Did UCLA Bruins Join the Eighth-Grade Recruitment Movement?

By Justine Hendricks
James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

No one really thought Jim Mora would let Lane Kiffin and the USC Trojans one-up him, did they? Less than a week after the Trojans offered a scholarship to eighth-grade wide receiver Nathan Tilford, the UCLA Bruins reportedly extended an offer to Texas quarterback Lindell Stone.

ESPN Recruiting Nation reported that Stone, who will be a freshman at Southlake Carroll High School in the fall, earned a scholarship offer to UCLA, one of his top schools, after performing well at a regional Elite 11 competition in San Francisco earlier this spring.

Unlike Tilford, who immediately accepted USC’s offer, Stone says he’s keeping his options open for now, but he noted that his father had been in contact with members of the UCLA Bruins football staff about a potential scholarship offer following the Elite 11 competition.

Not so fast, said Rob Cassidy who, according to his Twitter bio, covers the west for Rivals.com and Yahoo! Sports.

“Before everyone gets crazy about UCLA offering an 8th grader, know that it’s not true. Nobody at UCLA has talked to the player or his family,” Cassidy tweeted.

Stone’s future football coach, Southlake Carroll’s Hal Wasson, said he hadn’t been in touch with any of the UCLA coaches either, but no one from the university or the Stone family has indicated the story is false.

While it is common for high school coaches to be the conduit in the recruiting process, it’s not essential. When USC offered a scholarship to David Sills V two years ago, Kiffin extended the offer through Sills’ quarterback coach, Steve Clarkson, before ever meeting the player. The Trojans offered Tilford at a football camp last weekend, and Tim Salter, who will coach the receiver in high school this fall, sounded lukewarm about the early offer in an interview with the Los Angeles Times.

So is UCLA trying to keep up with L.A.’s other football team, or is Stone just trying to keep up with the other young prospects who are already drawing attention from college programs?

As the quarterback of the future at high school football powerhouse Southlake Carroll High School, Stone can expect to receive plenty of attention. Since 2002, Southlake Carroll, which produced quarterbacks Chase Daniel and Greg McElroy, has five 5A Texas state championships.

Coaches at the regional competition might just now be taking notice of Stone, but Youth1.com recognized the 6’2″, 190 lb. rising high school freshman as an up-and-coming talent last summer, before Stone even entered the eighth grade.

“Not only does quarterback Lindell Stone seem prepared to be the next heir apparent to the Southlake Carroll legacy, he may end up being the best ever,” Youth 1’s Tyler Kies wrote in July 2012.

Kies praised Stone’s “composure and skill,” while the recent ESPN piece said the quarterback “has shown he can make solid decisions.”

Intentionally misleading reporters about potential scholarship offers certainly wouldn’t be the type of smart decision college coaches should look for in a quarterback, but if the rumors of a UCLA offer are true, the Bruins might have an intelligent, level-headed prospect in their future.

“We’re really not focused on recruiting right now. We’re more focused on getting on the field at high school,” Stone said.

Getting an offer as an eighth-grader — if he actually got an offer — is great, but it sounds like he knows he still has four years to earn it.

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