Let's sort through the euphoric madness from yesterday which exceeded all of our wildest imagination here on BN. From all accounts it looks like UCLA not only signed a Top-10 class (according to the evaluations of both Scout.com and Rivals.com) but also succeeded in altering the recruiting landscape in city of Los Angeles, staking out its own territory in the Southland. There is no doubt left in terms of the progress Rick Neuheisel has made in two years in the world of recruiting as he looks to be solidifying a strong foundation of a rejuvenated football program.
Let's start with the top lines from Coach Neuheisel on his latest recruits from Westwood:
"Today we signed another fine recruiting class and I am excited about our future," said Neuheisel. "I think we addressed several of our needs, especially on the defensive line, and added depth at several positions. I also feel we again upgraded our speed. Our staff worked extremely hard to identify, recruit and sign a class that we expect will enjoy great success as Bruins, both on and off the field. When you add this group to the young men we have recruited over the last two years, it gives us a great foundation for the future."
Thirteen of the new Bruins earned All-America honors from one publication or another. Running back Malcolm Jones, defensive lineman Owamagbe Odighizuwa, place kicker Kip Smith and offensive lineman Chris Ward earned Parade All-America honors. Smith was also a USA Today first-team All-American while Jones and Odighizuwa were second-team selections.
The 22 seniors who signed with UCLA comprise a class which is now ranked No. 8 nationally by Scout.com and Rivals.com and No. 10 by ESPNU and AOL Fanhouse. Obviously we are still waiting to hear from 2 or 3 more players, who I will get to below the fold. For now though the most important take away from yesterday was how Neuheisel has completely changed the recruiting zeitgeist in Los Angeles.
Vincent Bonsignore from the Daily News noted how under CRN UCLA is no longer backing down in street fights with Hello Kiffin's "Trogans" (emphasis added throughout):
If Wednesday's national letter of intent signing day proved anything in Los Angeles, it's that UCLA is no longer afraid to go toe-to-toe with USC for the best players in Southern California.
Nor with the rest of the country for the kind of program-altering talent needed to compete at the highest levels - even if it means waiting until signing day for the outcome to be decided.
More importantly, Rick Neuheisel and his staff showed just enough gumption to actually beat out their crosstown rivals for the type of impact players USC had a stranglehold on the past decade.
Four different players came into Wednesday torn between the Bruins and Trojans - in itself a small victory for Neuheisel's crew - and two of them picked UCLA.
The significance is that in years past, the Bruins typically backed off guys USC showed intense interest in, figuring their chances in a head-to-head battle with the mighty Trojans were so slim, they would be wasting their time.
And because of that, they might have cost themselves with players they actually had a shot with.
It was a prudent mind-set, but hardly a winning one.
To beat the best you have to compete with them at every turn, and it starts on the recruiting trail.
"If you would've told UCLA at the beginning of the day that they'd lose a couple key guys, they would've expected some of the guys they signed," said Scout.com West region recruiting manager Brandon Huffman of the Bruins, who finished the day with the recruiting site's sixth-rated class. "The final tally ended up being nine-to-nine in terms of both teams offered. It's a fascinating number - it's never been that close.
"Considering how it started with Heimuli to Oregon and Di Poalo to 'SC, they rallied."
Again to put it all in perspective CRN has pulled this off after winning only 4 games his first season (with a 3rd string QB playing with a one legged RB behind a shattered OL) and then scratching and clawing to win 7 in his second. Next year is going to be tough with a difficult OOC. However, if the Bruins manage to pull off a winning season in the Pac-10, it will only keep boosting the incredible momentum CRN has ginned up during these past two and half years and get us even more excited during next recruiting season. More after the jump.
Ramona Shellburne from tWWL noted how "determination" was the key factor in UCLA's recruiting success under CRN:
That determination is part of the reason why the Bruins ended up netting the No. 10-rated class, according to ESPN's rankings.
It's also one of the biggest differences between UCLA under Neuheisel compared to previous regimes.
"I heard they didn't really come out here much with Marc [Tyler] and Jimmy [Clausen]," Marsh said of the prized 2006 class at Oaks Christian. "But it wasn't like that with me at all. They recruited me really hard."
Neuheisel said that making inroads into area powerhouses such as Oaks Christian -- which yielded Marsh and this year's Gatorade Player of the Year, running back Malcolm Jones -- and Mater Dei in Santa Ana -- which produced offensive lineman Chris Ward -- was one of the Bruins' goals this year.
"That goes back to the concept of territory," Neuheisel said, referencing a statement he'd made last week about there being "an opportunity to claim this territory" because of Carroll's departure.
"There's no question those are big-name operations, well-respected programs, and the head coaches there are icons in the industry. So to go in there, and be successful, bodes well for our future."
Thanks to CRN our recruiting present is in a kind of situation where we don't have to look over at Southern Cal's class to feel good about the kids coming into Westwood (then again on the surface words coming out of "Trogans" and Bruins speak for themselves in terms of the kind of kids signed by both schools).
In terms of loose ends, on our current commit list, we still haven't received LOIs from Rykeem Yates and Julious Moore. As far as I know, both of them are committed to UCLA. When academic issues emerged with regards to Moore, he thought about taking official trips to schools like Washington State but never ended up doing it. Perhaps he will work on getting his issues resolved and do what it takes to get into Westwood (kind of like Taniela Maka, last year's LB recruit has been doing this season to get in this Spring). As for Yates, I have heard he might be contemplating a decision to come in as a greyshirt but nothing has been finalized yet. Again, hoping it all works out for him.
As for Marquis Jackson, his actions and words are kind of telling. All on a sudden in the last moment he decided to take a trip to Southern Cal in the last official recruiting weekend, and then proclaimed he was still committed to UCLA:
For Jackson, the bottom line was whether or not the USC visit could change his mind about his UCLA commitment.
"I just wanted feeling how I felt when I was at UCLA," Jackson said, adding that he would be sticking with his decision to sign with the Bruins on Wednesday. "I'm going to call the 'SC coaches a little later and let them know."
"Yes, I committed to USC," said Jackson. "Something came up at UCLA and I had to find another school. And it will probably be a blessing because I really do want to play with my brother.
Even though Marquis is not saying it in public, Jon Gold has already reported that the issue was academics and noted that Jackson "did not have the option of signing with UCLA." All that said, note despite his "commitment" Marques also hasn't sent in his LOI to Southern Cal. So we will see how it resolves.
For now though, as mentioned up top we are sitting at a pretty good place with the kids already in the fold and the two more who might join us later. All of these celebration, don't even take into account the two key transfers - Josh Smith and Jospeh Fauria - who will be ready for game action next season.
So to sum it up, enjoy the afterglow of an amazing day. I think we need to realize that Rick Neuheisel is not going to undo everything Cheatey Petey built through his web of (alleged) corruption overnight. However, in two years he has changed the entire recruiting game in Southern California. He has the Bruins fighting in every corner of Southern California and is not hesitating to take the fight across state lines going up against other elite schools in the country.
Rick Neuehisel might not be winning all of the recruiting battles right now but in two years he has the Bruins winning our fair share. This is just the beginning. Next step for us to shower this program with our support and enthusiasm during upcoming spring football practices and scrimmage. Those of you who are out in Southern California need to head out over there this spring and fill up Spaulding and gin up the excitement level even more. This will only help recruiting efforts for next season, get the good vibes flowing into summer camp and fall season. Hopefully all of that will then translate into another solid season leading into another fantastic signing day. Rick Neuheisel is clearly doing his part to change the game in Los Angeles, time for the thousands of Bruins all across Southland to step up ... or should I say show up.