Oregon State arrives in the Rose Bowl this week led by their quarterback Ryan Katz, who is coming off a 20-29 performance in the Beavers 35-7 win over Cal in Corvallis last Saturday. Katz, a redshirt sophomore who became the starter this season, has thrown for 1500 yards and 10 touchdowns this season with four regular season games left to play.
One interesting side note about Katz is that he might have been UCLA's starting quarterback if the Bruins had offered him a scholarship. Heading into the 2007 high school football season, Katz was rated the #7 quarterback in the west by Brandon Huffman of Scout. (Just so we're clear, these quarterbacks were considered the Class of '08, but their season was played in '07.) UCLA ended up landing two quarterbacks rated higher than Katz. Nick Crissman was rated #2 and Kevin Prince was rated #6, just ahead of Katz. Crissman -- whose injury issues have made him a non-starter in UCLA quarterback conversations -- was clearly the prize at the time. Incidentally, the other top rated QBs in that class were #1 Dayne Crist (Notre Dame), #3 Matt Scott (Arizona -- last seen avoiding UCLA's rush and scrambling for first downs), #4 Dominique Blackman (Washington -- I think he ended up at a JC), #5 Beau Sweeney (he's moved up to second string at Cal with Kevin Riley out for the year) and #6 Kevin Prince.
With Crissman a given, the question then becomes why Prince over Katz for the "other" quarterback in the class? Timing-wise, Katz committed to Oregon State while Prince was still uncommitted. KP would eventually commit to Washington, then Rick Neuheisel and Norm Chow turned him to UCLA.
By the time RN and NC came into the picture, they were trying to salvage the class Karl Dorrell has put together and they didn't have much time to devote to commits from other schools. In Prince's case, they saw what they liked (must have been mostly on tape, because Prince was hurt as a senior) and they went after him and got him. The bigger question, again, is what would have happened if Dorrell and his then quarterback coach Jay Norvell had offered Katz before he committed to Oregon State?
By all accounts, Katz would have surely committed to UCLA. Keep in mind, even though Huffman had Prince ranked one spot higher than Katz, in the national rankings Katz was #19 and Prince was #40 (though that might have had something to do with Prince's injury -- the Huffman rating I quoted was preseason, the position ranking was post season). What does that mean "by all accounts." It means I send off a couple of emails to some recruitniks who prefer not to be quoted by name because they write for another company and they both told me that UCLA was a "dream school" for Katz, an excellent student who was born and raised in Santa Monica, just a few miles from Westwood and played for Santa Monica High School. So, I asked them why Dorrell/Norvell didn't recruit Katz -- who by everyone's account had a much stronger arm than Prince even when Prince was healthy and anyone watching Katz now knows he has a better arm than anyone on UCLA's roster right now. They said that it was felt that Katz was "too short" to play in the Pac 10.
In case anyone is wondering why RN/NC didn't try to flip Katz instead of Prince, I can't say for sure. I do believe Katz graduated early from high school and went up to Corvallis for the start of the spring semester, so there really wouldn't have been much time to do anything with him before he enrolled in classes. Also, there was some talk about Prince gray shirting that first year since he was coming off an injury, though he ultimately enrolled with his class.
It's all just speculation, of course, and if Nick Crissman had stayed healthy he might have made all these other options obsolete. But with the Beavers coming to town this weekend, it is interesting to note that the quarterback we're trying to stop might have been a Bruin had a few decisions gone down differently.