If he already didn't have pressure to produce in recruiting, it's pretty easy to believe that new Head Coach Karl Dorrell will now have even more pressure to sign a stellar class in February.
The problem is, recruiting is a Catch-22. To play well, you have to recruit well. And to recruit well you have to play well.
For a new head coach, one that hasn't played a game (the situation Dorrell was in last year in December and January), you can recruit by selling the buzz around the new hire, and the potential. Many times, a football program and its schemes always sound better when they're described by a coach rather than actually seeing it executed on the field.
Now that recruits have had a season to see Dorrell's Bruins, to be blunt, it's a harder sell. Recruiting has tailed off considerably since the season began. UCLA received one commitment the entire season, from JC OL Marc Villafuerte. It was pretty apparent that, as the team struggled under Dorrell in his first season, recruiting did also.
Dorrell will have to sell that it was his first year, that it takes time to implement a system. He'll still have to sell on the potential of the scheme, but probably to more doubtful buyers.
As has widely been rumored and speculated, some changes could be made to the coaching staff. Dorrell will need these changes to have something else to sell to recruits during the next couple of months of recruiting crunch time.
He'll also have the ever-reliable early playing time point, selling prospects on the chance of coming in early to play because UCLA lacks talent at many positions.
And even though a JC player arriving at UCLA in winter or spring quarter counts against last year's class, he still uses one of the scholarships available overall. So, any JC recruit coming to UCLA this school year will count against that overall number of 21 scholarships UCLA has available.
UCLA currently has 12 recruits who have verbally committed.
(**Click on any of the hyper links to go to the prospect's player profile. There you can see all the stories written on them and find out when they're taking their official visit.)
WR (1-2): Ryan Graves (6-0, 165)
DE (2-3): Brigham Harwell (6-1, 250)
DT (2-3): Kenny Lombard (6-1, 265)
LB (1-2): Will Price (6-1, 250)
S (2) : Daniel Drayton (5-10, 185)
K (1): Aaron Perez (6-3, 200)
In parantheses is the number range of prospects that could be taken at that position. Some, as you can see, could vary, depending on recruits available, and how many are taken at another position.
With 9 scholarships left available, the priority is at quarterback, offensive line, defensive end and defensive tackle. Tight end is pretty critical, too. They will probably add one more wide receiver, and another defensive back, and possibly a running back. They could take two quarterbacks.
UCLA has as its top targets Matt Tuiasosopo, Rocky Hinds, Erik Ainge and Chase Patton. The situation doesn't look particularly great with any of the four. Patton has essentially dropped UCLA, even though he might not admit it publicly. Ainge has been taking his official visits and appears enamored of Tennessee, even though he has visits to hometown Oregon and Oregon State coming up. Tuiasosopo is playing it very close to the vest, saying it's tied between UCLA, USC and Washington. While it's known that the kid likes USC, it's thought that Washington will have the best shot to get him when it's all said and done. UCLA is probably running third. The Bruins probably have their best chance with Rocky Hinds, who wants to stay close to home and might feel more comfortable and more apt to get early playing time at UCLA as opposed to USC. But some recent word around recruiting circles is that USC is looking very strong for Hinds.
If UCLA gets one of those four, it could still very well take a commitment from Bush Hamdan, who will visit UCLA officially January 16th. If UCLA doesn't look to get any of those four, Hamdan could become a very big priority, with UCLA desperately needing to bring in at least one quarterback. If UCLA does miss on the four, they could very well turn around and go after Brian Hildebrand, who is verbally committed to Oregon State but is a longtime UCLA fan who could jump Beaver ship. Also, there could be other names on this secondary list, such as Patrick Cowan, the younger brother of current UCLA wide receiver Joe Cowan, or Rudy Carpenter, who could also be a possibility.
Hamdan, while only 6-1, is not an elite prospect and you couldn't project him to being a star on the UCLA level. But he is fairly good, and could have the potential to be a solid quarterback.
