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03-07 Recruiting Rankings & Expectations For 2007

Since recruiting has been the hot topic for last few weeks thought I do another post looking at the big picture and connect with our expectations for this upcoming season.

So let's do a little reset before we look into the numbers of Pac-10's top 5 recruiting programs since 2003 (the year Dorrell arrived to Westwood). Here is what we can assume before looking into the numbers:

Southern Cal far and above is way ahead of everyone in the Pac-10 (I know (alleged) free housing can go a long away in hauling in elite play makers).

California has done a great job recruiting under Tedford by their standards and now is situated as one of the programs that is expected to contend for the Pac-10 title. So much so to the point WWL hypes Cal-Southern Cal game as one of the marquee games of the Pac-10.

Karl Dorrell is a mediocre football coach who has come well short of achieving his goals of winning the Pac-10 championship and beating Southern Cal in his four + years in Westwood.

UCLA will always recruit well no matter who is the coach because Southern California is one of the  most talent rich hotbed in the country when it comes to high school football talent (probably in the top-3 along with Texas and Florida).

So with those factors in mind take a look at Pac-10's top-5 recruiting programs from last five years (numbers based on Rival's Rankings):

Avg. Rating Team 5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars Avg. Class Rnk
3.89 Southern Cal 25 52 30 1.4
3.15 Cal 2 33 64 16.2
3.03 UCLA 1 23 39 30.2
2.97 Oregon 2 27 63 25.2
2.93 Arizona 1 20 65 31.8

So what do we have here?

Sure Southern Cal is far and above the class of the Pac-10. No surprise there. What is disappointing to us as UCLA fans is after more than four years, Dorrell hasn't done much to close the talent gap with Trojans. That is his fault. And I am not sure how he can keep hinging on academics as an excuse year after year for failing to close the gap against our hate rival, he was hired to compete against every year.

Another thing to note is the minimal difference between Cal and UCLA in terms of quality of talent on their respective rosters. Sure they are a little far apart in terms of average rankings but lot of it has to do with UCLA brining in specially small class this past year. So I wouldn't buy too much into it. So basically despite Cal having one of the better head coaches in college football and UCLA being led by one of the worst in the game, the talent difference between the two programs is minimal. It gives you a little idea about the natural advantages UCLA has as a recruiting magnet, compared to other programs. When it comes down to it even a below average coach like Karl Dorrell can recruit at the same level as a coach like Tedford. Actually if Dorrell holds on to his current pace wrt this year's recruiting class it is conceivable that the talent level in UCLA's roster will pass Cal's roster. And it is happening because of 13-9 of this past season. That should give you some idea on the potential of UCLA football, if it were to be led by a coach with a track record of building programs that is lot more credible than Karl Dorrell's.

Now lets get to the bottom line here. If you look around you can hear some Cal fans talking about not just competing for the Rose Bowl, but competing for a National Championship this upcoming season. And when they do that lot of people actually take them somewhat seriously.

However if you compare to that when we talk about expecting Dorrell to win the Pac-10 championship (we are not talking about BCS championship), you can hear the same outsiders snickering about how UCLA fans are being unrealistic in their expectations wrt Karl Dorrell?

I wonder why is that? Sheer ignorance?

Look at the breakdown above. We get Cal at home (where Dorell is 2-0 v. Jeff "The God" Teford). We also get Oregon at home. Those are games a team with 20 returning starters should not have problem winning at home. Our two most difficult road games prior to Southern Cal game happen to be Arizona and to Washington State. I think we will lose against Wazzu since we have tradition of choking one big one on the road. However, there will be no excuse for losing to Arizona given what happened to Dorrell's program last time it showed up there with an 8-0 record. If Dorrell and his coaching staff have any pride in them, they would make sure our kids are ready for that game, and come out with a victory.

So if this team plays up to its talent (which right now on paper is almost good enough to be the second best program in the Pac-10) and take advantage of its favorable schedule (taking on two of the most talent conference opponents besides Southern Cal at home), the last game against Southern Cal should be for the Pac-10 championship.

All that is not unreasonable scenario given the talent Dorrell has at its disposal at UCLA (thanks to its natural advantages). Despite his underachieving seasons year after year he still finds himself with a program which is close enough to be considered as the second most talented program in the conference.

Given what Dorrell promised five years ago when he arrived in Westwood, it will be up to him to deliver. And if it becomes clear during the season that Dorrell is going to come short, it will be up to DG to clean house and take this program into a new direction.