National Signing Day is just over 3 weeks away, and while there is officially a recruiting 'dead period' underway, Bruin-related recruiting news continues to come in. Last night, Nestor noted that an Mgoblog writer talked with UCLA commit Marlon Mack about his recruiting experiences, with Mack supposedly claiming that his verbal was more an effort to get other schools to notice him than for a particular desire to play for the Bruins. Let's see how Coaches Pola and Mora react to that one.
On a much brighter note, Scout 5-star/Rivals 4-star linebacker Rashaan Evans has narrowed his choices down to a final 3 per ESPN recruiting analyst Gerry Hamilton.
We have been pretty critical of ESPN's recruiting coverage. But as even that remark noted, the four-letters does have a better reputation in terms of their coverage in the south - they know where their money/readers are. Given how SEC-centric that outlet is, for one of their people to come out and say that a recruit from Auburn, Alabama is down to the home schools and the Bruins is encouraging.
Rashaan has decided to cancel a planned official recruiting visit ($) to Ole Miss (per Scout) or Georgia (per ESPN) on the weekend of January 31st. That is the final weekend before signing day and happens to be UCLA's big recruiting weekend, with the 'Louisiana Three' (Dupre/McGraw/Young) among several other elite recruits taking their official visits to Westwood. Evans took his official visit to UCLA last fall, but there is a chance that he could take an unofficial trip back to LA to spend time with the other southern kids tripping that weekend. I am not holding my breath that Evans will end up in Westwood, but there is a legitimate chance that our already strong linebacking corps could get even stronger.
Hamilton also noted this afternoon that 4-star 2015 CB prospect Mark Fields II has UCLA among his top-10 schools - the only school outside of the southeast that the Hough HS (Charlotte, NC) junior is currently considering. He has yet to be offered by the UCLA coaches, but does hold offers from Clemson, Georgia and Ohio State. Hudl has some of his junior-year highlights. Fields' father is a former NFL linebacker who played for the senior Jim Mora with the New Orleans Saints in the mid-1990's.
If anyone here follows Anthony Barr on twitter and was confused by this tweet from last night, here's the explanation: Anthony was welcoming former Alabama-commit Zach Whitley to UCLA. He arrived on campus last night, moving into the dorms and getting ready to enroll this week as an early entry for the Winter Quarter. Welcome to Westwood, Zach!
Even with the 2013 season just a week past, the College Football media is already taking a look toward the 2014 season. One of ESPN's CFB writers took the first stab last week with his early prediction that UCLA would advance to the national championship game, and now a couple more writers have released early previews relating to the Bruins. SB Nation's Pete Volk included the Bruins among his 10 breakout teams for the 2014 season, noting that...
...As a 10-win power-conference team in 2013, UCLA doesn't exactly fit the bill of the rest of our breakout picks, but considering how tough the Pac-12 is, it's easy for a 10-win team to get overlooked.
Pete went on to discuss our returning talent and the chance that several of our younger players are primed for a breakout campaign as well as the more favorable schedule for UCLA football next fall.
The early positive attention from national outlets like ESPN and the SB Nation mothership is great, but pieces from those sources can only scratch the surface of the Bruin program. With how widely spread those guys and gals are, It can take someone who has a greater focus and knowledge to produce a really detailed preview. Over at Bruin Report Online, David Woods has just written an excellent early look at the 2014 Bruins, making the argument that the team should make a serious run at a playoff spot next season - and beyond.
The story is not behind their paid firewall and I highly suggest that you all take a few minutes to give it a read. It will be a couple months before the BN Editors seriously lay out our expectations for 2014, but Woods has given his early guess, and it is a strong but well-supported one.
In a year where UCLA should have the depth, talent, and experience to make a run at 11 or 12 regular season wins, it doesn't appear that the schedule will pose an inordinate challenge.
Given the sheer numbers and talent of the underclassmen and prospective recruits entering the program, UCLA's window to be a serious contender will last beyond the upcoming season even with Brett Hundley giving way to Asiantii Woulard (or an as-yet uncommitted prospect in the 2014 or 2015 recruiting classes).
So, don't think of 2014 as "the" year, UCLA fans, because that way of thinking is tired and, honestly, in our estimation, undersells the situation. Rather, think of 2014 as the first year, of many, for UCLA to compete realistically for a national championship.
Sounds good to me.