Overall, projecting down the line, the quarterback situation is questionable. Next year Drew Olson and Matt Moore will be true juniors, with John Sciarra a redshirt junior. Sciarra looks to only have the potential to be a decent backup, and that is if he keeps developing, and walkon Brian Callahan is only walkon caliber. UCLA needs to bring in a quarterback prospect in this class desperately. Having not taken a quarterback last year, combined with Olson and Moore not redshirting, it put a two-year gap in the quarterback depth. Two years from now, UCLA, unless it takes a transfer or a JC player, after Olson/Moore graduate, any quarterback from the 2004 high school class would be the potential starter as a redshirt sophomore. So, it's not only critical they get a quarterback, but one who's good enough to run the program as a redshirt sophomore.
And what if, as has been discussed and contemplated, Matt Moore transfers? The depth at quarterback would be alarming. Next year you'd have the starter in Olson, Sciarra as the backup and probably a true freshman as third string.
There are rumors about Ben Olson, the quarterback who went to BYU in the fall of 2002 from Thousand Oaks High School and then left the school in January to go on his Mormon mission. He'll return from his mission in Canada approximately in early 2005. At that time, having been away from BYU for two years, he'll be a recruitable athlete and could go anywhere and be immediately eligible. It's been said by some close to the situation that UCLA could have a chance with Olson, who was the #1-ranked quarterback nationally out of high school in 2002. It's difficult to speculate about since it's over a year before Olson will return from his mission. And many things would have to fall into place for it to happen. He'd be a redshirt freshman in the fall of 2005, the same as a high school senior would be that season.
Overall, there are a number of aspects here that are alarming. First, UCLA has continually been burned by taking two quarterbacks in the same year, and looks like it can't get out of the cycle. When Cory Paus and Ryan McCann came to UCLA together, it caused continual issues. Then John Sciarra and Matt Dlugolecki committed together, and when Dlugolecki de-committed, it left UCLA with just Sciarra. In between, UCLA didn't take any quarterbacks. It then took two more in the same year with Moore and Olson, and has again suffered problems as a result, with talk of Moore transferring. Now, once again, since it didn't take a quarterback last year, it's faced with very thin depth at the position (the kind you don't even want to consider if Moore transfers), but, alas, it could really use two new quarterbacks in the program again. Taking two quarterbacks in the same year regularly contributed to Bob Toledo's woeful quarterback recruiting, and was a big factor in his demise, and continues to plague Karl Dorrell.
Another alarming issue, as touched on above – UCLA needs to bring in an elite talent at quarterback in this class to, at the very least, take over the position after Moore/Olson graduate. But it's very questionable whether UCLA will be able to bring in a quarterback with that kind of talent. Really the only one available to the Bruins is Tuiasosopo. Hinds has raw talent, but with an emphasis on raw. It's questionable whether he could be developed enough by his redshirt sophomore year to play the position at a high level, and even questionable whether he ultimately ends up a quarterback in college. And UCLA has questionable chances with both.
If UCLA misses on an elite talent at quarterback for this class, quarterback recruiting looks to be in panic mode in the coming years. After Moore and Olson graduate, it's unlikely there would be a quarterback in the system who would have the talent to adequately play the position. It could very well set a particularly tough future at quarterback in motion for the next several years.
With a limited number of scholarships and UCLA needing linemen particularly, getting a running back is further down the priority list. Of course, if UCLA could bring in an elite level running back, it would. But there aren't many really elite level RBs available that UCLA has a good chance with. While Adrian Peterson, the #1 RB in the country, still mentions UCLA, the Bruins are a longshot. Brandon Gunn, the RB from Nebraska, is high on UCLA's list, and they seem to have a legit chance with him. The coaching change at Nebraska could have an affect on him. It looks like UCLA will not be able to recruit Marshawn Lynch due to academics. After those three, UCLA really hasn't aggressively pursued too many RBs.
If Tyler Ebell decides to transfer, it could change UCLA's running back recruiting significantly. It would leave UCLA fairly thin at running back, with Maurice Drew the primary tailback, with some help from Manuel White when he's not at fullback. Then there will be redshirt freshman Derrick Williams, who was the scout team player of the year and thought to be able to be a significant contributor. It's still undetermined if Jason Harrison will be able to contribute, and to what degree. So, UCLA would need one more tailback. If they lost Ebell, it would make it far more acceptable to take a back that they might not have without the scholarship available. It would be interesting to see if UCLA could turn around and offer more backs, such as Terrell Jackson, who, you could make the case, is just as good potentially as Ebell. UCLA has also always liked Jamaal Floyd.
