By now you all know that Tampa (Plant High) tight end Orson Charles chose to play football at the University of Georgia a couple of weeks ago. This came after Georgia secured the commitment of Carver's Bay, SC defensive tackle Kwame Geathers on February 20th, and Memphis wide receiver Marlon Brown on Signing Day. Lest we forget, that all followed the news that Greg Reid, Jawanza Starling and Jarvis Jones would not be coming to Athens in 2009, a fact which did not escape the notice of some Bulldog fans who bemoaned our staff's inability to "close".
Let's get some perspective on this closing business. I don't think I've heard anyone insinuate that Orson Charles' decision means that Urban Meyer and Pete Carroll can't "close the deal". Meyer in fact missed on several bigtime recruits on Signing Day and after. Charles said that Florida did "a horrible" job of recruiting him. And no one can forget the Nu'Keese Richardson fiasco*, the Greg Reid debacle, or the Nick Kasa disappointment. The Urbster still signed a very good class. But nobody, including Mark Richt, can win them all.
Pete Carroll, for reference, just suffered perhaps the worst streak of late losses ever by a coach coming off a BCS Bowl victory. Petey lost prior public commitments from 5 of the top 150 players in the country: WR Alshon Jeffrey (to South Carolina), LB Vontaze Burfict (to Arizona State and the All-Name Team), TE Morrell Presley (to UCLA), WR Randall Carroll (ditto) and WR Shaquelle Evans (to Notre Dame). Now that's failing to close.
The fact of the matter is that closing is usually overrated. You don't need to close if you've filled all of your needs by Thanksgiving. Mack Brown at Texas routinely fills his class before mid-January. This year the Longhorns are all but full before April Fool's Day. You just need to hold onto those early commits, something which Mark Richt and crew have donely exceptionally well over the years. Some years the class comes together quickly. Other years we're finding the right pieces to the puzzle even after Signing Day. At the end of the day, the true test is how those guys perform once they get on the field.
And there's absolutely no correlation between when football recruits make thier intentions public and how they perform on the field, as I've heard some imply. Knowshon Moreno committed publicly right before Signing Day. Matt Stafford made his intentions known months in advance. David Pollack was a late decider, while Mohamed Massaquoi committed early. A.J. Green committed over a year before he could sign, and so far I'm pretty pleased with his play.
Now, I'm not saying the ability to close is totally irrelevant in all circumstances. On the contrary, as a college football coach sometimes you need to be able to go out and get a receiver. Or a middle linebacker. Or a kicker. Sometimes the need arises because a redshirt sophomore surprises you by declaring for the NFL Draft. Other times your starting weakside defensive end goes on a hashish-fueled multistate robbery spree (Dennis Erickson hates it when that happens by the way . . .) Needs arise unexpectedly, and you have to go lock down the best available replacement on short notice.
Perhaps you're taking over a crippled program that's been foundering in recruiting under your predecessor (see Mullen, Dan and State, Mississippi). In that case the ability to come in and make up ground on coaches who have been recruiting a kid for 18 months is important. But most of the time, quite frankly, it doesn't matter when the next big thing decides, as long as he decides in your favor, doesn't change his mind, and doesn't borrow Mudcat Elmore's car**.
None of ths is really earth shattering news, but it will give me something to link to in 11 months when some guy says something to the effect of "I really hate our staff's inability to close." Just watch and wait.
*"The Nu'Keese Richardson Fiasco" is what I intend to name my experimental jazz quartet, by the way. Get your tickets now.
**Mudcat Elmore's Car will be the name of said musical project if I find out that my first choice was taken by Lane Kiffin and Mike Hamilton's kazoo band.