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Column: Bryce Young and his father talk about the perils of early recruiting

Whether it was the tasty beef dip sandwich he was eating for lunch at Philippe the Original or the promise that his thoughts on recruiting would be revealed after his son graduated from high school, Craig Young was willing to offer a no-holds-barred opinion on the college recruiting process based on the experience with his son, All-American quarterback Bryce Young.

The interview took place last August, and the commitment to not publish his comments until after his son had moved on from Santa Ana Mater Dei was made so there would be no recriminations. That happened on Jan. 7, when Bryce enrolled at Alabama for his freshman year. Bryce had been considered a major college prospect since he enrolled at L.A. Cathedral as a freshman. He was a longtime commit to USC until switching to Alabama during the 2019 season.

Specifically, Craig raised concerns about the possible negative effects on teenagers receiving college scholarship offers as freshmen or earlier.

“Honestly, my opinion on recruiting is that early recruiting is the biggest amount of scrutiny and attention given to these young athletes at an age in which they are not developed mentally, physically, socially,” he said. “It’s causing a significant amount of damage to the young men.

“It is hurting them in their preparation. It’s hurting them in their ability to be coached and it’s also encouraging them to focus on things that aren’t as important as getting better. It’s focusing on rankings. It’s focusing on likes and clicks. What I’m saying is the industry has gone too far to the other side. We need to think about kids being subjected to writers, college recruiters at such an age and how it’s affecting their development and their ability to be coached.”

Bryce, who was sitting next to his father, was asked what he thought of the recruiting process.

“There’s a lot of people whose offers drive them and motivate them for the wrong reasons,” said Bryce, who committed to USC before his junior year. “People start to look at themselves a certain way based on the offers they have and how many. At the end of the day, there’s some people who can cut through it and realize how great it is and in the grand scheme of things, what it means.

“But some can be easily consumed by it. They feel entitled, like they’ve already accomplished their goal being ranked high and having offers. There’s a positive and a negative to it. I think it’s great for people to have opportunities younger, but I think it’s important to stress, as great as it is, how it’s not the end goal to just get a lot of offers. There’s a lot to work for. They’re not better based on rankings.”

Added Craig, “I’ve heard stories of freshmen football players stressed out and anxious and parents calling coaches because their freshman kid does not have an offer yet. This is the system we have created by bestowing rankings on kids based off of a measurement or camp. There’s so many other things that make a Division I athlete.

“Often times people who are offered early aren’t the most successful at the next level. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. There’s countless stories of people not being discovered by colleges until their senior year. Really the focus should be on player development.

“I recommend for the parents to get an objective and honest assessment on their children, what their abilities are, what their strengths and weaknesses are, and focus on that and an assessment on what their academic functioning level is and what universities work best for them. And from there, work on becoming the best you can be at your particular position. Most schools build relationships with your high school coach. If you continue to improve, work hard and play well at the right times, they will find you.”

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