Marlon Character turned a lot of heads this weekend when he abruptly committed to South Carolina after being on the brink of pledging to Auburn.
What exactly happened? The 4-star cornerback from Grady High School walked the AJC through his mindset and approach to the tough decision.
Clearly the chance to play both cornerback and safety at USC — rather than being limited to only safety at Auburn — helped made a big difference..
“I didn’t have a problem with it, but that was just the only option,” Character said. “At South Carolina, (USC assistant Lorenzo Ward) gave me five options. It wasn’t just one option. I could play five positions, and that’s the good thing.”
The 6-foot-1, 170-pound defensive back says he’ll be able to play both corner and safety positions, as well as nickel corner, which will allow him to get on the field sooner. And although he has primarily starred at safety at Grady Character believes his size and skill set will project better at the college level.
“I’ve always played safety, but I feel like I’d be more effective on the next level playing cornerback, and (Ward) felt the same about that and some schools didn’t,” Character said. “We both just came to the conclusion that would be the position I’d be playing there.”
Character’s longtime position coach, Glenn Ford, a former UGA defensive back, echoed those same sentiments. He says the potential transition to safety would’ve forced Character to gain an unwelcomed 15 to 20 extra pounds.
Added Ford: “I do think he’s a better fit to play cornerback. He’s an ideal 6-foot-1, 170-something pounds, and he’s fast. He didn’t want to lose that.”
The final days leading up to his commitment were a whirlwind. On Friday, Character told the AJC that he had declared Auburn his frontrunner following his unofficial visit to campus on Wednesday, and even acknowledged that he felt like committing during the trip.
“I feel like I’ve been there (Auburn) the most out of all the schools,” Character told the AJC on Friday. “They’ve really grown on me, and if I go back I’ll probably commit.”
It’s clear, though, that Auburn became an afterthought as soon as Character arrived at South Carolina. And while that can be primarily attributed to the likelihood of playing multiple positions, it also has to do with the relationships he’s established at USC.
Despite only speaking with two coaches at length on Saturday, Character welcomed the staff’s refreshing approach.
“It was different with South Carolina,” Character said. “Every coach didn’t try to fill me up with, ‘This is the place you want to be’. They didn’t play around with me, so, and I like that.”
But it is Character’s relationship with Ward in particular, Ford believes, that helped swing him back to USC.
“In the end, he felt a little closer to (Ward) than he did the coaches at Auburn, and I think that’s the reason why he decided to go to South Carolina,” Ford said.
Regardless of his commitment Saturday, it’ll be important to keep an eye on Character, who confirms that he will take official visits to Auburn, Louisville, Virginia Tech, Miami and USC, in no particular order, in the coming months.
Character says he’s developed a good chemistry with Virginia Tech secondary coach Torrian Gray, who he says has not stopped recruiting him even in light of his recent commitment.
“Coach Gray, he’s a great secondary coach,” Character said. “He’s one of those coaches that has recruited me the whole way throughout the process.”
“I did tell him I was going to come up on an official (visit), but he was laughing and said, ‘We’ll see.’”
Of course, anything can happen between now and those official visits, and Character says he’s open to all possibilities.
“Right now, I’m pretty much 100-percent committed,” he said. “I’m still open for all schools to recruit me. I don’t want anybody to stop doing what they were doing at first. The only thing that’s changed is that I’ve committed to South Carolina.”
Verbal commitments are not official until a recruit signs his letter of intent.
— By Chuck Kingsbury, Special for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution