Bulldogs Beat

Macon County’s Smith arrives on Georgia’s campus

Roquan Smith has followed through on his commitment to Georgia.

The Macon County linebacker who gained national attention when he committed to UCLA on National Signing Day, only to back out of the commitment before submitting his paperwork when news of a coaching change broke, arrived in Athens earlier this week for orientation.

“He’s a regular student; all of his papers are signed, and he starts classes (Wednesday),” said Larry Harold, Smith’s head coach at Macon County and now the head coach at Brunswick. “He is a certified Bulldog.”

Smith committed to Georgia in mid-February, but he did not sign a binding national letter-of-intent. His arrival in Athens this week officially makes him a part of the Georgia program.

Georgia was one of the first teams to contact Smith and Harold when news began to trickle out about UCLA defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich’s courtship of -- and eventual move to -- the Atlanta Falcons. Smith backed out of his UCLA commitment just hours after making his announcement on national television, and he committed to Georgia via Instagram message a little more than a week later.

“Things like that happen,” Georgia head coach Mark Richt said Tuesday at the Peach State Pigskin Preview at the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame. “It’s not the first time that type of thing happened where a guy has changed his mind along the way. We just stayed with it, and it’s a credit to John Lilly and to Mike Ekeler and Jeremy Pruitt and the rest of the staff to recruit this kid and to stay firm in our commitment to him. It worked out good for us in the end.”

The situation that arose out of Smith’s signing day drama and Ulbrich’s move triggered a lot of discussion about reforms to college football’s signing day process.

Some, like former Alabama, Georgia Tech and Georgia State head coach Bill Curry, would like to see college football add an early signing period as a means to reduce the distractions on players heading into their senior year of high school.

“These kind of things give impetus to the idea of an early signing date,” Curry said. “To choose a college, and I’m not being critical of Roquan or anybody else, but to choose a college because you like the assistant coach is usually going to end up with a disappointment because coaches move so frequently. So maybe you go there for a year or two, even if he stayed (initially), he leaves because what happens to great assistant coaches is they move up and move on. My guess is that these type of situations will add fuel to the earlier signing date fire.”

One of the biggest dates for all of the incoming players at Georgia is to meet the team for the first time as members of the program. The first team meetings will take place Wednesday.

“He’s been settled for quite some time,” Richt said. “It’s outstanding to see him come in with his fellow freshmen, to see the excitement in their eyes and see the anticipation of what’s ahead.”