Roquan Smith, the UGA Recruit Who May Change Recruiting As We Know It
On Signing Day, Georgia fans expecting the Dawgs to add a commitment from consensus top-100 linebacker Roquan Smith were disappointed as the Macon County prospect announced his intentions to go to UCLA. The 6’2, 205 pound Smith’s commitment to the Bruins apparently came as a shock to those who follow recruiting (Daniel and I are not those people), as he left not only SEC country, but the entire Eastern Seaboard. Given the successes of Anthony Barr and Myles Jack at UCLA, one can’t really blame Smith for his decision.
As he was making his commitment to Jim Mora (Falcons connection #1), rumors began to swirl that Mora’s lead recruiter with the Bruins, Jeff Ulbrich, was leaving UCLA to coach linebackers for…the Falcons (Falcons connection #2). This bait-and-switch technique seen every year in college football was not perfectly executed, and Smith failed to send his letter-of-intent to Westwood.
What he announced today was fascinating.
Smith has reopened his recruitment to include four schools: UCLA, Georgia, Texas A&M, and Michigan. Regardless of where he commits between now and the fall, Smith will NOT sign a LOI to any of these schools. Essentially, he is a verbal commitment until he shows up on campus and starts taking classes.
This sets a bold and game-changing precedent, one that shifts the balance of power ever-so-slightly back into the hands of recruits.
As it stands now, the LOI ‘protects’ athletes’ claims to one of a schools’ 25 alloted scholarships for the upcoming fall. A verbal commitment, as it has been said, ‘isn’t worth the paper it’s written on’. Smith is essentially vowing that he will be a verbal commit until he enrolls, meaning schools can continue to recruit him until he ostensibly enrolls for summer or fall classes.
For elite recruits, this represents an opportunity to see a lot of things: how the coaching staff shakes out, the potential depth chart at their position at schools of choice, and (cynically) the opportunity to cash in on the desperation of schools needing to fill a spot past the normal recruiting cycle. This doesn’t work so well for ‘sleepers’, as spots will fill up, walk-ons will be awarded scholarships, and their school may just lose interest. But for big names such as Smith, this outside-the-box thinking is a MAJOR win for the leverage recruits can wield over their schools of interest.