College football searches for younger players

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Jeff Neukom, Managing Editor

 

Recent college recruiting practices suggest a rapidly evolving world of collegiate sports.

Daron Bryden, a 12-year-old quarterback hailing from Enfield, Connecticut, recently landed on Rivals.com, a very popular website that lists information about college recruits. Included in his profile is his college class: 2021. He has yet to enter high school, and yet his statistics and his physical attributes are available for the public.

IWU’s own Dylan Overstreet, recruited by Coach Ron Rose, struggled to play consistently during his sophomore year of high school. “I made a lot of mistakes you would see from a young guy: bad turnovers, wasn’t being much of a leader,” he said.

It wasn’t until later in high school that he started attracting serious attention. “What I did not expect was how crafty he is and what good court vision he has,” Rose said.

As a sophomore in high school, Overstreet had a lot of growing left to do. This is even more applicable to junior high students like Bryden and teammate Tyson Thorson.

On average, most young adults start seriously looking at college during their sophomore and junior year of college. In most schools, students are introduced to the college search during their first year of high school, but don’t start seriously looking until later. Among Wesleyan students, there is something of a consensus:

“I started really looking at IWU during my junior year and Greenville the summer before senior year” said junior Rebekah Smith. “In junior high I was more worried about starting high school and how cute Nick Jonas was. The only reason I had college on my mind was because of my older brother, Aaron.”

“The bulk of my college search happened my senior year as I finalized the details” said first-year Citlalli Gonzalez.

In Bryden’s case, the college search has started early. And he is not alone. Thornton, listed at 5’11” and 170 pounds, has a full recruit profile that describes him as “a running back with great explosiveness and… good body control for a kid his size and age.”

Bryden starred on the television show, Kids Do the Darndest Things, competing against former NFL quarterback, Matt Hasselbeck. Hosted by LL Cool J, the show claimed that kids would face “equally talented grown-ups.”

Most potential collegiate athletes start attracting college attention by putting themselves on the map with high school accolades. According to Fox News, athletic scholarship offers are not made official until the offseason before the student-athlete’s senior year of high school.

Of late, verbal commitments have become much more popular, including the now-18 David Sills, who verbally committed to University of Southern California at 13 years of age. The attention Bryden is attracting suggests that this could become the norm for collegiate recruiting.

Currently, Illinois Wesleyan’s football team does not have Bryden listed as a potential recruit, and other sports teams are not looking at junior high student-athletes as future prospects. But in the rapidly-evolving world of college sports, the experiences of Bryden and his peers suggest that Wesleyan’s teams might soon be alone in doing so.