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How young is too young to offer a full-ride scholarship?
Dec 21, 2013 8:17 PM

 

BY TODD PORTER
Repository staff writer

COLUMBUS  As Danny Clark made the short walk from Ohio State’s indoor practice field to Urban Meyer’s office, he knew something was happening. Clark, however, didn’t know his football life was about to change.

He hoped it would.

Meyer sat down Clark, a 15-year-old freshman quarterback whose size belies the fact that he has yet to get a temporary driver’s permit, for a man to, um, young man conversation.

It wasn’t on a whim and a prayer that Meyer offered a freshman high school quarterback a full-ride scholarship to Ohio State. It is the first time in Meyer’s 12-year head coaching career he’s offered a 15-year-old high school freshman quarterback. Even Tim Tebow had to wait until he was a junior.

“That’s hard,” Meyer said of offering high school freshmen, and not speaking about Clark specifically because it would be an NCAA violation.

“So much of it is development and what goes on. I’m not a big fan of that stuff. But some times if you know enough about the person, that’s when you can do something like that.”

The offer was the first Big Ten offer for Clark, and he accepted it on the spot Dec. 13. It’s hard to say Ohio State was Clark’s boyhood dream school because in many respects, he’s still in boyhood.

Offering a freshman, particularly a quarterback, a scholarship that can’t be officially signed until February of 2017, is a risky move. It wasn’t without thought.

“Danny has been down to Ohio State’s camp and Urban has worked him out for three, four, five hours,” scout.com Ohio recruiting analyst Bill Greene said. “The only answer I can give you as to why is Urban is 100 percent sold on the kid. That’s his guy. They just don’t do this. If this was accepted procedure, you’d see 20 offers out there for the 2017 class. They’ve only offered a handful of in-state juniors. To take it a step further, I don’t think they’re going to take more than 10 seniors from Ohio this year. Put that way, it’s remarkable.”

Meyer didn’t rely on input from assistant coaches solely on Clark. When it comes to recruiting quarterbacks, and even running backs to an extent, Meyer is hands-on in the recruiting process.

“He may not get as involved in defensive linemen or safeties,” Greene said. “He will oversee everything with the quarterbacks. That’s his personal offer. This was his guy.”

Clark has the intangibles college coaches love. He’s 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds. The fact that he’s a left-hander appealed to Meyer as well.

“He told me the last left-hander he had turned out to be pretty special,” Clark said.

Clark is a long way from having Tebow’s college career. But he is on lofty ground.

Across the country, only five high school freshmen have been offered scholarships and verbally committed already, according to rivals.com recruiting database. There is only one other quarterback, Tate Martell fro California. He accepted Washington’s offer already.

“Offering younger kids is a trend, but not after their freshman year,” Greene said. “That’s an outlier, one in a million.”

Across the country, including the five who have verbally committed, only 19 players in the class of 2017 have been offered.

It used to be when a program extended an offer, that was almost as good as signing a letter of intent.

“An offer is not an offer like it used to be,” Greene said. “It’s starting the conversation now.”

Because the process has started earlier — UAB has offered an Alabama eighth-grader — those verbal early offers aren’t as good as an old fashioned handshake and a man’s word, except under one condition.

This is what makes Clark’s offer more remarkable.

He’s an Ohio high school player.

“With a kid from Massillon, or Ohio kids, because of the relationships Ohio State’s staff has with in-state high school coaches,” Greene said, “you can’t drop him later in the process like you can, and will, a kid from New Jersey. When you do this with a Danny Clark from Massillon, it’s firm. You’re making a determination you will not find a better quarterback in the country for the next three years.”

Meyer visited Massillon the week after the Tigers beat McKinley to get into the playoffs. He sat with Massillon head coach Jason Hall for hours and watched film of Clark and asked questions of the head coach.

“I knew after meeting with (Meyer) then the offer was coming in the near future,” Hall said. “I didn’t know if it would be now or this summer.”

What Meyer saw on film convinced him Clark was his quarterback of the future, the long-range future.

Depending on what junior quarterback Braxton Miller decides — whether to come back for his senior season or turn pro — Meyer could have two or three starting quarterbacks by the time Clark gets on campus.

“There was no reason to offer him (Dec. 13),” Greene said. “He didn’t have 25 offers and was ready to commit to a competing school. The reason why is Urban was sold on him.”

Greene doesn’t believe this is a trend.

Still, UAB saw enough of Kelvin Stokes — a 6-2, 185-pound eighth-grade defensive end in Millbrook, Ala. — to make him the first prospect offered in the country for the class of 2018.

He played at Stanhope Elmore Junior High School this past fall.

“He’s a young kid with a ton of potential,” his eventual high school coach, Jeff Foshee, told AL.com this past summer when UAB offered. “He’s a good kid and a hard worker. If he keeps his focus, he could be really special down the road.”

Young players with size will draw the initial attention of college football coaches. However, a player has to be willing to work and improve, and impress coaches through camps that potential can be met.

Clark said he is ready to handle the additional scrutiny of being what is likely the youngest quarterback ever offered by the Buckeyes.

Hall thinks he’s there, too.

“He was the first freshman to play quarterback at Massillon and letter,” Hall said. “He handled it well. How much more scrutiny can come his way. I think it will be the opposite. The process is over for him. He can focus on being the best high school quarterback he can be. He’s 15 years old. He needs to enjoy high school and focus on being a high school kid.”

Reach Todd at 330-580-8340 or todd.porter@cantonrep.com
On Twitter: @tporterREP

EARLY OFFERS
Committed
These are the 19 freshmen in the country who have been offered by an FBS full-ride football scholarship for the Class of 2017, according to rivals.com database
QB    Danny Clark, Massillon, Ohio        Ohio State
LB    Loren Mondy, Mansfield, Tx.             Arizona State
ATH    Dylan Moses, Baton Rouge, La.                LSU
LB    Anthony Hines, Dallas, Tex.      Mississippi State
QB    Tate Martell, Poway, Ca.                Washington

Offered but not committed
DB    Richard LeCounte, Hinesville, Ga.
OL    Ben Petrula, Jersey City, NJ
WR    Jeff Thomas, East St. Louis, Ill.
WR    Nathan Tilford, Upland, Cal.
RB    Ty Chandler, Nashville, Tenn.
ATH    Maleik Gray, La Vergne, Tenn.
DB    Deon Jones, Washington, D.C.
DB    Aapri Washington, Huntersville, NC
LB    Joshua Ross, Orchard Lake, Mich.
WR    Deangelo Gibbs, Suwanee, Ga.
QB    Jake Bentley, Duncan, S.C.
QB    Kasim Hill, Baltimore, Maryland
ATH    Jamyest Williams, Duluth, Ga.
WR    Savalas Cann, Bamberg, S.C.

Eighth-grader
Offer for the the Class of 2018, eighth-graders now, according to rivals.com database
DE     Kelvin Stokes Millbrook, Ala.               UAB

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Edited: Dec 21, 2013 8:17 PM by Jeff Verbus
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About the Author
Todd Porter
Todd Porter was born and raised in Stark County and has been covering sports for The Repository and CantonRep.com since 1991. He has been named the Associated Press Ohio Sports Writer of the Year multiple times and has been honored nationally by the Associated Press Sports Editors. Porter became the Repository's sports columnist in 1999. He has regularly covered Ohio State football and the Browns. A 1990 graduate of Washington High School and 1996 graduate of Malone University, Porter resides in Stark County with his wife, Colleen, and their three children, Dylan, Sydni and Nathan. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/toddporter
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How young is too young to offer a full-ride scholarship?