Roquan Smith is not only one of the nation’s top college football prospects, he’s also one of the few that didn’t sign on Wednesday.
And that’s why the 4-star linebacker from Macon County will be a national recruiting story until he signs the dotted line.
His coach told the AJC’s Chip Towers that it could be as long as week.
In case you missed it, Smith committed to UCLA over UGA in front of ESPN cameras on Wednesday. But he didn’t turn in the paperwork after seeing reports saying that UCLA’s defensive coordinator Jeff Ulrich was hired by new Atlanta Falcons coach Dan Quinn.
10 THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW
- If Smith had faxed in his papers right after committing on ESPN (like most kids), then this might not even be a story. But Smith didn’t, and I asked his coach to review Smith’s timeline after committing on national TV at 11:20 a.m. “We had other kids signing, and our ceremony ended at 11:45 a.m. People were still in the auditorium talking to Roquan until around noon. Everybody was hanging around and taking pictures, while the media was there getting interviews. Meanwhile, I had my other guys finish their paperwork, and our guidance counselor faxed it all in. I think Roquan’s media interviews ended around 12:30 p.m. At that time, I could tell that Roquan was getting tired. He hadn’t eaten all day. I could tell he was overwhelmed, so I said ‘Let’s go get something to eat,’ and we did. I was going to fax the papers when we got back if he was OK with everything. But while we went away, we got the breaking news. So here we are.” At 2 p.m. Wednesday, FOXSports published a story that said the Falcons had hired three new staff members, including Ulbrich as linebackers coach.
- What if Smith had signed and submitted his UCLA paperwork before 2 p.m. that day? “That would’ve been devastating,” Harold said. “That’s funny you should ask that because I haven’t even thought about that. But I would hope that Coach Jim Mora would maybe let him out of his obligation. But you never know.”
- What was the talk of town in Montezuma the next day after Roquan’s delay? “Everybody wants to know what’s going,” Harold said. “I’ve been talking to more media guys than anything. You know, everybody is calling, looking for the inside scoop. But there’s nothing really to report. The situation is still fluid. He’s going to relax and enjoy this weekend, and start over next week.”
- Going back to Roquan’s ESPN announcement, what took him so long to get the UCLA gloves out his bag? It seemed like an eternity on live TV. I thought he was reaching for a live bulldog (aka Isaiah Crowell) or something. “He had gloves and hats for all four of the teams in his bag,” Harold said. “What happened is that he had the right UCLA glove on his hand, and the left glove got pushed back behind everything else and he couldn’t find it. He was nervous. It was a pressure-packed moment. It was just a real uncomfortable day all around for the kid.”
- Like most rural towns in Georgia, there are lots of UGA fans around. It was hard to gauge the audience’s reaction while the ESPN cameras were facing Smith. But his coach said it was a pro-UGA crowd that was most certainly surprised. “He knew when he put on those UCLA gloves that he had a lot of UGA fans in the auditorium,” Harold said. “He knew he was going to catch it, and he did.” Catch it? Meaning booed? “Nobody booed him,” Harold said. “But they didn’t have to. You could see by their facial expression that they were disappointed that he didn’t pick UGA. There are a lot of UGA fans that have been coming to our games at Macon County all season. He’s a good kid, and he doesn’t want to let anybody down. I think he’s beginning to realize that he’s not gong to make everybody happy with this decision.”
- Alabama, Florida State, and Ole Miss all called to inquire on Thursday about Smith. Right now, it appears that he will keep it down to his original finalists – UGA, UCLA, Texas A&M and Michigan. “I think he’s going to keep it to the same four,” Harold said, “but I will talk to him more about it next week. He was with his friends today. He was playing basketball. He was happy. He was relaxed. I didn’t want to talk to him about all of this stuff today. I just want him to enjoy himself for the weekend, and to get away from everything.”
- Right now, the plan is for Roquan to make his decision after talking next week to coaches from all four of his finalists. There are no plans for him to return for unofficial visits.
- One person on Twitter (who has since deleted his account) really got carried away with tweeting at Roquan about the difference between UGA and UCLA, per THIS STORY by LostLettermen.com.
- Smith isn’t the only high-profile recruit holding out. CeCe Jefferson, a 5-star defensive end from Glen Saint Mary, Fla., committed to Florida on ESPN (like Smith), but has declined to turn in the paperwork with the Gators. The reason? Amazing similar to Smith – Jefferson is holding off after reports that Florida’s defensive line coach may take a job with NFL’s Miami Dolphins.
- I’m probably wrong here, but I feel like UGA’s best chance to sign Roquan Smith may have passed. Conventional wisdom says if it was truly that close between UCLA and UGA, then Smith would’ve signed with Bulldogs later Wednesday after the Ulbrich bombshell. I get the sense that if Ulbrich stays at UCLA (and that seems unlikely unless he gets a ridiculous raise), then Roqaun would go back there, even if the Bruins weren’t forthcoming about what was going on behind the scenes. But if Ulbrich bolts, then UGA may be the school to beat – unless Roquan simply wants to go out of state. Now this is recruiting in 2015, and my opinion on this could all change in the next few hours. What you do think? Please post below.