Roquan Smith has been under national scrutiny since last week’s dilemma on signing day, and his high school coach isn’t happy about it.
Smith is the 4-star linebacker who committed to UCLA over UGA in front of ESPN cameras last Wednesday. However, Smith declined to sign the paperwork after reports surfaced that UCLA’s defensive coordinator had agreed to join the new Atlanta Falcons staff.
After being blindsided by the news, Smith announced that he may take as long as a week to sort things out among his four finalists, which also include Michigan and Texas A&M.
Meanwhile, as the spotlight has shifted onto Smith because he’s one of the country’s few unsigned elite seniors, his character and reputation has been tarnished in blogs and message boards.
“I’m reading a lot of these websites, and you’ve got people on there saying things like ‘A kid shouldn’t commit to a coach; he should commit to a school,’” Macon County coach Larry Harold said.
“I just want to tell those people this, because maybe they don’t know: If you’ve never played sports or anything like that, you are more than just a coach to these kids. You’re their dad, their mom, and their extended family. You’re everything to these kids. So when they’re going to get recruited by the next coach, to find the person who is going to be charge of the next four years of their life, they are looking for the same things.”
“When you get recruited by Ohio State, Michigan, Alabama, Oregon and all these top schools – when you go visit them, they all have nice football facilities. They have good academic centers and beautiful campuses. Everything is basically the same everywhere. So what separates them? You know what the coaches sell those kids on? ‘That it’s about the people and the relationships.’ That’s all they sell the kids on. They all say the same things. If you had a recruiter sitting here, he’d say, ‘Our school is just like everybody else, but it’s all about the people and relationships with us.’
“So how can these guys (college coaches) talk about the people and the relationships — and then you get these kids signed and then you bail on them at the first time you get the opportunity? Look at all these stories after signing day.
“You can’t tell me that these head coaches aren’t telling these assistants that they know are leaving – don’t tell anybody until after signing day and then we’ll announce it. That’s deception and that dishonesty. And, most importantly, it’s not fair to the kids.”
Because Smith didn’t sign off on the UCLA paperwork, he is in a much better position that some other high-profile recruits involved in ugly situations after coaches changed jobs immediately after signing day.
Ohio State coach Urban Meyer was accused of signing a running back from Detroit “under false pretenses” after the Buckeyes running backs coach left for the NFL’s Chicago Bears the day after signing day.
The Ohio State signee, Mike Weber, tweeted “I’m hurt as hell I ain’t (going to lie),” and Weber’s coach called it a “black eye on the university.”
“You cannot come over here, come up (in my high school) and walk out of here with your pockets full and not give us respect … That’s not going to happen again, I can tell you that right now,” Weber’s coach, Thomas Wilcher, told the Detroit News.
A top defensive signee for Texas, Du’Vonta Lampkin, was upset that Longhorns defensive line coach Chris Rumph took a similar position with Florida on Friday. Lampkin claimed that Texas coach Charlie Strong had told him Rumph was staying with the Longhorns only a day before.
“Really? Two days after signing day?” Lampkin tweeted. “Guess I was lied to in my face.”
Smith’s situation is strikingly similar to CeCe Jefferson, the 5-star who also committed on ESPN last Wednesday, picking Florida. Jefferson didn’t turn in the paperwork after he got tipped off that Florida’s defensive line coach, Terrell Williams, would take an NFL job after signing day. It was announced by the Miami Dolphins the next day.
“I know I’m doing a lot of talking to the media, but I don’t want to be involved in this kind of stuff,” Harold said. “I want my kid to be happy, and I want these other kids to be happy. And not let these colleges, which have become big business, to take advantage of these young and innocent kids. And then the kids are made out to seem like the bad guys because it’s like ‘They are getting on TV to make an announcement.’
“I didn’t want to talk about this earlier because I’m really trying to clear my mind … But when I read what people were saying, it really (made me mad). People blaming a kid and saying ‘Oh, don’t commit to coach, commit to a college.’ That’s bull crap.
“All these coaches sell these kids on relationships, and they sell them on the people. There’s not much difference in the facilities at the top schools. So a kid can’t commit to a school. What is a school but a building of materials?
“I’m really, really, really getting upset because there are grown men sitting behind a computer commenting on stuff that they know nothing about. These kids are innocent and good kids …”
Editor’s note: This is why, in my opinion, next year’s proposed Early Signing Period for football is going to be a complete disaster unless the NCAA states in the rules that the early signee is granted an automatic release if the college’s head coach or signee’s position coach changes jobs by the end of the spring.
- RELATED: CLICK HERE to read the best story on how an elite prospect “owned” the LOI process vs. colleges, rather than the other way around. Now 90 percent of D1 signees couldn’t pull this off, but the elite ones can.