Saint Mary's Prep freshman linebacker Joshua Ross is barely old enough to get behind the wheel with parental guidance. That hasn't stopped Oklahoma and Michigan State from offering the young man scholarships, and it won't stop the many schools who are about to follow suit.
Why offer a teenager who isn't even a full year into his high school experience? There are plenty of reasons, starting with Joshua's older brother James. The elder of the two Ross brothers is already trucking ball carriers at the college level, and he's barely six feet tall. Joshua is roughly five years younger yet already pushes the six-foot mark. He seems destined to follow in his brother's footsteps to big-time college football.
But the possibility of Joshua flaming out remains. He could decide to take his talents to another sport, or to put football aside and study biochemistry, or take any of countless other routes that don't lead to college football.
This doesn't matter to college football coaches – the goal is to get into the game as early as possible. After all, there's absolutely no risk in offering a kid who can't receive an official offer yet. Bob Stoops and Mark Dantonio are simply throwing their hats into a ring that will soon be be filled with the colors of colleges from around the country.
This strategy doesn't exactly guarantee that the two schools will be in the race until the end. Oklahoma is an awesome power in the football world, and Michigan State is a steady program within easy driving distance of the Ross family, but none of this really matters. Extremely early offers are only minimally effective because the variables the player has to deal with – where he's from, his ties to different schools, what he's looking for in a school – all remain the same. Yes, Oklahoma and Michigan State are slightly ahead of the curve, but the game remains the same.
In this case, these are two schools who should be able to hang with the rest of the pack in Ross' recruitment. On top of being a local powerhouse, Michigan State has become a linebacker factory, pumping out the likes of Greg Jones, Denicos Allen and Max Bullough. Oklahoma recently hired former Michigan defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery, who is certainly the reason why the Sooners rushed their offer to Joshua. Montgomery also helped recruit James to Michigan, making him instantly familiar with the Ross family.
Will Michigan pay the price for waiting to offer? Definitely not. Joshua could head elsewhere for any of the above reasons, but the Wolverines remain one of the favorites in his recruitment. In fact, Steve Wiltfong of 247 Sports already predicts that Ross will end up playing in Ann Arbor.
We don't know if any of these early offers will make a difference in his recruitment, but it looks like he's going to be a stud.