What would Steve Spurrier have done if Jadeveon Clowney had promised that he would play for the South Carolina but didn’t feel comfortable with signing a national letter of intent? What about Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops with Adrian Peterson or Sam Bradford?
It was easier for many of college football’s top coaches to discuss the situation of Roquan Smith, who famously has declined to sign an NLI with UGA – than it was to hypothesize on what would’ve happened if one of their own celebrity recruits had done the same thing.
Some quick background: Smith is the senior linebacker from Macon County High School who is committed to UGA, but he decided against signing a letter of intent after nearly getting burned on signing day by UCLA with a coaching change. Smith will officially count as a UGA recruit on his first day of classes with the Bulldogs this summer.
Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy: What if Dez Bryant or Justin Blackmon had promised he was coming but felt uncomfortable with signing an NLI? “You just go keep recruiting them. Good players make us better coaches. When you have players out there that you’re trying to get … it’s just like right now when a kid commits and then tells you ‘OK, I want to take some other visits.’ You can get as upset as you want, and say ‘You’re not part of our program.’ But if you do that, you’re not going to get him at all. If you play the game and keep working hard with recruiting him, then there’s still a chance you can get him. Right? Most coaches are going to continue to pursue them because you’ve got to have quality people that are good players.”
Clemson’s Dabo Swinney: What if Sammy Watkins or CJ Spiller had promised he was coming but felt uncomfortable with signing an NLI? “I think that’s something we have to discuss when it happens. We’d have to find out what the reasoning is. We certainly don’t want to continue the recruiting process all year long. Decisions have to be made. You’ve got to be able to plan. I’d say that would be a case-by-case basis. If a guy doesn’t want to sign an NLI, there has to be some kind of reason. If he’s just saying he’s coming … you’ve got sign something. There has to some type of commitment, one way or the other. It’s the same thing for the university. ‘Well yeah, we’re going to have a spot for you’ but he’s not really guaranteed a spot either (without signing). So I think you have to have some type of commitment one way. But there would have to some type of reason for why a guy didn’t want to sign an NLI.”
Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops: What if Adrian Peterson or Sam Bradford? “I wouldn’t have done anything different. I would’ve kept recruiting them.”
South Carolina’s Steve Spurrier: What if Jadeveon Clowney? “Um, yes. We would’ve kept recruiting him.”
Ole Miss’ Hugh Freeze: What if Robert Nkemdiche or Laquon Treadwell? “I would’ve been nervous for sure. That would’ve been difficult. Because (in Smith’s situation), the kid only signed the financial-aid papers. The school is bound to him, but he’s not bound to college. I probably don’t have enough experience to give you an educated response on that.”
Florida’s Jim McElwain: What if Cece Jefferson or Martez Ivey? “I think each situation is different. I think each one goes on its own merits. I’m not sure you could put a blanket statement on any of those.”
USC’s Steve Sarkisian: What if Adoree Jackson? “That’s what a verbal agreement should be. I think what’s happening is that the verbal agreements have gotten watered down, along with verbal commitments. Signing has gotten watered down. At some point, we need to educate our young men that we are recruiting. And the high school coaches and the kids’ mentors need to educate them on No. 1, what’s a verbal commitment? When you give somebody your word, that’s your word. And then No. 2, if you know where you want to go to school, make the agreement a two-way street. Shake hands on it, sign the papers and be happy that you have the opportunity to go to whatever institution you decide on.”
Arkansas coach Bret Bielema: What if Alex Collins or Hunter Henry? “It would probably be a case-by-case basis. There’s definitely some situations that you get into conversations where you realize that you can’t trust the last conversations at all. That’s usually the type of kid we get away from recruiting. I want to be able to sign a young man that if I had to, I could leave him alone in my house. He could babysit our children, or take care of our best prized possessions because we know he’s dependable and accountable. With other people, that may not be so. I really do think it’s case by case with that type of situation.”
UGA’s Mark Richt: What if Matthew Stafford? “(Long pause) … I don’t have an answer. I don’t know what the answer to that would be.”
Georgia Tech’s Paul Johnson: What if Justin Thomas or the Austin twins? “I would’ve went on to the next guy.”