Inexact Science Behind OL Recruiting: Looking Back At UCLA's 1985 Class

Bumped. Very interesting historical perspective on recruiting well worth the read. GO BRUINS. -N

That 1985 class was probably the largest group of linemen in any recruiting class I could remember. It was a big class, very productive, but also a lot of attrition. This LA Times write-up from February 1985 is a very interesting read for many reasons. For one thing, it's shocking to see the number of linemen weighing in at 250 lbs or less!

By my count, there were seven offensive linemen in that 1985 recruiting class (along with two tight ends). That class should be considered productive because three of those recruits (Frank Cornish, Bill Paige, and Rick Meyer) became multi-year starters, and earned at least honorable mention all Pac-10 honors.

But, it is interesting to see how some of the more highly touted members of that class never started a game at UCLA for various reasons, and altogether less than half of the linemen in that class turned into starters.  If anything, it illustrates the method behind the madness whenever you see coaches load up in the trenches -- a lot of things can happen such as injuries, transfers, academic casualties, and players simply not developing.  You can never have too many OLs.

Among the three players that started two years or more, only Frank Cornish was a blue chipper. He would eventually start three years, earn All-American honors, and play on two Super Bowl teams with the Dallas Cowboys.

Three other OL from that class appeared on the Long Beach Press-Telegram’s Best In The West list — Rick Meyer, Mike Beech, and Dave Hallstrom. Among those three, only Meyer ever started a game at UCLA and lived up to his high credentials — two year starter and all-Pac-10. Beech was probably the most celebrated OL recruit in SoCal that year, and he moved up the depth chart until he sustained a serious head injury at a frat party (fell off the balcony at the Beta house), and was never the same afterward. Hallstrom wound up transferring to Long Beach State a year later (back then, they still had a D-I football program).

Bill Paige was basically a three-star recruit, yet once he stepped into the starting position, he anchored the right side of the line for two seasons and was honorable mention all-Pac-10. He also benefited from backing up all-conference lineman Russ Warnick for two years (and moving up the depth chart when Beech got injured).

The other two OL recruits, Hestin Silbert and Ray Villalobos, were also three-star caliber recruits, but they never started a game at UCLA, and both eventually left the program.

So, you can see that the productive starters from that class were a diverse group. Indeed, the most touted member of the OL class wound up developing into the most decorated college player as well. Yet, among the “best in the west” players, only one out of the three OL recruits even started a game at UCLA. And you had a two-year starter and honorable mention all-conference player emerge from the three-star caliber recruits.

In sum, less than half of the OL recruits in that huge class wound up as starters.  In any given year, it's considered highly productive if you find a trio of decent starters, but in this case, it took seven OL recruits to find those three productive starters.

An even more graphic illustration of the unpredictable path of a recruiting class comes from the guy who developed into the best player (at any position) from that 1985 group — Carnell Lake. You can read from the write-up that Lake was brought to UCLA as a highly touted running back. In fact, Lake was so good that he was the only player from the 1985 recruiting class that did not redshirt, and the coaching staff initially used Lake as a kick returner.

Yet, Carnell Lake became a UCLA All-American after switching positions to linebacker. And he would eventually make the NFL All-Decade team as a defensive back (and IMO, he would be in the discussions for the Hall of Fame, if Lake had played his entire career at safety, rather than unselfishly moving over to cornerback when the Steelers needed help at that position).

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of BruinsNation's (BN) editors. It does reflect the views of this particular fan though, which is as important as the views of BN's editors.

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