Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - When it comes to college recruiting, no
high school athlete's commitment is official until the dotted line is signed
on a national letter of intent.
Scholarship offers to student-athletes aren't official until the offseason
before an athlete's senior year of high school.
Over the years, though, verbal commitments have become a much more common
tradition in the realm of college football, and, unlike an official signed
commitment to a college of university, the verbal commitment can be made by
any athlete garnering interest from an institution regardless of age. Until
it's made official, a verbal commitment is non-binding.
But is there a line colleges should draw when it comes to recruiting athletes
who are too young?
The LSU football program made news late last week when a Texas middle school
eighth grader named Zadock Dinkelmann verbally announced he would attend the
Louisiana state school and play football there when he is college eligible.
Dinkelmann is the 14-year-old nephew of former Heisman Trophy winner and BYU
standout quarterback Ty Detmer.
Dinkelmann is in the eighth grade at Somerset Junior High School, but LSU
offensive coordinator Cam Cameron offered the already college-built 6-foot-4,
190-pound Dinkelmann a scholarship, according to Detmer.
Dinkelmann not only hasn't played a single a down of varsity high school
football in his life, but has yet to step out on the field for any high school
team in general. Other than his size, his junior high school tapes and his
football bloodlines, there isn't much on which to base this decision.
According to Dinkelmann's father, Johan Dinkelmann, who played football with
the Cincinnati Bearkats, his son's goal for his first season at Somerset will
be to lead the freshman team. The varsity team is coached by Dinkelmann's
grandfather, Sonny Detmer, and Koy Detmer Jr. is the returning varsity starter
"LSU is a top program, and Zadock has liked LSU for a long time," Johan said.
"What kid at his age with dreams and aspirations wouldn't commit to a program
like that? It's a tremendous opportunity. It was an opportunity that we, as
his parents, wouldn't let him pass up if that's what he wanted."
It seems a bit premature for LSU to put faith in a player who has two years
left until he can legally receive a driver's license. But the beauty of a
verbal commitment from Dinkelmann means it's completely non-binding, and if,
let's say, he gets severely hurt sometime in the next few years and can't
play football anymore, it's not like LSU's recruiting class is damaged.
Dinkelmann won't be able to sign an official commitment to LSU, or any other
school, until February 2018.
The fact this 14-year-old quarterback knows a top-notch Southeastern Conference
program is interested in him can go one of two ways. Dinkelmann can embrace the
fact that LSU and Cameron want him as part of their future, and he'll do
everything in his power to become the best he can be for their sake. Or he can
get complacent and shrug off other responsibilities, including his progression
This isn't the first case of LSU offering a prospect a scholarship before the
player hits high school. Back in 2012, the Tigers offered Dylan Moses, who was
at the time a 6-1, 215-pound linebacker/running back, a scholarship the
summer before his eighth grade year. The Tigers got a verbal commitment from
him during his freshman season.
It's happening on other campuses around the country as well. Kentucky offered
then-seventh grade cornerback Jairus Brents a scholarship after the 5-8 player
attended a football camp in Lexington. Brents is a member of the recruiting
class of 2018. And USC got 2015 quarterback prospect David Sills to verbally
commit to its program when he was just 13.
It's no harm, no foul for these football programs. On the one hand, they could
get a top-notch prospect of the future for their football team. On the other,
there's so much that can go wrong or change in the time frame between the
offer and official commitment that it becomes a pointless process.
Do you remember what you were doing when you were 13 years old? Was it
committing to college to play football? It's a decision that seems to require
such maturity and cognitive thought, and it's being placed on such immature
But as long as Dinkelmann can stay healthy and assuming he has the same goals
in four more years, LSU will gain a potentially dangerous offensive player.
"Obviously, Zadock has been blessed with some physical talent," Johan said.
"He's big, he's tall, he's got a good arm. The fact that he has grown up in a
football family where everybody he knows has either played college football,
college basketball or has coached helps tremendously. It's not really an
expectation because of his family, it's a given that he's going to go play
college football somewhere for somebody at some time."
The Sports Network