Sunday, February 7, 2010

Lane Kiffin: Creep

OK, I try to focus more on the coaching and fundamental aspects of football in this blog rather than getting caught up in the fan and media circus side of things.  However, sometimes something comes along that's just too weird NOT to write about.

Lane Kiffin just told a 7th grader that he has a free ride to USC waiting for him. 

 Let that sink in for just a second...

The reactions I've seen from from others online have ranged from "What a great story!" to "What a load of crap!"  I'm more inclined to agree with the latter.

In fact, given Kiffin's track record I'm more inclined to pray for this kid and his future, as this could be one of the worst things that could possibly happen to a young QB at that age.  By the time that this kid is actually old enough to sign that offer a myriad of things could go wrong.

First of all, that story reads like a press release for Steve Clarkson, private QB tutor and "Dream Maker."  Calling Jimmy Clausen (a Clarkson pupil) the "Lebron of football" and then claiming that Kiffin took this seriously was a flood of B.S. of biblical proportions.  Kiffin apparently watched a few clips on the kid, David Sills, then called his parents immediately and "offered him a scholarship" (an offer that's not guaranteed until the kid signs the paperwork, which he can't even legally do for another 4 years).

Clips similar to these, perhaps?  Sills wears #1 in in the (self)promotional video below.

Dad, of course, is very excited.  So is David Sills.  You really can't blame the boy.  Any coach who has to deal with this kid over the next five years must already be grumbling.

At 13, Sills is really in a position to screw up his entire life.  It's also going to be hard for his HS coaches to say anything to him when "Steve Clarkson and Lane Kiffin told me to  ________ so I'll be better prepared for the next level."  The first time they bench him or ask him to do something that he doesn't agree with, his father (who is presumably pretty wealthy to be able to afford Clarkson's services) will surely be jumping down the coach's throats.  

Additionally, tons of kids look like studs in middle school but don't pan out at the varsity level--any youth, middle school, or high school coach worth his salt knows this.  Authorities on QBs such as Darin Slack have commented on how many young QBs will actually regress as players between middle school and their Senior year of high school.  He's already hyped so much because of this story that there's no way he could ever deliver unless he goes undefeated in HS as a 4 year starter and breaks all the records on the books.  Any chance that David Sills ever had of a normal adolescence was just destroyed.

Every adult in thie story (parents, Clarkson, and Kiffin) comes across as treating this boy as a meal ticket but that offer is not guaranteed. Kiffin might not be there in five years (and probably won't, given his history--he'll leave for any team who gives him a bigger paycheck and more exposure), but even if he is at USC, Kiffin's already got a track record of pulling scholarship offers from commitments at Tennessee and has been accused of all sorts of dishonest or cowardly things by his players and coworkers there.   

Sills can make it through school riding high because he thinks he's got a free ride to USC lined up, then watch that offer evaporate if he doesn't continue to get better (or physically more mature--at 6'0" he's the same height I was at his age, but I only grew to 6'1", which is "too short" for Kiffin).

What if USC just feels they've found better QBs elsewhere?  One of the first things that Kiffin did when he took over at Tennessee was to tell three highly rated QB commitments that they weren't "his guy" because he felt he could do better.  He did the same with many players already on the Tennessee roster, such as Chattanooga product (and QB) B.J. Coleman, causing a mass exodus.

Many coaches and observers out there have been incredulous.  They have presumed that Kiffin's "offer" was never meant to be taken seriously and has been blown out of proportion by this AP story.  The thing is, Kiffin has already established a track record here, too...

Some choice quotes in that article from Kiffin really lead me to believe that this is just part of his new recruiting strategy.

Of the Berry recruitment, Staples wrote:

Kiffin's only previous foray into tween recruiting seems fairly prescient. Last month, Kiffin said he had offered a scholarship to only one player younger than 10th grade. "Matt Barkley," Kiffin said. "That year I had Orange County, and Barkley was a freshman." In 2005, Kiffin was USC's offensive coordinator and recruiting coordinator. He visited Mater Dei High in Santa Ana, Calif. -- Matt Leinart's alma mater -- and saw Barkley throwing. Kiffin's instincts were dead on. Barkley wound up being the top-rated quarterback prospect in the 2009 class, and as a true freshman this season still may push Aaron Corp for the Trojans' starting job.

Expect Kiffin and his coaches to pay attention to players as young as Evan Berry even more in the future. "When you really have a recruiting machine going," Kiffin said last month, "you're in on the ninth and 10th graders because you know your areas so well." 

Despite this, Kiffin himself even backs away from committing to the kid in the next paragraph...

"It's not like basketball where guys are playing. ... We don't get to see them very often," Kiffin said. "And the growth is so much different. A ninth-grader in football grows so much and adds so much weight that it's pretty hard to project."

If anyone had any doubt or had somehow forgot how Kiffin left Tennesseee, it should be remembered that this is a guy to whom loyalty is only a 1 way street.  Honestly, there's not much downside for Kiffin.  If the kid pans out, he's built the relationship up early and has the inside track on a hot prospect.  If the kid doesn't go on to become the next elite QB recruit, Kiffin can just cast him aside without a second thought since no paperwork has actually been signed.

So yes, Lane Kiffin is a creep who is now playing upon the dreams of middle school kids for his own ends.  It's only a matter of time before he starts telling Pee Wee dads their 6 year old is going to be the next great USC Tailback.  Kiffin, of course, is prohibited by the NCAA from actually commenting on unsigned recruits, something he was reprimanded for while coaching at Tennessee.

I very much hope that David Sills does not turn out to be the second coming of Todd Marinovich.  I think even Todd Marinovich hated being Todd Marinovich.  However, at this point he certainly appears to be headed down that path.

This is child exploitation, pure and simple.


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