- UPDATE (5:42 p.m Wednesday): Roquan Smith’s coach told the AJC on Wednesday evening that Smith has re-opened his recruitment, and will take a couple of days to figure things out. “He’s going to open things up with his recruiting,” Macon County’s Larry Harold said. “It’s pretty much UGA, Michigan, and Texas A&M – and UCLA is still in it. Coach Ulbrich told him that he hasn’t signed anything yet (with the Falcons), and that he hasn’t made a decision. So I think they are still in it as well. We’re going to sit back for a couple of days and see how this thing plays out.”
If Roquan Smith doesn’t sign with UCLA, the Bruins can blame Macon County High School’s football fans, reporters who ask too many questions – and UGA’s football coaches.
Signing Day was all supposed to be so simple for the 4-star linebacker who is rated as the state’s No. 5 overall college prospect.
In front of ESPN cameras on Wednesday, Smith stated his intentions to sign with UCLA, breaking the heart of his runner-up school, UGA.
This was a big deal for the hundreds of people from the small Georgia town of Montezuma who had gathered to hear the future plans of their most famous citizen
Macon County’s signing ceremony ran a little long. And when it was over, people lined up to get their picture taken with Smith. After that, Smith patiently answered endless questions from crowd of media there mostly to cover it from the UGA angle.
Things were taking so long that UCLA coaches began to call Smith’s coach to see what the holdup was. Smith had committed to the Bruins on national TV, but he had yet to sign the official paperwork. UCLA wanted the paperwork because kids are kids – and they can change their minds in a hurry.
So just as Roquan and his coach started finishing up the paperwork to send to UCLA, they noticed their cells were getting blown up by UGA’s coaches.
How about this for timing? There were reports surfacing that UCLA defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich was joining the Atlanta Falcons as a linebackers coach. Smith’s relationship with Ulbrich was the reason he committed to UCLA over UGA.
And that’s why Smith, committed to UCLA but unsigned, remained unsure of his college plans on Wednesday afternoon.
Here’s a Q&A with Macon County coach Larry Harold:
What’s the latest? “It’s crazy today. We just got the news on Coach Ulbrich getting the offer from the Atlanta Falcons. Roquan just holding his UCLA papers to see what Coach Ulbrich is going to do. We’re just sitting tight right now.”
Take me through what happened? “A lot had to do with that we had a long ceremony. I don’t know if you saw all the people. He was taking a lot of pictures, and then he did a bunch of media interviews. It took a while to do all of that, and the UCLA coaches were calling to ask about the paper. At that time, the news was breaking about Coach Ulbrich and the Falcons. We’re holding onto the papers to see what Coach Ulbrich is going to do. We’re mulling over the options.”
How did Roquan find out about the report on Ulbrich and the Falcons? “He found out from the UGA coaches about it. It was real smart by them. They called him and said ‘Check this ASAP.”
What about UCLA and Ulbrich? “We just got off the phone with Ulbrich. He said he hasn’t signed any papers with the Falcons. So he talked to Roquan, and he let him know that he was going to check into everything and get back to him.”
Did Ulbrich confirm that he had an offer from the Falcons? “Yes, he did confirm that with us that he did have an offer. He was very candid and honest. He just hated that it broke on Social Media before he had the chance to call.”
How big did Ulbrich factor into Roquan’s choice of UCLA over UGA? “That’s what his decision to UCLA came down to – Roquan’s relationship with Ulbrich. That’s what it came down to as the difference between UGA and UCLA. He has been there since the first day. Recruiting is about the relationships. It always comes down to the relationships.”
Where do things go from here? “If I knew, I wish I could tell you. We are just going to sit tight and see how everything develops. A lot of these coaches want kids to commit early, and then they do a lot of fooling around. It’s the coaches either getting hired or fired – it makes the whole process much more difficult. That’s how Texas A&M and Michigan came in (due to coaching changes). It’s just crazy, and it affects the lives of these young men because they get used to one coach at one school. And then that coach moves to another school, and it changes everything for the kids.”
What is UGA telling you? “They said ‘We aren’t going anywhere.’ They did a great job of recruiting Roquan. It was just about the relationship with Coach Ulbrich. We’re going to see if he accepts the job before we move forward with anything We’re going to see what happens.”
If Ulbrich leaves UCLA, will Roquan sign with UGA? “I don’t know. I can’t say.”
If Ulbrich stays at UCLA, does Roquan sign with UCLA? “Pretty much. But don’t say that because then everybody is going to pray he comes to the Falcons.”
What is Roquan’s mindset right now? “He was glad everything was over and he had made his decision for UCLA. And now he’s like … there’s all this new stuff. This is a lot on a young man. I feel sorry for him. It’s just one of those things that is new for us. It’s like a soap opera.”