Unfortunately, college football coaches have experience recruiting middle-school quarterbacks. So while Lane Kiffin's offer to 13-year-old Kaden Martin of Redondo Beach, Calif., seemed odd, it was not new.
Seven years ago, Kiffin was in his first season as head coach at USC and though he had sophomore Matt Barkley at quarterback — and three four-star quarterbacks in his 2010 and 2011 recruiting classes — Kiffin wanted another signal-caller for the future. The long-term future.
Less than a month after taking the job, he offered a scholarship to David Sillls, a 13-year-old seventh-grader from Delaware. Sills, barely old enough to see Avatar without an adult, accepted and said he would join the Trojans in 2015. Reportedly, Kiffin offered him a scholarship 20 minutes after Sills' quarterback coach, Steve Clarkson, sent Kiffin a few links to film.
Sills remained committed for more than four years, sticking with the Trojans for nine months after Kiffin was fired in September 2013. Two months before his senior season at Eastern Christian Academy in Elkton, Md., he informed new USC head coach Steve Sarkisian he was decommitting.
In July 2014, the 6-foot-3, 200-pound four-star recruit committed to West Virginia and enrolled the following year. After losing the quarterback competition and converting to receiver as a true freshman, he caught seven passes for 131 yards and two touchdowns. Last summer, he left for El Camino College in Torrance, Calif., where he switched back to quarterback and threw for 1,636 yards and 15 touchdowns in 2016.
“I just wasn’t ready to give up quarterbacking. That’s where my heart is,” Sills told the Los Angeles Times.
Turns out his heart is also in Morgantown and he rejoined the Mountaineers' football team last December as a receiver. He was listed as a backup on their spring depth chart.
There's a tendency to call David Sills a bust. He wasn't a five-star recruit; he wasn't ranked among the top 10 quarterbacks in the 2015 class; and — barring an unexpected change at West Virginia or a transfer — won't play quarterback in the FBS.
That's not fair. He's an elite athlete who remained at West Virginia in 2015 despite losing the quarterback battle and made an impact as a true freshman at a new position.
Unlike Sills, Kaden Martin, the son of USC offensive coordinator — and Kiffin's former assistant — Tee Martin, did not commit to Florida Atlantic and there are no indications he plans to — or commit to a different school if they were offer. However, Martin has now joined a small group of football prodigies whose careers will be scrutinized because coaches offered them scholarships before they played a down of high school football.