Much has been made of Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson's unique recruiting philosophy with regards to commitments and official visits. Simply put the man doesn't want his commits to take visits to other schools once they commit to the Yellow Jackets. However, with his policy and the recent push from folks who are in favor of an early signing period all sort of coming into the discussion recently there are a lot of thoughts and opinions and information being discussed. Figured that with signing day coming up and folks still getting butthurt over recruiting decisions it was time for a bit more recruit thoughts from the kid.
First the definitives; I'm not a fan of Paul Johnson's policy.
I am not even remotely a fan of the Paul Johnson method. Not in the slightest. Not a bit. None. I think it is an archaic policy that attempts to wrest power from the student athlete, place it in the hands of the program and force a static value on a fluid situation.
Archaic. Antiquated. Old school. No longer current. Outdated. That's the first thing that comes to mind here. The no playsheet, relay plays in through quarterback and substitutions style is a thing of the past for Paul Johnson and so too is this recruiting hardline. This is about a power play, making your job easier and avoiding as many of the recruiting battles that other schools are engaged in up until and beyond signing day.
The rhetoric is brilliant though because it is an easy sell to people, easy sell to your own fans and especially an easy sell to the mass of folks who seem to just outright hate these recruits for changing their minds. "Commitment means recruiting is over" and "If you're with us then you shouldn't look anywhere else" and "Teaching these kids about the meaning of commitment" and all that jazz. Teaching them young whipper snappers what a commitment really is.
Meh. Spare me the hand wringing over things being out of control and the idea that a commitment from a 16 year old should mean a coach shouldn't have to stay in grind mode, no matter how you dress it up the policy just doesn't sit well with this guy.
I understand the idea of a kid shutting down his recruitment once he makes up his mind on going to a school; but that should be at the kid's decision. Not the coach of the school urging him to. There are plenty of kids who make up their minds and ride it out, telling people no and to stop calling. It happens. Happens all the time actually for kids who are truly set on what they want for the future. Problem is that's not most kids.
Most kids make that commitment when they truly are riding high; after an official visit, after a camp, after a great phone call about how they can contribute immediately, before they have a break out senior season, before that school they don't think will call does. So many things beyond the story book boy meets coach, boy sees school, boy falls in love and they live happily ever after.
That's what I mean by forcing a static value on a fluid situation. Don't tell me a kid should just wait. If he feels that he wants to commit then he should do it, regardless of how he may waiver down the line. The kid who, in the summer before his senior year loves Georgia Tech and that's the best place he can end up isn't the same kid as the senior who finished his season All-State in Georgia and has other opportunities knocking on his door. The quarterback who is happy running the option in October isn't the same kid as the kid who sees Tech lose another bowl game and decides his future is brighter at wide receiver.
Especially since we discovered this year just how fluid it can be on the Georgia Tech side when they cut loose the first kid who committed to them almost a year ago. He followed your steps Paul Johnson. Junior Gnonkonde shut down his recruiting, even when big fish came calling as his star grew brighter. He didn't take the calls. He didn't go on any visits but your's in Dodd and he held true to what you asked. He took care of his end of the bargain. Then January rolls around and you've got to cut him loose? Over grades?
A grade situation that, as we've seen all over college football, is pretty fluid in and of itself. Prep schools exist for kids to ensure their qualifications while remaining committed to the school they chose. As Gnonkonde's coach says, he was signed up to retake the ACT to improve the test scores. The kid took care of them, aren't they supposed to take care of him? No? Admissions reportedly said no and so Gnonkonde, thanks to CPJ's decision, is now headed to UNC after visiting the Heels over the weekend. Sporting offers from Wake Forest to go with South Carolina, Syracuse, Central Florida amongst others has to make you wonder what actually happened behind the scenes because Wake doesn't exactly just let anyone into school.
That's fluidity though. Another instance of fluidity? Antonio Crawford a defensive back from Florida was a summertime Yellow Jacket commit who had Al Golden show up to his school with a scholarship offer and an invitation to Miami for the weekend. We know Paul Johnson's policy so how did this play out? Call it "being honest" or sugar coat it all you want, the Jackets used the "if you go, I don't know if I'll be here when you get back" move. Crawford, a kid from Tampa who finally got the call from his "dream" school, made the switch to the Canes.
But why did he commit to Tech in the first place if Miami was a school he's always liked? Well folks, Golden offered the kid a scholarship on the 25th of January; EIGHT DAYS BEFORE SIGNING DAY. What the heck would you people have him do? Wait around? GT was where he wanted to go, where he saw himself, until that something great that he truly wanted opened up. If that offer never comes, he's in Atlanta and given it took until a week before signing day for it to come I'll say he was a last minute decision that couldn't exactly afford to pass up the Georgia Tech opportunity this summer.
The funny part in all of this? The threat was pretty empty. Crawford called back to tell Tech about his decision, he talked to Charles Kelly:
"and was assured that he still had a scholarship offer waiting for him after returning from Miami."
He "jeopardized" his offer by going to Miami but in the end Georgia Tech still needed him so they were willing to allow the visit. In other instances the kids were not so lucky. Tre Jackson took a last minute look at Florida State and Paul Johnson let the young man go, pulling the scholarship offer of the long time commitment. After CPJ showed the kid the what's what by pulling the offer Jackson inked with the Noles on signing day. Quarterback, Dontae Aycock was the first, most high profile instance of the CPJ strategy. The young man, now out of football, had his offer rescinded before signing with Auburn then bouncing to South Florida before hanging it up.
Funny thing about Jackson and Aycock is we see Johnson playing hard ball and the kids deciding to roll with their next option. An option that, from at least an on the field standpoint, was a better gamble than Georgia Tech. Then, this year, we see CPJ not rescinding the scholarship outright. Instead he pulls out the "jeopardy" card and then after the kid's decision to go visit Miami we find the scholly still waiting there for him.
I think we all get that keeping the interest and continuous attention of a 16-18 year old is no small task. We'll agree that teenagers are, by their very nature, fickle individuals. But that's your job, do it. The best recruiters in the country aren't the best because of rules and hardline stances. They're the best because they continue to sell kids that they have committed and kids that they want to commit.
And if you're Georgia Tech, finishing 9th in 2008, 8th in 2009, 8th in 2010, 8th in 2011 and currently stand 9th in 2012 in the ACC's recruiting rankings per Rivals inking just 20, 21, 18, 22 and with 16 current commitments don't you think you oughta change something? Especially as the remnants of Chan Gailey's third ranked in the ACC 2007 class has filtered out of the mix.
To put it another way, what was gained by CPJ pulling Jackson and Aycock's offers? If you're going to lose them anyways does it save you face by saying we take back our offer before you can turn us down? The Jackets haven't had a fullboat since Johnson's been there, lose them or not wouldn't it serve them well to continue to pursue these kids with the rapport that's been established through their lengthy commitments?
Recruiting ain't easy. It is a tough blend of identifying talent and demonstrating why, for whatever reason it may be, that your program is the best possible option for the young man. It is a continuous process. Someone new steps on the scene to try to take a kid that you had your eyes on you don't slink back and take your ball home because you don't want to play anymore. You recognize and overcome the objection.
Higher profile school steps into the arena? That's okay you can offer more playing time more quickly. You've been with him since the start, not just when he was a hot name. You wanted him specifically, not just him now because you lost out on someone else. Continue the sell Paul Johnson because if you truly felt like this was the guy for you then you'd make sure he knew that and why you felt that way, regardless of who came calling.