15 questions with Orson Charles about Georgia, Tennessee and Southern Cal


Orson Charles (Tampa Tribune)

Orson Charles (Tampa Tribune)

Georgia will close the books on its 2009 recruiting class after Friday’s announcement by tight end Orson Charles of Tampa. Charles is one of nation’s top unsigned seniors and deciding between Georgia, Tennessee and Southern Cal. Here are 15 questions with Charles:

Q. Where do you stand at this moment with picking a college on Friday? A. “Really, at this point, I’m not really sure. I’m talking to [members of my church], and they say, ‘Orson, keep praying about it, and keep reading Proverbs. God is going to help you with this.’”

Q. If you had to pick a school [on Wednesday night], could you do it? A. “No sir, I sure couldn’t. I’m still not sure. I’m in the process of praying about it, and I have a few more meetings. I know I want to sit down with [NFL wide receiver] Michael Clayton, and he has me set up to talk to some of his friends. I still have to talk with my high school coach. I’ll probably have one more meeting with my family and take it from there.”

Q. You recently talked with former NFL coach Tony Dungy. What advice did he give you? A. “He said that I couldn’t go wrong with any of the three schools. He said they all have great coaches that are going to have a steady job from here out. He said I have to take the next step, seeing where I see myself playing for the next four years.”

Q. What are the advantages and disadvantages for Georgia? A. “My [former teammate at Plant High], Aaron Murray, is there. I feel very comfortable with the coaches. They’ve been recruiting me the longest, one full year. I like how they attack at practice. They get after it. Every time Aaron and I went to watch practices last year, they’d always have at least one fight. That’s not hatred; that’s tough love which builds character. Another thing, I went to [UGA's summer] camp and got after it with [tight ends coach John Lilly]. We chest-bumped and everything. He gets really excited about coaching players, and I like that.”

Q. Tennessee? A. “Tennessee is a very good program. They have history. Another advantage is playing in front of 108,000 people. You wave your arm and the whole stadium shakes. All of their coaching staff comes from the NFL, so they know what it takes to get to that next level. You can tell their coaches have a passion for the game. They expect the best, and they want to win. The other teams want to do that, too. But I feel like something is different about Tennessee. They have a chip on their shoulder, which is good.”

Q. Southern Cal? A. “That’s USC. USC speaks for itself. You play there, and it seems like you’re guaranteed to go pro and play in the Rose Bowl. You compete for national championships like every year. A lot of people talk about the players and stuff, but it all starts with the coaches. They are very laid back. What you see is what you get. I had a very good time on my official visit. There were a lot of positives. It was just a great place to be at.”

Q. When is the last time you’ve talked with the head coaches of all three schools? Georgia’s Mark Richt, Tennessee’s Lane Kiffin, and Southern Cal’s Pete Carroll? A. “I talked with [Richt] on Tuesday night, and I’m going to call Lilly in a little bit. Kiffin? It’s been a while. Carroll? He left me a message and I’m going to try him back in a few minutes.”

Pete Carroll (AP)

Southern Cal coach Pete Carroll is trying to lure Orson Charles away from two SEC schools (AP).

Q. Your high school quarterback, Aaron Murray, signed with Georgia. How does that affect Georgia’s chances? A. “It makes a difference. Like with every wide receiver or tight end, you would like to know what type of quarterback you have. I know what Aaron can do. We’re good friends. He really loves Georgia. He would like it for me to play at Georgia with him. But he wants me to pick the school that best fits me. I told Aaron if it’s Georgia, then let’s go ahead and win the national championship. If it’s not Georgia, then we’ll still be good friends down the road.”

Q. You said Georgia has reserved you the No. 7 jersey, previously worn by Matthew Stafford. What about the other schools? A. “With Georgia, we talk about it a lot. They said ‘yes’ from the beginning. I know Tennessee is OK with it. USC? I think I’ll have the No. 7 if I go there. I know [Carroll] left me a message saying that he had some very, very good news. It may have something to do with that.”

Q. With Southern Cal, you’ve been negotiating for No. 7 with heralded quarterback recruit Matt Barkley. What’s the latest with that? A. “I think I have a chance, I really do. We’ve been sending text messages to each other. I might have a chance to get No. 6 when it becomes available. I know they [USC coaches] said they have been talking to Reggie Bush about un-retiring his jersey [No. 5]. If I had a choice, I’d take 7 everywhere. We’ll see.”

Q. How does reserving your jersey number affect your college decision? A. “I know when you get to the next level, you get the number they give you. I want to live my life to the fullest, and wearing my number in college is one of my dreams. But it’s not all that. If I can’t get it, I can’t get it. In the end, the most important thing is playing ball.”

Q. You are very close with your family. How will distance affect your decision? A. “It won’t. I sat down and talked to my mom. She said she flat-out wants me to go to the best school, and not to worry about her. She will be able to come to my games, even if she has to work overtime.”

Q. What have all three schools told you about meeting college entrance requirements? A. “None of them have talked about it because my guidance counselor told them what the situation was. I know a lot of people don’t think I’m qualified. But I am. I am ready to go. That’s why the schools haven’t mentioned it. It’s not an issue.”

Mark Richt (Jason Getz/AJC)

Mark Richt hopes O.C. will be No. 20 for Georgia's 2009 recruiting class. Charles will announce on Friday (Jason Getz/AJC)

Q. What has it been like waiting more than a month after national signing day? A. “There has been some good and bad with it. A lot of people fall to the hype of national signing day, that they need to sign that day. I was not comfortable with doing that. I was not ready. I still had one more [recruiting trip] to go. I feel more comfortable and relaxed that I’m not being rushed for this life-changing decision. It worked out well for me.”

Q. WIth your college decision, does one school seem to be pulling away from the other two? A. “Yes. I think that’s one of God’s signs. When I talked to Tony Dungy, he said the school that is the best fit for me will work towards me. I’ve been reading Proverbs and praying to God, and I think more and more of that confusion is going away. When it gets to Friday, we’ll have to see what school it is.”

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[...] Q. You recently talked with former NFL coach Tony Dungy . What advice did he give you? A. “He said that I couldn’t go wrong with any of the three schools. He said they all have great coaches that are going to have a steady job from here …Page 2 [...]