Mark Richt weighs in on how recent losses have affected recruiting
Maurice Smith had been waiting for Sunday since his recruitment kicked off as a sophomore at Miami Central. The offensive lineman grew up a fan of the Miami Hurricanes and waited patiently — at least at first — for his hometown team to finally offer him a scholarship.
It finally happened Sunday, but by then, Smith said, he was tired of waiting. The offer was still exciting, of course, even if it won’t guarantee an automatic commitment like it might have had it come a year ago. Miami now has to convince Smith to flip his pledge from the Boston College Eagles.
“I was very excited. It was a dream come true, actually,” Smith said Monday. “It’s one of my dream colleges that I decided I wanted to go to, but at the same time I feel that they waited too long to offer me. They waited to the last minute because, you know, it’s two more weeks to signing day and everything. I feel like they waited too long and now I feel like they waited too late, actually, but I’m still trying to figure out who I’m going to go to. You guys will see on Dec. 19 what school I’ll be attending.”
The next two weeks, then, will be critical for the Hurricanes and Smith. The guard, considered a three-star prospect in the 247Sports.com composite rankings, plans to take an unofficial visit to Boston College this weekend. Smith originally committed to the Eagles in July after taking an official visit up to Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, in June. His trip back to Boston College this weekend will give the Eagles a chance to make a final on-campus pitch before the three-day early signing period begins Dec. 19.
As for an official visit in Coral Gables, Smith won’t commit to anything yet.
“I don’t really know. I don’t want to discuss that right now,” Smith said. “I’m locked in with Boston College.”
His high school coach, however, thinks Miami has a real chance.
Rockets coach Roland Smith played defensive back for the Hurricanes in the late 1980s and early 1990s. He knows how badly the lineman wanted to reel in an offer from his hometown team and expects him to take a visit sometime this month.
“He’s going to get down there at some point before the early signing period is over,” the coach said.
The coach is also a bit more sympathetic to Miami’s thought process than the lineman. The Hurricanes held a commitment from Jacksonville Sandalwood offensive lineman Kingsley Eguakun from January until Sunday, when the three-star guard flipped to the Florida Gators. Like Smith, Eguakun projects as a guard or center at the next level, which would have made them somewhat redundant in the same recruiting class.
Eguakun flirted with the Auburn Tigers throughout the fall before seemingly shutting things down following a trip to Hard Rock Stadium last month. A few days later, Florida offered and brought Eguakun in for an official visit. The lineman flipped while spending the weekend in Gainesville.
Just a few hours before Eguakun publicly announced his decision, offensive line coach Stacy Searels finally extended an offer to Smith.
“They had a kid committed. I feel like he could have been a committed kid all along, but they can’t offer a kid when they’ve got a kid committed and they’re going to show all the loyalty to them,” Roland Smith said. “When a kid flips, that opens the door a little for him, but he’s always been a kid that was a Miami kid, a Florida State kid or a Florida kid. He had that kind of ability.”
Just because the offer is new doesn’t mean Smith hasn’t been on the Hurricanes’ radar for a while. The 6-foot-2, 276-pound prospect camped at Miami a handful of times and visited a few other times, most recently for the Hurricanes’ win against the Florida State Seminoles in October.
Smith said Searels has always been upfront about Miami’s interest in him. The Hurricanes always liked his upside and versatility — Smith played tackle, guard and center this year — but just didn’t have room for him in the class. Smith ultimately committed to the Eagles, who were the only school from a Power 5 conference to offer him until the Seminoles joined the fray Thursday.
“He always told me that I’m a tough kid, I’m a great kid, I’ve got great feet, great everything. He said they’ve been wanting to offer me,” Smith said. “He said my time will come and everything, but now I feel like it’s too late for that time.”
At this point, Smith fills a massive need for the Hurricanes. Entering the year, Smith had primarily played tackle and guard, but he wound up starting Central’s final four games at center. Miami loaded up on guards in the Class of 2018 and clearly wants to find a potential center of the future in the Class of 2019.
Smith could fit the bill for the Hurricanes, but they have some convincing to do in the next 16 days.
“He was always a Miami kid. I think he would’ve been a commit earlier if they had offered him, but sometimes you’ve got to go where people want you,” Roland Smith said. “He’s intrigued by it, but at the end of the day they have to continue to recruit him and see if it’s still a fit for him.”