Nashville columnist takes Mark Stoops to task

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David Climer of the Tennessean says that Kentucky’s Mark Stoops has joined those who have stooped to a new low in college football recruiting. Stoops’ sin: offering scholarships to kids who haven’t even started high school.

This goes back to the new Kentucky coach offering one to 13-year-old Jarius Brents last week, which got some national attention. And Climer acknowledges that Stoops isn’t alone. Southern Cal, Alabama, LSU and Texas have all offered scholarships to players who have yet to play a high school game.

Climer writes:

It’s a sign of the times. We’re always looking for the next big thing, even when, as in the case of the 13-year-old Brents, the next big thing is 5-foot-8 and 152 pounds. We keep trending younger, for better or worse. And I think it’s worse.

Look, there’s a difference between trying to lock down commitments from players who already have made a mark in high school football and those who have yet to darken a high school huddle. Most programs have lined up several prospects who will be high school seniors this fall. Tennessee, for example, has 16 commitments for the Class of 2014. Vanderbilt has nine.

Likewise, the Class of 2015 is taking shape. Texas already is up to seven commitments in that class. Recruiting never sleeps.

Recruiting doesn’t sleep. It’s all about being aggressive and getting an edge. No one wants to get left behind. I have no idea whether Brent is a scholarship-worthy prospect at this point, but I do know that Stoops is all about setting an aggressive, don’t-back-down approach to Kentucky football. If that means offering a scholarship to a 13-year-old who he thinks is worthy, then he’s going to.

The problem is the pressure it puts on the kid, obviously. Wherever Brent plays when he gets to high school, he will be regarded as the kid who was offered a scholarship when he was 13 years old. Can he live up to that set of unfair expectations?

Whenever this happens, the immediate reference point around here is former UK basketball coach Billy Gillispie offering a scholarship to eighth-grader Michael Avery, who immediately committed to the Cats. Gillispie was fired as Kentucky’s coach after two seasons. Avery ended up at Sonoma State.

Brents didn’t accept Stoops’ offer. By most reports, he is expected to be a sought-after prospect who will get plenty more offers down the road. Kentucky’s was just the first.

Climer says that Stoops “is pushing the envelope,” but if that’s true, then so is Nick Saban.

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