Into the homestretch for Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets football recruiting drama

Now that the current football season has officially ended with the BCS National Championship Game, we continue the year long college football journey with a recruiting crescendo on February 1, 2012 when all high school players sign their national letters of intent indicating where they will be attending college for the next four years.  Each year this recruiting component has evolved into an event more reminiscent of the crowd around a craps table in a Las Vegas casino than a cherished and special day in the life of a young man whereby he proudly proclaims where he will be spending the next four years of his life as a student athlete.

The term commitment has been replaced with enough drama to make American Idol look like an infomercial from one of those late night cable channels that everyone surfs by without ever stopping long enough for the caption to actually be displayed.  The common trend that has been evolving the past several seasons is that more and more players are waiting until the actual signing day to announce their intention of which university they will select.  This phenomenon has in turn caused every coach in the FBS to keep shopping around as if it’s a never ending Black Friday since they have no assurance if any of these players are actually going to honor their word and sign the final paperwork, or bolt to another school at the last minute.  As Coach Johnson likes to say when asked about his oral commitments; “we have 15 maybe he’s coming.”

A few years ago Georgia Tech faced this scenario with a player who said he was going to attend Georgia Tech and gave his verbal commitment several months prior to the actual official signing day.  Unfortunately, this player then told Coach Johnson that he was going to take an official visit to another school which he was free to do.  Long story short; Coach Johnson told him if he went on an official visit to that school then he really wasn’t committed to Georgia Tech and his scholarship was being revoked.  The player went on that visit, his scholarship to Georgia Tech was given to someone else, and he went on to sign with the other university.  As it turns out, he eventually left that school, and went to another university.  After a few months he determined that he no longer wanted to play football and ended his college career.  In the interim, Coach Johnson was criticized for his decision, but in retrospect apparently he was correct in his actions given that the player had no commitment to play this sport.  Perhaps his crystal ball was a little clearer than most.

Last year the same scenario played out with a big lineman who gave the Yellow Jackets a verbal commitment right before his senior season began.  Then a week or two before national signing day he went off the grid and wouldn’t return phone calls as rumors began circulating that he too was going to take an official visit to a school that had not yet even offered him a scholarship.  He rolled the dice and got lucky as the school he visited did in fact offer him a scholarship which he accepted.  Prior to that trip Coach Johnson revoked his scholarship just as he did with the aforementioned recruit.  Once again this same event is taking place less than a week before national signing day with yet another GT recruit who has indicated that he too will be taking a last minute trip to another university.  This player gave Coach Johnson his commitment all the way back in July, yet it is obvious that the word commitment and honor no longer have the same meaning with many high school players as it did in the past.  He too will not be a Yellow Jacket as I expect Coach Johnson to revoke his scholarship offer.

In anticipation of this constant recruiting shuffle, Georgia Tech has brought in another player for an official visit this weekend that will have an opportunity for the scholarship that has now opened up.  In addition, another committed recruit in the current class also from July was recently offered a scholarship from UGA who just lost a committed lineman in their recruiting class due to undisclosed immigration complications.  While every high school player has an absolute unfettered right to attend any school they choose, it really becomes telling as to the character of some of these young men who accepted an opportunity to attend Georgia Tech, then changed their mind at the last minute.

What it boils down to is this; either your word means something or it doesn’t.  Why did you commit in the first place if you still wanted to look around or were waiting for a particular school to offer?  Even more curious is; why would a student athlete even be considering attending a school that only showed interest in them at the last minute as a direct result of losing a few potential recruits due to various reasons.  Coach David Cutcliffe at Duke recently told a DT recruit who had committed to the Blue Devils back in September that was taking official visits to other schools that his scholarship was being revoked.  Once again, why did you commit to a school if you’re still shopping around?  I could just imagine the ruckus that would occur if any of these players invited a girl to prom months beforehand only to have her say she was going to attend with somebody else a day before the big event.

Let me also say this, any player who committed to a school where the coaching staff changed after they committed is in an absolute different category and quite frankly should look around as it certainly makes a difference as to what offensive and defensive schemes are going to be being employed and whether or not that player is a fit for those schemes with the new coaching staff.  Not to mention do they like the new coaching staff?  Some recently appointed coaches have at least had the common courtesy to tell some previously committed recruits that they should look elsewhere as they are not projected to play in the new schemes that will be utilized by the incoming staff.  That is more than fair.

So far the Yellow Jackets have obtained the commitment of three 285 Lbs.+ offensive linemen, pending the potential defection of one just offered in the last 24 hours by UGA.  They have 2 QB’s, one of whom already enrolled ending any potential drama there.  The other QB was a long term commitment to Alabama who was informed by Nick Saban in early December that they wanted him to play WR with his 4.25 40 speed.  He said no and Coach Paul Johnson recruited him and received his oral commitment a week later.  His team also won the Alabama 6-A State Championship over Hoover HS, and he was the MVP in that game.

While we addressed some needs along the defensive side of the football particularly in the line with two DT’s, we are still in the running for another DT who is an in state player and has attended many of the Yellow Jackets home games.  It looks to currently be between us and Alabama at the moment.  If Coach Johnson can land this player we will be in very good shape.  The other two defensive linemen bring an international aspect to the class.  One of whom grew up in England and only played one year of high school football in Georgia, but his athletic ability is amazing and he has a nonstop motor.  The other player is from down under in Australia who grew up playing Aussie rules football, and just started playing American football.  He is 6′ 4″ 295 Lbs. and if he is anything like the traditional Australian rugby players, this is a kid that will get after it as they grow them tough in that country.

At this juncture the class is shaping up nicely pending the last minute poaching and visits that can lead to swift and sudden changes in the recruiting courtship.  Also, I just saw that Greg Schiano of Rutgers bolted to the NFL and will be the head coach for Tamp Bay.  Maybe some of his recruits will be shopping around between now and signing day.  Stay tuned!