Analysis: Recruiting Needs for 2012

The list of guys UCLA will recruit for 2012 is going to drastically change between now and next February, so rather than the specific 2012 recruits we take a look at UCLA's projected depth chart and recruiting needs for 2012...

Usually this time of year we release a story on the guys UCLA has already been targeting in the next recruiting class. And we definitely will do that.

But, really, let's be candid: Whatever list we release now is pretty irrelevant. How UCLA does in recruiting on Signing Day 2012 is completely dependent on how UCLA does in its 2011 season. Whatever list of names we put out now is probably going to be drastically different than one next February 2012 – because either one of two scenarios will happen: 1) UCLA has an unsuccessful season, Rick Neuheisel probably loses his job and 2012 recruiting gets a boost from the new head coach, albeit very late in the recruiting season, or 2) Neuheisel has a successful 2011 season, recruits get inspired and jump on board and the list of names has changed almost entirely from what we released in February 2011.

If you want to look at it from an optimistic perspective, both are win-win recruiting scenarios, right? Even if scenario #1 might require a considerable process of pain during the season for Bruin fans, it still more than likely would result in an improved recruiting landscape for UCLA with the 2012 class than it is currently experiencing. And, of course, scenario #2 would be ideal (well, for most Bruin fans who want to see Neuheisel succeed) since, first and foremost, a successful 2011 season is the priority.

Last year at about this time, and throughout the spring, summer and fall, we asserted that 2011 recruits were in wait-and-see mode on UCLA, wanting to wait until the 2010 season to help them make their decision over the UCLA program. Well, we saw what an unsuccessful 2010 season did to the recruiting class. UCLA plainly lost a good amount of recruits you could easily assert it would have gotten had it been successful on the field in 2010. You could say, then, that 2012 recruits are in a very heightened level of wait-and-see mode with UCLA over the 2011 season.

As we've asserted before, if UCLA fans want to put a good spin on the unsuccessful 2010 season, here you go: If UCLA is going to be successful under Neuheisel, it was a season that had to happen, to lead to a purging of an offensive coordinator and defensive coordinator that to be candid (again), weren't going to help UCLA win over the long term. We certainly have no idea if the new offensive coordinator, Mike Johnson, or the new defensive coordinator (to be named later), will be an improvement, but we know that it was highly likely the last set wasn't going to get it done. We've said before that, if there was a time in terms of recruiting for this to happen, the 2011 class for UCLA was perhaps optimal. Neuheisel had sold recruits in the last few recruiting classes on the program's potential, and essentially loaded up with top ten national recruiting classes in doing it. The 2011 class was, then, always going to be a small one, without many rides to give, and if you look at UCLA's projected depth chart for the next couple of years, barring transfers, it looks pretty deep and talented.

So, before we release a highly premature list of 2012 UCLA recruiting targets, we thought we'd first analyze UCLA's depth chart needs for the class.

UCLA currently has 16 scholarships available to give to the 2012 class, and with natural attrition, you can expect probably 18-20.

Here's how the depth chart will look for the 2012 season, which is when the 2012 recruits will enroll.

2012 QUARTERBACK DEPTH CHART

Kevin Prince, SR
Richard Brehaut, SR
Darius Bell, SR
Nick Crissman, SR
Brett Hundley, SO or R-FR
Jerry Neuheisel, R-FR or FR

Needed for 2012 Class: 1

As you can see, UCLA will potentially lose four quarterbacks after the 2012 season, so getting a quarterback with the 2012 class is imperative. In fact, if UCLA could pull off bringing in two that would be greatly beneficial. And it's not out of the question: If UCLA's quarterback in the 2011 season looks particularly good in Johnson's new offense and the team has a successful season, it's plausible that UCLA could get two quarterbacks in 2012.

Some sources have indicated to us that Crissman might leave the program with a medical retirement before next season, even though the most recent news is that he's going to attempt to stay with it, at least between now and fall.

It would be particularly helpful to UCLA's future quarterback depth if Brehaut could redshirt the 2011 season. That would make him a redshirt junior in 2012, and UCLA would, then, already have three scholarship quarterbacks on its current roster that would still be here in 2012, and that's pretty good security at the position almost two years out. If they added just one quarterback in 2012, with that scenario, and then had four scholarship quarterbacks for 2012, with Brehaut a redshirt senior and Hundley a true sophomore or redshirt freshman, that would be solid.

There are some issues to consider, however. You would have to think that recruiting and bringing in an impact quarterback prospect the year after Hundley might be difficult. It's all very tricky, actually, and difficult to surmise what would be a better scenario for UCLA quarterback recruiting for 2012 – whether Hundley steps up and wins the job in 2011 or not? If, say, Hundley does, then a 2012 quarterback could reason that, if he redshirts, he would be two years removed from Hundley and, if Hundley's that good, he might not be at UCLA all four years. The recruit could, in theory, be starting by his redshirt sophomore season. Again, if Johnson's offense is dynamic and the UCLA quarterback looks good in 2011, all of that could be plenty to convince an elite 2012 quarterback prospect to come on board. Or, there is the scenario that Hundley doesn't win the job and redshirts, which could, actually, be more detrimental to UCLA 2012 quarterback recruiting. Hundley on the bench redshirting could be more intimidating and dissuasive to a 2012 quarterback recruit than him on the field playing. Perhaps a good scenario could be Hundley not necessarily winning the starting job in 2011 but actually playing as a back-up, which then fulfills the same class differentiation as scenario #1.

