Anthony Barr is garnering significant praise entering 2013 - Harry How
Rounding up the latest Football news from UCLA and around the Pac-12 Conference, including a coaching change in Eugene, fighting in the Trojan locker room, and early projections of the 2013 season.
With the National Championship game now a week behind us, and national signing day still a couple of weeks away, this should be the calm before the storm for college football. But, this is turning out to be a busy week for football news for UCLA and throughout the Pac-12.
Chip Kelly leaving Oregon to take over the Philadelphia Eagles is the biggest story of the week in the conference. Nestor has already blogged the news; the expectation has been that if/when Kelly leaves for the NFL, current OC Mark Helfrich would ascend to the head coaching spot. While I expect the Ducks to attempt to stick to that plan, there is the possibility that Kelly brings him to Philadelphia in the same manner in which Jim Harbaugh took Greg Roman along from Stanford to the San Francisco 49ers.
If Helfrich stays in Eugene, and with the rest of the coaching staff presumably staying in Eugene, I would not expect any mass defections from their recruiting class or transfers out of the program. Whatever happens, their verbal commits can expect some increased attention in the upcoming weeks.
Until the Kelly news broke a couple of hours ago, the story of the day was shaping up to be the mainstream media's exposure of Southern Cal's postgame brawl in the Sun Bowl locker room. Leading up to the game, we noted how Southern Cal was embarrassing themselves, the Pac-12 and the city of El Paso in the leadup to the game. They followed that up by embarrassing themselves on the field by losing to a 6-7 Georgia Tech team.
Rumors of a postgame fight involving a significant number of Southern Cal players have been floating around the internet for the past week or so, but solid reports of the incident are just now coming to light. Folks that have been around enough locker rooms know that things can get heated - particularly when times get tough - and sometimes fights among teammates happen. The post-Sun Bowl fight seems to have been far more significant, according to the Daily News' Scott Wolf:
The incident started when some freshmen questioned the leadership of the team's seniors and whether they gave 100 percent effort for the Sun Bowl. This led to an argument that eventually escalated according to witnesses.
"It was one of the worst things I've seen in a locker room," said a player who did not wish to be identified.
Fight On, trogans, Fight On!
While the 2012 season is just a couple of weeks behind us, it is (apparently) never too early to start looking forward to the 2013 season. Kevin Gemmell has written up his an early 2013 Heisman watch post for ESPN's Pac-12 blog. He includes two Bruins among the seven Pac-12 players that made his cut: Brett Hundley is the obvious choice from next year's UCLA team.
Why he could win: He's one of several redshirt freshmen quarterbacks who showed they have the maturity and gumption to lead an offense. He's a phenomenal athlete who should have his team back in the Top 25 next year. He turned some heads in 2012.
The factors noted as standing in his way are familiar to us - his need to improve his feel for the pass rush and ability to throw the ball away when needed, as well as for the Bruin offensive line to further improve.
Anthony Barr joins him on the watch list, and as a defender is a little bit of a surprise to see on a Heisman consideration. But he does stand to be the best defensive player in the conference and one of the elite defenders in the nation entering the 2013 season, and has a signature moment to his credit. Gemmell noted that Manti Te'o showed that a standout linebacker can garner Heisman consideration (but leaves out the 'captain of an undefeated Notre Dame' factor).
Speaking of elite players for 2013, Jon Wilner has started writing up 2013 predictions on his College Hotline blog. In his initial projection of the 2013 preseason Pac-12 first team, Anthony Barr is his pick as Pac-12 defensive player of the year, with Xavier Su'a-Filo on the O-Line. Brett Hundley barely lost out to Oregon's Marcus Mariota as the top QB on this list.
Wilner has also given an early projection of the 2013 Pac-12 standings. Even with the more difficult schedule in conference play, UCLA is projected to win the South again.
1. UCLA: The Bruins will be a force with QB Brett Hundley back for his sophomore year — he may very well emerge as the best quarterback in the conference. Linebacker Anthony Barr’s return will stabilize a defense that takes some personnel hits. But the situation atop the South is not unlike the North: Just as there’s little to separate Oregon and Stanford, so is there little difference between UCLA and Arizona State.
Southern Cal is projected to finish 3rd in the Pac-12 South. Their issues as laid out by Wilner: "Depth will be an issue, quarterback will be an issue, coaching will be an issue, tackling will be an issue." Aside from little things like those, all is well in troganland. In the North, Oregon was projected to beat out Stanford, but that was before Kelly's departure was confirmed.
Now for a couple of recruiting notes to cap things off. For months, we have been talking about the need for UCLA to bring in a Quarterback as part of this fall's recruiting class. After the Eddie Printz affair, the coaches have not had much luck in recruiting another quarterback to join the 2013 class. Now there is a new quarterback prospect that has been shown interest in UCLA and has been offered a scholarship. Asiantii Woulard, a former South Florida commit has announced that he will take an official visit to Westwood next weekend.
Muircoach has written a fanpost looking at Asiantii in more detail. While he has only played quarterback for two years, there are already signs of great promise at playing the position. Woulard has been rated as a 4-star prospect at quarterback by Rivals.com and Scout.com and participated in the Army All-America game earlier this month. Given his inexperience at the position he would likely redshirt at whichever school he chooses, which makes Hundley's lock at QB for the next couple of years less of an issue than it could be for other recruits.
While the coaches have made new offers like that received by Woulard, there is the reality that some currently committed recruits will not end up at UCLA, whether by choice of the recruit or following signs given by the coaches. Utah prep WR Ammon Barker is looking like one of the latter. After verballing to the Bruins last fall, he is no longer listed as a commit by Scout, and is said to be considering Hawaii and San Diego State.