Basketball is heading toward the Pac-12 tourney, Baseball is gearing up for a title defense, and several Olympic sports are in full swing in Westwood, but the Bruin Football team isn't taking anytime off. Even though National Signing Day is just over a week old, the recruiting process marches on for U.C.L.A. The Bruins will be getting visits from a variety of 2015 recruits over the coming weeks, and that should be reason for optimism for Bruin fans. Last weekend's visitor was 4/5* RB/WR Jaason Lewis, and he verbally committed the morning after returning home from Westwood.
It's a reminder that there is no real offseason in college football anymore, and the early visits show that Bruins coaches are taking it to heart. In evaluating our NSD, we repeated some reports from recruiting sites that said the Bruins' coaching staff took a month off from recruiting last summer. We have since learned that was not accurate. Though the coaches did get some vacation time with families over the summer, no one was gone for a month as was suggested, and no one on the current staff stopped recruiting even while out of town. In retrospect, it's doubtful those summer months had any negative effect on recruiting.
The post season addition of Kennedy Polamalu, while probably too late to salvage some of those final NSD names, will really strengthen the recruiting power of the staff. The departure of Lou Spanos back to the NFL also gives Mora a chance to add another coach who will be more active in recruiting than our former DC. With those upgrades, I expect our recruiting results will look even better next year. The early commits from Alize Jones and Victor Alexander, to go with Lewis, are already pointing that way. However, some guy once warned about prematurely judging recruiting classes in December, to say nothing of mid February, and there is a long way to go until NSD in 2015. Oh, and the 2014 football season itself will have an awful lot to say about how recruiting goes next year.
In the meantime, the dynamics of the 2015 recruiting process will probably look a bit different for U.C.L.A. than the 2014 year. It's clear the staff really reached on some very big name national recruits where we figured to be a long shot to begin with, and that contributed to our results on NSD. The upside of those misses though is that those unused scholarships will roll over for the 2015 class where the Bruins were looking at having only 12 available scholarships to offer to what is predicted to be the deepest and most talented class on the West coast in years. Considering those unused scholarships, our graduates, the inevitable attrition from injuries/academics/transfers, and a certain QB who may not stay for his senior year, the Bruins will probably end up with closer to 20 scholarships available for next year's class. Though it hurts now, those 2014 misses may have some positives for us in the end. Having more rides available next year is a big deal. It's going to be a gold rush out West and our coaches will find a lot of competition for our local recruits.
I imagine the staff, like all of us, got a better appreciation for what swimming in the deep end of the recruiting world feels like. While we were surprised when LSU's Cam Cameron accidentally/personally escorted our recruit on his official visit to U.C.L.A., the LSU fans didn't seem to see what the fuss was about. Maybe that was a good learning point for us to realize how the big fish play the game, especially when we venture into their territory. In case you missed it, that recruit did sign with Cameron's school, by the way. We can still discuss how we want U.C.L.A. to conduct itself in this business, but we also need to recognize that the SEC and everyone else will be prowling around in our backyard full time for the next year for those 2015 recruits, so at least we can know what sort of rules our opponents are following.
And speaking of knowing the rules, hang on, because at least a couple of them may be changing. The NCAA is considering two proposed rule changes for the 2014 season. One has to do with evaluating the targeting rule and penalty, and it isn't that big a deal. The other, however, has to do with defensive substitutions and is a potentially really big deal. The current proposal is that a defensive team will be given 10 seconds to substitute players before every snap, which effectively prevents the offense from running a play during that time. If the offense does snap the ball before that 10 seconds expires, it will be penalized 5 yards for delay of game. Awesome, a delay of game penalty for playing too fast. Makes perfect sense to no one.
The alleged justification for this proposal is that this will decrease the number of plays in a game and reduce the threat of injury. Also, the rule would be suspended in the final 2 minutes of each half when a team is more likely to be in hurry up mode. But what this is really aimed at is inhibiting teams that play constantly in hurry up mode, like Oregon, or Baylor, or U.C.L.A. The proposal was advanced by Arkansas's head coach, no doubt with the tacit blessing of his fellow grind-it-out teams in the SEC (i.e., Nick Saban and Alabama) who haven't adapted to this innovative style of play which has been very successful for teams primarily outside of their conference (i.e., the Pac-12 and Big 12). You can read more details and reaction to the proposal at the SB Nation CFB site.
Putting aside our own interests for the moment, if Sabes really wants to reduce injuries as he pretends to claim, then first he should stop running his 5 star All Americans out against FCS teams every season. That would be a start. After that, he could just simply use a time out if he needs to slow down an opponent. Or have someone fake an injury. Or maybe just get a defensive stop. But if he can't or won't speed up to new styles of play, pushing a rule change based on some falsely altruistic BS excuse isn't the way to do it. It's weak.
Now, considering the Bruins have adopted the no huddle system to let the offense operate at a high tempo, and we have recruited players and coaches and built a team to fit that system, this rule could be very damaging to the way the Bruins play. The Bruins' Offensive Coordinator Noel Mazzone was very outspoken against the proposal yesterday in the LA Times
Why don't we just do away with the play clock and wait for the defense to say they're ready? We could have the quarterback go over to the other team's sideline and ask if it's OK to snap the ball.
Show me the research that says up-tempo offenses increase the chances of injury. I don't understand why they need to change something that is not a problem.
Oh, but it's a problem for Saban when he has to defend against it.
Fortunately, Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott is on the committee that will review the proposal, and considering some of the other offenses in the Pac like Oregon, ASU, UofA, and Wash St for example, I fully expect that Scott will stand up for the teams he represents when the committee votes on March 6. Unfortunately, I do not expect any sort of public statement or support from our own AD that would help protect the best interests of our own football program, let alone the whole game of football for that matter. We've seen his act, or lack of it, with our teams before. FYI - what's wrong with letting the defense get all good and ready before we snap the ball?