wood said. “He’s been great with it and will continue to, but in a perfect world, colleges shouldn’t do as much recruiting with kids that young.”
Since Lane Kiffin offered 13-year-old quarterback David Sills in 2010, colleges have had their eyes on players McClellan’s age, and even younger.
Los Angeles-area youths Havon Finney Jr. and Bunchie Young received Division I offers last month from Illinois and Nevada, respectively. Signing Day for them is in 2025 or 2026, because they’re 9 and 10 years old.
“I don’t know if it’s good or bad, but I don’t think it’s going away any time soon,” said Robert Seals, whose son Ken is an incoming sophomore at Weatherford, and already has an offer from Montana State, according to recruiting site 247sports.com.
I don’t like it. It’s not fair to the kids. ... Let them be kids and let them enjoy junior high and high school ball.
Arlington Lamar coach Laban DeLay
NCAA football teams for years have scheduled nonconference opponents eight, nine, 10 years out, now they’re attempting to do the same thing with two-deep rosters.
“What’s going on is that these early offers aren’t scholarships — they’re not an offer that can be acted upon,” Colleyville Heritage coach Joe Willis said. “It’s an offer to get them on campus, and from there, if they like what they see they give a real committable offer.”
Committable is the key word — schools are “offering” kids just to keep them on their list, waiting until the school sends the scholarship offer four, five or six years later.
“The concept of an offer isn’t what it used to be,” said Matt Stepp of Dave Campbell’s Texas Football. “It’s devalued when schools give 150 offers per cycle.”
In the past, top area players didn’t get an offer until their junior or senior years, such as Aledo’s Johnathan Gray (class of 2012) or even the No. 1 overall pick of this year’s NFL draft – Arlington Martin’s Myles Garrett.
“Recruiting is a game in itself,” Martin coach Bob Wager said. “It’s like a second season. Do your best to guide your kids because the winds are constantly changing.”
“Even though I’m committed, it’s never really truly over,” Kameron Brown said. “There’s a lot that still goes on. That being said, it’s a fun process if you handle it the right way.
“It can be overwhelming at times if you listen to the wrong person. Most players don’t think about all the options to why they choose a school. You don’t pick a school because their uniforms or because the stadium is big — just as long as you and your family are making it for the right reasons.”
Mansfield Legacy defensive back Jalen Catalon (eight Power 5 offers) and Nolan Catholic linebacker NaNa Osafo-Mensah (13 Power 5 offers) are also high on the recruiting trail. Like Kameron Brown, they’re both incoming juniors.
“Three years ago, we started to see this. That’s the school’s trick, and it’s a clear business model,” Willis said. “You might go to a kid’s recruiting site and see he has 15 offers. So schools offer him because if they don’t, they might never see him in camp. That’s a classic marketing tool.”
Southlake Carroll sophomore defensive back R.J. Mickens has 15 of his 18 offers from the Power Five conferences, including Baylor, TCU, Texas A&M, Oklahoma and Michigan.
“Somebody offers a kid and it’s a snowball effect,” Wood added. “If I had it my way, I wouldn’t have a 14- or 15-year-old handling that kind of publicity. You want them to have their head level and stay hungry, which is a fear as a coach.”
Last month, the University of Hawaii offered fifth-grader Titan Lacaden. In 2015, Steve Spurrier, who was at South Carolina, offered a scholarship to eighth-grader Dominick Blaylock.
“I don’t like it. It’s not fair to the kids,” Arlington Lamar coach Laban DeLay said. “Early signing day might help, but at the same time, these guys coming down to recruit eighth- and ninth-graders. Let them be kids and let them enjoy junior high and high school ball.”