If we're talking purely from a standpoint of what would be the most optimal in terms of quarterback recruiting, that scenario, combined with one in which Brehaut redshirts, might be it. We think, though, that Brehaut wouldn't be very willing to redshirt, mostly because it effectively eliminates his option to transfer, and he probably also thinks that, given last season, he shouldn't redshirt and essentially be relegated behind Prince. Brehaut's situation is complicated by him deciding to play with the UCLA baseball team this season and missing spring football practice. UCLA officially has not said whether Brehaut will participate in spring practice, just that he will have to "fulfill his football obligations." We've heard that the UCLA coaches aren't necessarily happy with his decision to play baseball, as you might expect, but they really aren't in a position of power, given the uncertainty around Prince's injury and his status for fall, and whether Hundley would be ready to play. But, in practice (literally and figuratively), it will almost certainly set back Brehaut in his quarterback development. If, say, Prince is able to practice for spring, and with Hundley enrolled and ready to participate in spring practice, it very well could effectively demote Brehaut naturally. Brehaut has to recognize the risk, that he's jeopardizing his status on the depth chart by playing baseball, and perhaps the UCLA coaches are, essentially, fine with that, since it might then be far more apparent that Brehaut is behind Prince, and even Hundley. The question will be, in fall camp, where Brehaut is in the quarterback hierarchy. If, after the chips fall, and Brehaut isn't happy with them, he could still transfer (or he could see the writing on the wall before fall practice). But there are so many things to consider – like if he actually has a good baseball season at UCLA and doesn't want to set back his baseball career a year by having to transfer to another school, or merely wants to stay at UCLA because he wants to play for its elite baseball program.

We're not in any way saying we've heard Brehaut is considering transferring, so let's get that on the record. We're merely speculating.

So much, too, will depend on Prince's health. We're hearing he's recovering very well from the knee surgery, and some sources think he'll be ready for spring practice. But admittedly, he's been a bit injury-prone, and whether that's due to Prince being brittle or just experiencing some bad luck, it does raise questions about his capability of playing the next two years. While his status doesn't directly impact 2012 quarterback recruiting, it does indirectly, because it could contribute to determining the status of both Brehaut and Hundley in relation to the depth chart, which impacts 2012 quarterback recruiting.

Having Jerry Neuheisel, though, in the program is potentially helpful. There was literally no way UCLA was going to get a second quarterback to come in with Hundley except for Jerry. If Jerry then does develop into a player that can at least contribute, say as a serviceable back-up, then it's a win-win. If he doesn't, well, UCLA wasn't losing anything since it wasn't as if his spot on the team would have gone to another 2011 quarterback. He's an added potential bonus in terms of the quarterback depth chart.

All in all, there are just too many moving parts and too many unknowns in regard to projecting the UCLA quarterback depth chart at this point. And luckily, for most 2012 quarterback prospects who are currently considering UCLA, they probably aren't going to make up their mind anytime soon. They almost certainly want to see what the 2011 version of UCLA's offense and quarterback look like first, and by that time many of these personnel issues will work themselves out.

In the west coast class of 2012, it's a solid year for talent. There aren't many nationally-top-10 type guys, but a good number of propects who could be among the next tier. UCLA, more than likely, won't have to go outside of the west to get its 2012 man.

2012 RUNNING BACKS DEPTH CHART

Johnathan Franklin, SR
Malcolm Jones, JR
Jordon James, R-SO
Steven Manfro, R-FR

Needed for 2012 Class: 1

Franklin is coming off one of the top ten rushing seasons in UCLA's history, and he has two more seasons left as a Bruin. By this, his senior year, he will be strongly considered for post-season honors. What's really exciting is that UCLA will have two guys – Jones and James – behind him that have the potential to be as good, or even better.

That might sound intimidating for a 2012 running back recruit when considering UCLA, but in reality, it won't. First, the fact that Franklin will be getting a great deal of acclaim going into his senior season, realistically threatening to be UCLA's all-time career rushing leader by the end of that season, is only going to be great publicity for the UCLA tailback position. The only thing that could hold him back would be injury and if Jones or James overtakes him on the depth chart and in terms of playing time. Regardless, it's safe to assume that Franklin will be a major part of the tailback rotation throughout the rest of his UCLA career, and if it's not him getting the majority of the spotlight for the 2012 season it will be Jones or James, which will also help recruiting.

A 2012 tailback recruit, then, should recognize that UCLA generally uses a two- or three-tailback rotation, and that he'd have a very good chance of breaking into that by his redshirt freshman year.

UCLA would have loved to have gotten another big tailback prospect in the 2011 class but, realistically, that was going to be tough regardless of the 2010 season because of UCLA's pretty young tailback depth chart. While you may argue that Manfro, from his resume, doesn't seem like he's a UCLA-level propect, it was probably pretty smart to pick up a guy who, first, wanted to come given the pretty loaded depth chart, and was only going to help the program's academic profile. If, like Jerry Neuheisel, Manfro ends up being a contributor, it's a win-win. If he is actually a guy who could break into the tailback rotation down the line, too, he's certainly not going to scare away any 2012 recruit between now and 2012 Signing Day.

The 2012 class in the west is remarkably thin for tailbacks. UCLA will undoubtedly have to go outside of the west to fill out its potential talent pool.

It's completely uncertain if UCLA will utilize a fullback in its new offense. We've heard from a pretty good source that Todd Golper would be moved to fullback, but with the impending transfer of Jayson Allmond we truly don't have any idea who else would fill out a projected fullback depth chart.

Coming up in Part 2: The projected depth chart and recruiting needs for 2012 at offensive line, tight end and wide receivers.


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