Video: High school football in the spring?
Steve Montoya discusses on CBS Sports HQ.
Over the past decade, an increasing number of elite high school football players are graduating early and entering college in the winter or spring to get a head start at the next level.
The nation's top quarterback recruits from the Class of 2020 — Bryce Young
of Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.)
took off for Alabama and DJ Uiagalelei
from St. John Bosco (Bellflower, Calif.)
high-tailed it to Clemson.
"I'm all in," Uigalelei said at the time of his commitment, summarizing the sentiment of almost all early enrollees.
But what happens when the destination point conflicts with the here and now?
In the ever-changing coronavirus era, there is more than just talk about prep football flipping seasons from the fall to either the winter or spring.
At first considered far-fetched, now, with the significant spikes in COVID-19 cases nationwide, states such as Texas, California and Mississippi have opened up that possibility to governing bodies.
As states begin to push back their fall season this week — Arizona, Florida, New Jersey and Tennessee — the conflict for the elite player is beginning to get much more real.
MaxPreps national football editor Zack Poff reached out to several of those 4- and 5-star recruits from the Class of 2021 who have made it known they plan to graduate early.
What they are thinking of now: High school or college? Miller Moss
, a 6-foot-2, 200-pound quarterback who is scheduled to replace Young at Mater Dei, is still looking down field and considering all his options.
A recent transfer from Alemany (Mission Hills, Calif.), Moss has committed to USC and planned to be on campus in January. But the allure of taking the keys to one of the nation's elite prep programs is hard to pass up. Mater Dei is ranked No. 2 in the MaxPreps preseason national rankings.
"Honestly, playing my senior season is always something I've dreamed of doing," said Moss, the nation's sixth-ranked senior pro-style quarterback according to 247Sports. "I feel that I still have a lot to accomplish in high school and I'm really looking forward to this coming year.
"If there are any unprecedented changes (football changing to winter or spring), my family and I will cross that bridge when we come to it. But as of now, I am 100 percent going to play my senior year."
One of Moss' top targets, Oregon-bound four-star receiver Kyron Ware-Hudson
, said like his quarterback the plan is clearly to play in the fall. "At this point I am focused on being the best player I can be and help my team to where we want to be and deserve," he said. "If anything happens (the season changes), that is a discussion I will have to have with my family."
Another four-star receiver, St. John Bosco's Beaux Collins
doesn't even want to think about the conflict. He's committed to Clemson and planned to be reunited with Uiagalelei by the spring.
"Man, that's a tough one," Collins said. I would have to sit down and talk with my parents about making that possibility."
Another Oregon commit, Mater Dei cornerback Jaylin Davies
said "the plan has always been to graduate mid-year and head off to college in the spring in order to compete and play early and that's still the plan. … If we don't have a season though I'll be disappointed."
Two more Southern California defensive players said if the prep football season changes, they'll likely skip their senior campaigns.
Indeed playing a full prep season in the spring would leave a very short off-season for a true college freshman.
Then again, it's hard to predict a pandemic. Of the Top 50 2020 seniors in the Dallas region, 17 graduated early in December, reached their college campuses early only to be sent back home in March because of the virus. There's no guarantee colleges will be able to practice next spring.
"I was getting comfortable down there, and as soon as you get comfortable, you have to come right back," Florida freshman Jahari Rogers
, an Arlington (Texas)
graduate, told the Dallas Morning News
. "I (had) to redo it."
Advising elite players on the topic is hard to stay neutral for high school coaches.
Roger Harriott, of St. Thomas Aquinas (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)
or Justin Alumbaugh, of De La Salle (Concord, Calif.)
, don't have to offer advice one way or another because neither of their schools allow students to graduate early.
If Alumbaugh was going to advise, he'd pull no punches.
"I don't think kids should graduate from high school early," he said. "What's next? Skip the second semester of eighth grade to get a jump on the high school playbook? We can't lose sight of the fact that high school is an experience that only happens once. My advice for kids jumping early would simply be 'don't.' ... Focus on the process."
Henry Russell coaches St. Frances Academy (Baltimore, Md.)
, one of the most talented teams in the nation. The Panthers, ranked fourth nationally heading into the season, boast more than 20 players with at least one offer from Power 5 college programs.
He said it's too early to advise his players.
"Right now it's wait and see," Russell said. "If the college season goes on time and the high school season is delayed into the spring you really have to do with what's in your heart. I would have no problem if our seniors who were eligible to graduate early went ahead and did that.
"If the college season is delayed, I think it would probably make sense to play out your high school season."
Jason Mohns, coach of Arizona power Saguaro (Scottsdale, Ariz.)
, which features the state's top-ranked senior in Oregon-bound 6-4, 270-pound tackle Bram Walden
, said multiple parties need to provide feedback to help players come to the right decision.
"It would have to be an open conversation with the player, the parents, the high school coach and the coaching staff of the school he's committed to," Mohns said. "If (the recruit) is in a position where they expect or need him to come in and play right away, then it's probably best for him to take the next step. If he's not in the immediate plans as a true freshman, you'd hope the college coaches would encourage him to stay and finish his high school career."