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A New Pipeline To Westwood

Folks in the island are taking note of UCLA football’s impact in the local recruiting scene. Ferd Lewis from the Honolulu Advertiser wrote about “UCLA on recruiting mission”:

Yesterday, the commitments of two Punahou School players, running back Dalton Hilliard and wide receiver Robert Toma, were announced by the Pacific Islands Athletic Alliance. Earlier, Kapolei High offensive lineman Stan Hasiak IV, committed to the Bruins.

Quite a week's haul, especially since that's roughly as many as UCLA has gotten from here in the past decade.

IIRC CRN while he was up in Seattle made an effort to recruit kids from Hawaii (Names of Wilson Afoa and Donny Mateaki’s come to mind). Norm Chow has always had his connections to his former home state. So, perhaps it’s not a big surprise to see UCLA recruiting this state so hard under CRN and Chow.

UCLA’s early success in Hawaii’s recruiting scene has a lot of folks speculating about our prospects re. Manti Te’o, the state’s top prospect and one of the best LBers in the country. Ferd pointed towards UCLA’s position in the growing Te’o sweepstakes:

Now, having Punahou alum Norm Chow as the offensive coordinator undoubtedly accounts for a lot of the interest. But it also isn't hard to surmise that the Bruins have their eyes on the state's top prospect, Punahou linebacker Manti Te'o.

The Te'o sweepstakes grow more interesting — and more competitive — by the week. USC head coach Pete Carroll was here immediately after the Oregon State upset. The next week Brigham Young announced a series of games with Hawai'i that would, coincidentally put the Cougars here during Teo's days if he chose BYU. Then, Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis flew all day for a brief appearance.

Now, UCLA weighs in by the truck load. Only Stanford among the five announced finalists (UH is no longer under consideration) remains to make a splash.

Greg Biggins wrote about the Te’o/Hillard connection on West Recruiting Blog over at ESPN:

"We have a very good chance to get Manti," Hilliard said. "He loved his visit there and I think he likes the direction the program is going. He loves the coaching staff and I know I'm going to be doing my best to get him to come to UCLA with me. In the end, he'll do what he feels is best for him but I know he really likes UCLA a lot right now."

Well I think Bruins are huge underdogs against BYU (and also Southern Cal) in Te’o sweepstakes. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have a shot. In fact Lewis thinks Bruins are “dark horse” in this derby:

Bruins have a lot to offer them: Top notch academics, a chance to play right away and an opportunity to make an impact turning around a marquee program. For Te'o, in addition there is the association with Chow, who is also a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

Speculation has been that BYU is the front runner in the Te'o competition, followed by USC.

UCLA? It could be the dark horse in the derby.

We will see how it plays out. Hopefully those of you who are from Hawaii or are currently living over there can shed more light on this storyline.

IMHO even if we don’t end up getting Te’o the relationship and connections Neuheisel and Chow are establishing in the Hawaii recruiting circle, will end up paying long term dividends for our program. The new Pacific Pipeline is nothing but a win-win proposition for UCLA football.