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An Historical Look at UCLA Football Recruiting in the Dan Guerrero Era

How has UCLA Football recruited since Dan Guerrero became Athletic Director? The results may surprise you.

UCLA Introduces Chip Kelly Photo by Josh Lefkowitz/Getty Images

Let’s talk some football and, more specifically, some football recruiting.

I don’t know about you, but I’m excited for the coming football season and the future of UCLA Bruins Football under Chip Kelly.

So, naturally, when I saw an article on the SB Nation mothership discussing long-term recruiting rankings, it grabbed my attention. In that article, Jason Kirk looked at how schools have fared since started ranking recruiting classes in 2002. He, then, averaged those rankings and ordered the teams by their average recruiting rankings.

I thought this would be interesting to look at in terms of UCLA Football results.

The first year, 2002, was Bob Toledo’s final season in Westwood. The Bruins were 7-5, tied for fourth in the Pac-10 and defeated New Mexico in the Las Vegas Bowl. It’s important to remember that this is four seasons removed from UCLA’s last Rose Bowl appearance following the 1998 season.

But, it’s also worth noting that, while National Signing Day in 2002, does pre-date Dan Guerrero by about two months, UCLA’s overall average is directly reflective of Dan Guerrero’s tenure as Athletic Director as it covers from Toledo’s final recruiting class to the 2018 recruiting class.

Overall, the Pac-12 rankings are about what you would expect them to be over such an extended period of time. Southern Cal is #1 overall, not just in the Pac-12, but of all schools. Oregon is ranked second among Pac-12 schools and 18th overall. At #20 overall, UCLA is ranked third in the Pac-12 over the same timeframe.

Washington, Stanford, Arizona State are all clustered together from 27th to 29th overall and UC Berkeley isn’t far behind at #31. Arizona comes in at 39th overall and is followed by Colorado at 48th. Meanwhile, Oregon State, Utah and Washington State are the lowest ranked conference members at #50, #53 and #54, respectively.

I thought that UCLA’s ranking was a little surprising, because it includes the Dorrell years and we’ve long-lamented about how Dorrell left the cupboard bare when Rick Neuheisel took over. Of course, it includes the Neuheisel and Mora years when the Bruins started to do a better job recruiting. Finally, it includes Chip Kelly’s first recruiting class in Westwood.

But, to see that UCLA’s average recruiting class ranks 20th with an average rank of 24.7 demonstrates how well UCLA has historically recruited. Without seeing the raw numbers, this really makes me think about just how bad the on-the-field coaching at UCLA has been over the Guerrero years because, for being a school that ranks 20th over the timeframe with an average ranking of 24.7, you would think that the Bruins would have finished in the Top 25 more than just three times.

Yup, that’s right, from 2002 to 2017, UCLA has finished in the Top 25 just three times. Wow. Just wow.

But, then again, it really shouldn’t be that big of a surprise.

Karl Dorrell had never been a head coach before and Jim Mora made it as far as the NFC Championship Game just once. Rick Neuheisel’s results remain the most surprising, given the fact that he had two Top 5, three Top 10 and four Top 20 finishes in eight previous seasons as a head coach.

But, then again, maybe Bob Toledo deserves some credit for Dorrell’s Top 25 finish in 2005 and Rick Neuheisel deserves even more credit than a lot of us have already given him for building Jim Mora’s rosters in 2013 and 2014.

I think that, over the next few years, we may learn just how much talent Jim Mora actually recruited to UCLA depending on how well Chip Kelly does over his first three seasons.

The one thing I am convinced of, though, is that Coach Kelly has inherited a very promising roster and, while I don’t want to set the bar too high, I have a feeling that he’s going to end up exceeding everybody’s expectations this Fall because of the talent that Mora recruited to Westwood.

But, regardless of how the new staff does this Fall, I think the average rankings show how, over the long-term, UCLA pretty much recruits itself due to the academics and the beautiful campus in Westwood.

Even more so, I think it also shows how important it is to hire a coach with a proven track record when hiring a new head coach.

And, of course, it begs the question, “How long must UCLA fans put up with the mediocre basketball coach who is happy with his team being on the bubble?”

Go Bruins!!!