Detroit 8th-grader Rogers offered, sparking recruiting debate

David Goricki
The Detroit News
Greg Carter

In the high-pressure business of big-time college football, coaches are offering players scholarships at very young ages.

Justin Rogers, a 14-year-old eighth-grader from Detroit, was offered a scholarship by Kentucky secondary coach Steve Clinkscale on Monday.

Rogers, a 6-foot-4, 260-pound lineman, will be a freshman at Oak Park High School in the fall. He will make his debut against Division 1 state runnerup Detroit Cass Tech in the Prep Kickoff Classic Aug. 27 at Wayne State University.

“Coach Clinkscale came into my office and extended the offer yesterday,” said Oak Park head coach Greg Carter Tuesday afternoon. “Justin made the trip to Kentucky a few weeks ago and met him (Clinkscale) and he was impressed with him.”

Carter who guided Detroit DePorres to state championships in 1995, 1996, 2001 and 2003 and Inkster to state runnerup appearances in 2006, 2008 and 2009, is also impressed with Rogers.

“He’s just a baby at 14, but is really put together strength and size-wise, and we expect him to make an immediate impact for us,” said Carter, noting that Rogers played for the Rams in PAL football and currently attends school in Detroit. “He’s a great kid.”

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It was less than a year ago – early May 2015 – when quarterback Samuel Johnson was offered as an eighth grader by Akron and Ohio University. Johnson started as a freshman in 2015 for Southfield High, which reached the state playoffs.

Then, quarterback Dwan Mathis received offers from Akron and Cincinnati before his freshman year at Belleville. Mathis is now at Oak Park and will be looking for protection from Rogers in 2016.

“That was a pleasant surprise,” said Carter of Mathis transferring in, then playing basketball this past winter for Oak Park. “He’s 6-foot-4 and athletic. The sky’s the limit for him.”

Rogers also will get the chance to work with four-star offensive tackle Ja’Raymond Hall, a Michigan commit, this fall.

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Detroit King coach Dale Harvel doesn’t think players as young as eighth grade should be receiving college offers.

“It’s ridiculous in my opinion, crazy offering an eighth grader,” Harvel said. “You don’t even know if those coaches will be there in four years. For me, it’s just about publicity. You don’t know how that kid will pan out and at the end it’s up to the kid anyway since nothing is on paper.

“To me, this is the most disgusting part of our jobs as high school coaches – recruiting. And then they (NCAA) won’t let them (players) have satellite camps. I just tell the parents to take care of the things you can take care of, making sure their kids have good grades, and everything else hopefully takes care of itself.”

Carter said times have changed from when he first started coaching in the late 1970s as an assistant coach at DePorres.

“It’s changing every year,” said Carter, who has been a head coach the last 21 years, including 10 at DePorres, six at Inkster and five at Oak Park. “It’s a lot different from when I first started out when college coaches were just offering players their senior year. Now, it’s all based on potential.”

King's head coach Dale Harvel talks to one of the team members during Monday's practice. Photos of Martin Luther King High School's football team practicing at their Detroit school on Monday, Aug. 10, 2015.  (Elizabeth Conley/The Detroit News)

Cass Tech coach Thomas Wilcher said having college coaches offer players before they reach high school has pros and cons.

“It’s a good thing for the kid, but in the long run he can also be hurt by the big expectations,” Wilcher said. “We had one of our kids, Xavier Goldsmith, get offers before his freshman year last summer. He had a good skill set and good footwork as a cornerback, but some older kids can resent it, be jealous. It’s like, ‘Coach, I’ve done everything you’ve said to do. What am I doing wrong?’ It’s tough for them.”

Goldsmith, a 5-8, 150-pound cornerback, played JV ball and dressed for every varsity game his freshman year, playing in some of them. He was surprised by the offers. He now has six, including Cincinnati, Toledo and Kent State.

“I was real surprised,” Goldsmith said. “I went to Sound Mind Sound Body, just wanting to make a name for myself. Then I went to Penn State’s camp, where Army coaches were there, and they offered me. And I went to Cincinnati’s camp and was offered by them too.”

Goldsmith played with Rogers for the Rams in PAL ball.

“He was my teammate,” said Goldsmith of Rogers. “He’s a good player, real big at that young of an age. I’m not really surprised he got an offer. Kids are starting to get offers like that (before freshman year), but that’s a big one, an SEC school.”