Dorrell: Issues at the Crossroads

One year after Karl Dorrell took over the UCLA football program, and on the heels of a disappointing season, he's dealing with a number of issues -- including player support, recruiting and academics -- that have kept him quite busy in December...

The football program under first-year head coach Karl Dorrell is definitely at a crossroads situation.

Coming off a disappointing season, under a first-year head coach who is still more or less an unknown commodity, Dorrell has some challenges currently within the program.

Player Support

While most of the player like Dorrell as a person and know him to be a hard worker, he still hasn't won them over completely when it comes to respecting him as a football coach. Since the end of the season there have been reports from within the program that a number of players have been considering transferring. With just about any program, even successful ones, there will be players talking about transferring in December, mostly because of playing time issues. It's not by any means a great number of players, but more than the average amount for this time of year. Some do transfer, as did Matt Moore, but some just talk about it and ultimately stay. But there has been some additional sentiment about transferring this season because of the players' doubts about Dorrell and whether the program has a chance to succeed under him.

There has also been some dissatisfaction among the players in regards to the relationships with their position coaches. Again, much of this is what you could expect from any program, but it's also probably a bit compounded by the situation. A few players who have been contemplating transferring have been told that the problems they were experiencing with a specific position coach could be rectified after the season. Meaning: there will be changes within the coaching staff.

Rumors still persist that "changes" will be made to the coaching staff. But it's still unclear as to exactly what those changes will be.

Dorrell, overall, has kept to his plan, and remained steadfast in following the course he believes will make the program successful. There have been reports of team meetings where Dorrell has challenged the players – telling them that if they didn't want to play hard, be dedicated and stay the course, they could leave.

Dorrell has also done some things a bit differently since bowl practice has begun. He's more vocal and involved in all phases of practice, with a few players commenting about how much more he's talked in practice in the last week. He has shown in many ways that he's trying to get more involved, one day this week at practice throwing some passes to the receivers. The coach is trying to further enhance and improve the atmosphere around the team – and is making an effort to create a better energy himself. It contributed to the plan to visit Universal Studios as a team Thursday.

As of now, from many reports, the general consensus of the players is what you might expect: They're willing to go to bat for Dorrell but their jury is still out, so to speak, on whether they're convinced the program is on the path to success under him. Most of the players want to give Dorrell enough time to prove himself. Recruiting

As most BRO readers know, recruiting this season has been drastically different than it has in years past. First, with a 6-6 season and a disappointing offense, UCLA has had to work to sell itself to recruits. As a result of the season, and the jury still being out on Dorrell, it's very easy to perceive that UCLA hasn't been involved with as many highly-ranked recruits.

UCLA has gotten commitments from some fairly unknown prospects, both from the high school and JC ranks. Now, of course, with recruiting, you can never determine how successful it is until a few years down the line. Over the years, though, the rankings of recruits have generally held true – that the recruits that are ranked highly out of high school generally prove to be the better college players. It would lead you to believe that UCLA is struggling to recruit the elite players and has opted for others. But you can't completely dismiss the notion that the staff could be out-evaluating other staffs and finding some true sleepers. This staff has clearly recognized a need for quicker, smaller and more athletic offensive linemen. Again, whether this staff has done a revolutionary job of evaluating and recruiting or, in fact, the recruits they're bringing in are generally what their reputations make them out to be, remains to be seen.

We do know that the coaching staff, while blaming themselves both privately and publicly for what happened on the field this year, also does believe that the team lacked the talent to win this season. They believe they needed an influx of talent quickly, and have gone to the JC ranks in trying to get some quick fixes. For years the story we've heard from UCLA is that it's very difficult for the Bruins to recruit JCs, and it's generally true. Most of the players UCLA is able to recruit from a JC had to be qualified out of high school and then continued to have good academics while at the JC. So, the JC pool has always been limited, but you have to give the coaching staff credit this recruiting season for putting in the work to recognize the JC recruits that UCLA could recruit, and then doing it. In the Bob Toledo era, since it is difficult for UCLA to recruit JCs, the choice was made to not go through the JC process and not recruit JCs at all. This staff, perhaps out of perceived necessity, has recruited whatever it could among JCs.

Whether the JC recruits that come to UCLA next year will provide a real upgrade in talent also remains to be seen.

With 17 commitments from JC and high school players, though, UCLA finds itself with just six open scholarships for next year. That would be assuming that suspended OL Alex Potasi does not return to the team and his scholarship is available, and John Sciarra does indeed transfer and his scholarship is available as well.

As stated above, there are reports from around the program that a few current players are currently considering transferring, beside what we've reported about John Sciarra. It could be very well where UCLA gets additional scholarships to give to the current class because of transfers.

It's been learned that UCLA could also get some scholarships available for other reasons, such as medical reasons, and academics.

In regards to academics, a week ago there were some people panicking in the Morgan Center over the first-quarter grades of the football team. With the new NCAA rules that dictates a student athlete has to pass two classes a quarter or can immediately be ineligible for the next quarter, there were some considerable worries that some players wouldn't be eligible as a result of fall quarter. The latest news is that most of the team looks to be in the clear, even though the entire team's academic results from the first quarter have yet to be known.

Overall, with the issues facing him concerning player support, recruiting, the coaching staff, academics and much more, Karl Dorrell is definitely making a concerted effort to push through them. All reports indicate that he is steadfast in his faith that he is on the right course.

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