Last February, UGA linebacker Roquan Smith chose to become a trailblazer.
After publicly committing to UCLA on national television, he decided not to fax in his signed National Letter of Intent, and then decided not to sign one at all. He changed his college choice from the Bruins to the Bulldogs and enrolled at UGA after only signing grant-in-aid paperwork.
This year when another recruit chose to make history, UGA came out on the losing end.
Five-star athlete Demetris Robertson’s chance to sign a Letter of Intent — as has been customary with high school recruits — has long since past. The deadline to do so was April 1, but when Robertson announced his decision on Sunday at the College Football Hall of Fame, it was the California Golden Bears who received the post-Signing Day surprise.
It would be wise to assume this won’t be the last time a recruitment stretches into the spring for UGA.
Robertson in many ways is emblematic of a brand new era in the sport — one in which the process is driven by players and not by coaches. Robertson’s delay was based on his desire to retake the SAT multiple times in the hopes of achieving a score that would’ve qualified him to go to an academically prestigious school like Stanford — or the Cardinal’s archrival as it turned out.
Obviously, Robertson’s deliberate process inconveniences coaches like Kirby Smart at UGA — who no doubt would’ve loved to have this wrapped up weeks, if not months ago. Yet Smart seems clued in to the rigors of this part of the job, and apparently never stopped making an aggressive pitch for Robertson.
Robertson was asked Sunday whether the coaching change at UGA to Smart from Mark Richt had made an impact on his decision. Robertson said that it had, and then Carlos Robertson — the brother and legal guardian of Demetris — stepped in to clarify that Smart’s presence at UGA had brought Robertson closer to the Bulldogs, and made him consider UGA more strongly.
During the final week of UGA spring practice, Smart explained his pitch to Robertson.
“(We’re talking to him) every chance we get, every time we can; we’re recruiting him as hard as we can,” Smart said in April before adding, “I think the toughest thing is that we’re also recruiting 2017 kids, so when you’re still recruiting 2016 kids and it seems to be more of a growing trend, that you’re having to do double duty.”
The so-called “double duty” apparently didn’t prevent Smart from making an attempt to appeal to Robertson’s desire to pursue academic excellence.
“We’ve got a great education. He’s talked about going into engineering. We’ve got a great engineering program,” Smart said.
There’s plenty of reason to believe that overture to Robertson was persuasive. Robertson revealed Sunday that UGA was his No. 2 choice. However, playing for one of the nation’s most respected academic institutions was too good of an opportunity to pass up.
Unfortunately, there are no silver medals in recruiting. UGA just has to move on to the next chase, and there will definitely be another one. Don’t be surprised if that one stretches past signing day, too.