Up Close with Ryan Schmidt, Pt. I

Andy is back this year with his exclusive two-part profiles on UNC's latest football commitments. Today, Part I on the Boca Raton, Fla., offensive lineman.

North Carolina 2004 football commitment Ryan Schmidt and his family didn't mean anything by it. After all, Schmidt, a 6-foot-5, 280-pound offensive lineman from Boca Raton, Fla., has stood behind the verbal testament he made to the UNC coaching staff on Oct. 29.

So why not take Kansas State up on an invitation for an official visit and just enjoy the atmosphere and attention? And why not do so without notifying Carolina beforehand?

No harm intended, right?

That's not the way the news was received on the fourth floor of the Kenan Football Center when the word came in that Schmidt would indeed be in the hands of the Wildcats coaching staff this past weekend.

"They were a little bit upset I think," Schmidt told Inside Carolina upon his return Sunday night.

"The [KSU coaches] really didn't pressure me at all -- they knew I was committed. But they did tell me that I had a scholarship offer if I wanted it. They just told me to make whatever decision is right for me."

A change of heart was not induced on Ryan's mother when she visited the KSU campus.

"Ryan was very adamant that he wanted to go on these visits, and we weren't going to let him go by himself," Tammy Schmidt said. "We also had friends and family in Alma, Kan., which is right outside of there, so we kind of combined some things.

"We went. It was a nice visit, but we're glad to be home."

Boca Raton coach Rick Swain was not returning phone messages for days following Schmidt's initial commitment. But that was not because the Bobcats' senior left guard was just an average pick-up, in fact, UNC has been trying to keep this "diamond in the rough" unnoticed until after he can sign this February.

Schmidt said if he could sign with Carolina today, he would. His commitment is firm, and the UNC coaching staff knew that prior to this past weekend. But we're talking about an official visit to a Bowl Championship Series participant here; and at a time when many of the top prospects' declarations are made, and thus, futures of programs are ultimately determined.

So as they have done since the now infamous A.J. Davis situation, in which the Tar Heels lost a verbal commitment to the current N.C. State defensive back at the last minute before Signing Day 2002, now the UNC coaches take an offensive stance when it comes to defending against tampering by other school's coaches.

There was a serious concern in the UNC camp that this news would have spiraled across the Internet from Manhattan to Chapel Hill and touch off a message board mutiny. It didn't happen, but that is only because the news managed to slip through the miniscule cracks of the thousands of chat room jockeys that patrol hundreds of team websites across the nation.

The Tar Heel coaches are clearly not playing games when it comes to their verbal commitments. This is such a serious matter, that UNC coach John Bunting was seen intentionally interrupting Khalif Mitchell from a conversation with a Georgia assistant coach during Hargrave's combine Dec. 8 in Chatham, Va.

The move was done with decorum and maybe even a touch of comedy, but nevertheless, Bunting meant business.

The UNC football administration is also making much more of an effort to work with the non-official sites these days. This in itself contributes to a tangled mesh of irony, considering the fact that UNC's sports information department is not only designed to provide first-class access to the media, it also has a revenue gathering website of its own.

However as most are aware, University officials cannot report or discuss the recruiting of any particular player until he signs a National Letter of Intent. This handicap, along with the fact that the official sites are also tremendously limited in the range in which they can editorialize, gives the non-official sites a substantial leg up in a competitive business.

What it all boils down to is that the non-official sites – especially those with active message boards – are becoming more accepted as both an accurate source of information as well as an effective voice of the fan base.

Needless to say, UNC wanted Schmidt to reaffirm his commitment immediately after his flight returned home Sunday night.

And as you have just read, he did just that.

Schmidt said he will not be making any more official visits to other schools.

"I was real happy when Carolina came calling," Ryan's father Steve said. "We're looking forward to our trip up there in the middle of January. I don't see anything changing our mind."

Stay tuned for Part II tomorrow…

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