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 WIDE RECEIVER DEPTH CHART
Needed for 2012 Class: 2 or 3
Wide receiver is one of the biggest question marks in the program, now and if you project out to 2012. Among the names listed above, there is a great amount of potential and talent, but not necessarily anyone you'd say is a hands-down lock to be a big contributor. From that standpoint alone, UCLA will want to bring in at least three receivers, to improve the odds of finding the first-stringers in 2012. And, also, UCLA will lose three seniors that year (if you count Presley), after having already lost three after this upcoming season (Taylor Embree, Nelson Rosario and Josh Smith), and has only brought in three receivers in the last two years. So, it's definitely one of the biggest positions of need in the 2012 recruiting class.
The asterisks next to Presley's name indicate that we're not exactly sure where he'll end up in terms of position. We've heard more and more that UCLA will only use the Pistol this coming year as a package, but not the base offense, so Presley will only line up occasionally as the F-Back in that formation. We think he'll play a kind of hybrid receiver-tight end role, but probably function mostly as a slotted or split out pass-catcher, which makes him more of a receiver. Considering him a receiver helps with depth at receiver over the next two years -- but only if Presley, like many others on the list, become true contributors.
Luckily 2012 is a very good year for wide receivers in the west. There probably isn't a great amount of super elite talent, like there's been in the last couple of years, but still a good amount of solid talent to pick from. It's clear UCLA recognizes it needs receivers for 2012, having offered a good amount already.
2012 TIGHT END DEPTH CHART
Needed for 2012 Class: 1
This is probably another position that has some of the most uncertainty around it for 2012, given how so much of the rest of the depth chart is so solid. Like with the receivers, there is a good amount of talent and potential on the list, but no proven commodities just yet. It'd be a huge development if Fauria could become a contributor in 2011. While some believe John Young will eventually be moved to the OL, we'll stick with him here as a primary blocking tight end. Because of depth issues in terms of blocking tight ends, you can expect Nelson to get some significant playing time in the 2012 season. McDermott is a high-quality walk-on that the coaches have confidence can be solid at the position. Then there is the wildcard of Barr. We put him on the tight end list because we feel, physically, by the 2012 season, he'll probably be 6-5 and 245 to 250 pounds. He'll probably be used similarly to Presley, so defining his position is difficult at this point. It will be interesting to see where he and Presley line up during spring practice under new offensive coordinator Mike Johnson.
UCLA definitely needs one tight end and could even dip into 2012 to get two.
It doesn't look to be a very deep year for tight ends in the west in 2012, even though there is some very good talent at the top.
2012 OFFENSIVE LINE DEPTH CHART
LT -- Xavier Su'a-Filo, SO; Brett Downey SR; Conor McDermott, R-FR;
LG -- Chris Ward, JR; Casey Griffiths, JR;
C -- Greg Capella, JR; Kody Innes, SO; Jacob Brendel, R-FR
RG -- Wade Yandall, SO; Stan Hasiak, JR; Ben Wysocki, R-FR
RT -- Jeff Baca, SR; Torian White, R-FR; Will Oliver, R-FR;
Needed for the 2012 Class: probably 4
Projecting out two years that's a very solid depth chart. It's made so by the return of Su'a-Filo. Plugging in a NFl-level talent will do that.We've heard from good sources that Su'a-Filo is indicating he definitely is returning to UCLA. If it all goes to plan, and Su'a-Filo returns next January, he'll have seven months and spring practice to get into playing shape, which we think is plenty of time for someone of his talent level. As we've said, it should be a battle for the starting center position, but that battle might be fought this season in determining who is the back-up to Kai Maiava in 2011. The biggest question marks on this depth chart are Oliver and McDermott. We'll probably know more by the end of the 2011 season, being able to see if they even have a chance to project to being contributors down the line. Someone needs to be the guy who inherits a tackle spot, and it'd be a great thing if either of those guys actually defied conventional wisdom and did it. White is thought to be the heir apparent to the left tackle position, but he's still a slight uncertainty. So, it's still very clear that UCLA needs tackle types.
2012 is an excellent year in the west for offensive line prospects, so if UCLA puts together a good season in 2011, and with some space available on the depth chart, it could be a very good year for UCLA offensive line recruiting.