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Post How Orson Charles avoided becoming a bigger part of the Miami mess

Thursday August 18, 2011

Georgia’s brief scare with Orson Charles’s eligibility came and went quickly yesterday. Charles was put into a potentially bad situation by his former teammate and his high school coach, but he was alleged to have received nothing but a tour of an expensive home and a recruiting pitch from a booster. That’s a problem for Miami, but it has no impact on Orson’s eligibility since he signed elsewhere. Had he signed with the Hurricanes, his visit and contact with Nevin Shapiro would have been a much bigger issue.

With the eligibility scare past and Charles cleared, his relationship with Miami becomes more of a curiosity than a Pandora’s box. Why didn’t he end up signing with a school that he considered his favorite for much of the recruiting process? Miami’s recruiting of Charles is an interesting story, mainly for how it ends. Many of the links I’ll use here are behind the paywall, but you’ll get the gist of it. The short version is this: sometime in late 2008, Miami went from being Orson’s favorite to disappearing completely off the radar.

Miami was Orson’s favorite as early as the first updates on him in March of 2008. Though he mentioned several other schools, including Georgia, he did call Miami “my dream school.” He got his Miami offer at the end of March but made it clear that he wanted to wait and take his visits before deciding. Over the spring and summer, he made several trips to Miami but also got out to see other schools like FSU, Florida, and Georgia. Charles’s visit to Shapiro’s house took place after his junior year of high school.

After an unofficial visit to Miami in mid-August, Charles told Rivals.com that he “would put Miami ahead of everybody.” In fact, he was close to committing on the spot but held off. Charles continued to talk about Miami and his “real good relationship” with coach Joe Pannunzio through early November. (Pannunzio, currently director of football operations at Alabama, is one of the individuals named by Yahoo! Sports in their investigation of the Miami program.)

Things really began to change during that November-December 2008 period. The catalyst was the turbulent status of Hurricane QB Robert Marve, a friend and former teammate of Charles. Things went downhill for Marve in 2008, and he was in a fierce competition for the starting job with current Miami signal caller Jacory Harris. Marve was eventually suspended for the team’s bowl game for violation of team rules. Charles maintained as late as December 20th that Marve’s situation, while troubling, didn’t necessarily eliminate the Hurricanes from consideration. “[What happened with Robert] doesn’t really affect me,” Charles said. “It just keeps me guessing. I’m just going to talk to Marve and see what’s going on. But everybody is still in it.”

Subsequent events just after the bowl game only increased the uncertainty at Miami. Offensive coordinator Patrick Nix was let go just before the New Year. That seemed to be the last straw for Marve who decided to transfer. Miami coach Randy Shannon restricted Marve’s transfer options to any school outside the SEC, ACC, and the state of Florida.

Shannon’s treatment of Marve ended Miami’s chances with Charles. Robert Weiner, the high school coach of both Marve and Charles, unloaded on Shannon. According to the Miami Herald, Weiner said that no player of his would play for Shannon, and “Weiner said tight end Orson Charles…definitely won’t be attending Miami now.” Whether Weiner’s definitive statement about Charles came with Orson’s blessing is unknown, but that’s how things played out.

By the end of 2008, Miami was out of the picture. Charles stated that he had decided on his five official visits, and Miami was not among them. Now it’s often the case that a prospect won’t “waste” one of his limited official visits on a favorite nearby school that he’s visited unofficially several times. That didn’t happen here; it looks as if Miami really had been eliminated by that time. The events at Miami certainly finalized things between the Hurricanes and Orson Charles, but it’s unclear whether Charles had begun to change his mind much earlier. A Rivals.com article posted around the same time as Nix’s departure and Marve’s transfer decision had already annoited Georgia as the new “team to beat” for Charles.

Orson’s recruiting process ended up going beyond Signing Day, but he never really wavered from the five schools he named as his official visit destinations shortly after the beginning of 2009. Georgia, FSU, Florida, USC, and Tennessee were his finalists. Eventually Florida State and then Florida were eliminated, and he announced his decision for Georgia over the Vols and the Trojans.

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