Taking a fullback might not happen because of a lack of scholarships. UCLA, also, is fairly deep at fullback, even though it's questionable whether the younger players on the depth chart (Jimmy Stephens, Michael Pitre and Nikola Dragovic) are good enough. UCLA would have to either have some scholarships open up between now and February, or miss on prospects they need at other positions more for them to take a fullback. As of right now, Daniel Howell looks to be the candidate at the position that UCLA could take.
With one commitment from Ryan Graves, UCLA probably only has room for one more receiver, unless two elite prospects want to come. UCLA is still involved with some elite-level talent, and among them, probably has the best chance with Adrian Arrington. Marcus Montgomery is another possibility, but academics could be a deal killer. The prospect that is emerging as the most likely candidate for that other receiver scholarship is Marcus Everett. A good student and a great all-around athlete, Everett, many scouts have said this season, is potentially an elite-level talent. And UCLA leads for him. If UCLA gets Everett to go along with Graves, it would be considered by those in-the-know as a good WR class. If they added Arrington, say, it could be an elite class.
It's a position of need, with a true freshman next year definitely getting a chance at playing time. UCLA lost two of its targets to USC in Jimmy Miller and Dale Thompson. It will get visits from two of the best in the country but is probably a longshot for each of them. They are the #1 tight end in the country, Zach Miller and Tate Casey. Andrew Pettas, Kenton Thornton and recent new name Caesar Rayford are probably better bets. After that, the tight end crop gets a bit thin. If UCLA misses on any of these four, they could pull out a surprise, unknown name at this position, definitely needing to sign a tight end in February.
UCLA has commitments from three high school players and one JC lineman. There are three – Villafuerte, Tevaga and Skaggs – that most likely project as interior players, with Abraham looking to be a tackle. So, UCLA could very well be done with its interior line recruiting, unless an elite talent decides to commit. But it definitely needs to get a commitment from at least one more tackle type.
The ideal prospect is Thomas Herring, but UCLA is running, at best, third, behind USC and Miami. UCLA is trying hard with Herring, which has kept them in his top five, but many believe he's already committed to USC.
UCLA has really stepped it up with Jon Ioane, and looks to possibly be offering him soon. He could play tackle or guard. The other most likely to be a Bruin would be Geoff Schwartz, the son of two Bruin alumni who was recently re-offered. UCLA has also been keeping Cameron Filkins warm.
If UCLA misses on players that project more as tackles, they're so desperate for OLs they'll take the best guard prospects. Aaron Meyer from Louisiana could be a possibility, as could Mark Gray, Adam Speer. If UCLA gets Ioane and Schwartz to go along with the four already committed, it'd be a respectable OL class. If it can add a Smith or Klovas, that would give it quite a boost. It would be a good class to project to making an impact within a couple of years, but tough to think that they'd be able to contribute next year, when UCLA needs some talent influx. The most probably high schoolers among this list that might be able to come in and make an impact on the OL next year would be Klovas or Smith, and maybe Tevaga would have a chance at the two deep. Villafuerte, as a JC, will be the most developed, and it would be very good if he could come in and compete. The word, though, is that he's just a solid player and not necessarily of the level that could impact next year. There has been word that UCLA could possibly be looking at other JC OLs, such as Ernie Pelayo (6-4, 270, San Diego Southwestern), or a new name, Sam Downs (6-4, 275, Grossmont). Downs is a fully qualified freshman and some scouts believed he's among the best JC OLs in Southern California this season. But it's uncertain just how seriously UCLA is recruiting them.
UCLA isn't involved with as many highly-ranked OLs as you would like. But there is a concerted move by the coaching staff to get away from the trend by UCLA in the last several years to get big, mammoth OLs and go for smaller, faster ones. Perhaps the coaching staff, in doing so, is scouting and evaluating with a different eye, which could very well prove to disprove the rankings.
Analysis of recruiting for defense coming soon....