RECRUITING SERIES, PART 6 | Proposed rule could alter process (with podcast)

jlembo@bradenton.comAugust 6, 2010 

BRADENTON — His name is David Sills.

He’s a 6-foot-tall quarterback from Delaware.

He’s verbally committed to USC.

And he’s a member of the graduating class of 2015.

That’s right — when Sills told Trojans head coach Lane Kiffin in February of his decision to head west, Sills was 13 years old.

“I was just talking with friends yesterday about what it’ll be like four years from now when David goes through the recruiting process,” Sills’ father, David IV, told ESPN.com at the time. “I never expected this to happen so soon.”

If the NCAA gets its way, it may never happen that soon again. Earlier this summer, the Division I Recruiting and Athletics Personal Issues Cabinet proposed a rule preventing college coaches from offering scholarships to prep athletes prior to July 1 between a prospect’s junior and senior year of high school.

That means the David Sills of the world won’t have to make any semblance of a decision long before they start a varsity football game.

But if scholarships cannot be offered until a month before the start of a player’s senior season, will that give prospects enough time to do their homework and make an educated decision?

Allan Gerber, who coached collegiate football before taking over Bradenton Christian’s program, sees merit in both sides of the debate. Under the current situation, the marquee players who begin popping up on college radars early in their career can commit whenever they want and enjoy their senior season, relieved that they have already made one of the biggest decisions of their young life.

But he also understands how some kids — such as Sills — can get so inundated by college coaches at an early age that it actually takes away some of their childhood.

“I don’t have a problem with (players) being looked at at the end of their sophomore season,” Gerber said. “So it’s enough time for them to make an educated decision. I tell our kids all the time, ‘Put your feet on these campuses. ... get to know the towns ...’”

Brett Timmons, a Southeast alum and head coach at Out-of-Door Academy who also played at Tulane, thinks the rule is a good idea, believing that it gives a kid enough time to make a decision while allowing him to enjoy his final year of high school.

“People forget that colleges will always be there, but you only get one senior year of high school,” he said. “Those are memories you can’t get back. Friday nights, to me, are the best — that’s football at its purest.”

Manatee quarterbacks coach Chris Conboy knows all about prep players drawing interest at a young age. Brion Carnes, the first freshman quarterback to start under Hurricanes coach Joe Kinnan, began getting top-tier Division I looks after his first varsity season under center before he signed with Nebraska in February.

And Carnes’ replacement, sophomore Cord Sandberg, is already garnering interest — he was one of three Manatee players invited to Florida’s prestigious Friday Night Lights camp last week — despite not having started a regular-season varsity game.

Yet Conboy doesn’t believe the rule change will make much difference and would rather see the NCAA go another way — allowing prep athletes to make five official visits prior to their senior year. He cites Manatee running back Mike Blakely has an example. A rising senior, Blakely began getting flooded with offers early in his junior year and currently has 37 to choose from — but hasn’t been allowed to officially visit any.

“If Mike could have done with that, Mike could have made his decision and been done,” Conboy said. “He wants to make his decision and get it over with, but he doesn’t want to give up his official visits, either. He wants to make sure he’s going to the right place.”

Of course, all of this could be rendered moot — the proposal will not be voted on before January. And Petrina Long, the chairperson of the committee proposing the change, acknowledge to The Associated Press that the rule, if passed, would be hard to enforce.

But it’s one step toward preventing college coaches from pressuring 13-year-old kids, even if it’s not quite perfect yet.

“I think they can find a happy medium,” Gerber said.

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