JC players generally struggle to get past UCLA academic admissions, so in the past former coaching staffs didn't look much to the JUCO ranks for players.
Rick Neuheisel, however, out of necessity, had to go the JC route with the incoming class. He wanted an immediate infusion of players who were physically ready to play, especially in the trenches, so he had to go to the JCs.
Neuheisel then got commitments from four JC linemen and, initially, it appeared that it would, indeed, be difficult to get these four past UCLA admissions. It seemed the old stigma of UCLA recruiting JCs might hold true.
But we were told that Neuheisel has been doing wonders in working with UCLA's admissions committee, in terms of high school prospects as well as JCs.
It seems like this very well could be the case with the four JC linemen.
UCLA already has one JC lineman enrolled and participating in spring practice, Ryan Taylor. The other three – OL/DL Eddie Williams, OT Shawn Johnson and DT Branden Warner – were apparently tougher academic fits, but in recent weeks we've learned that they, too, now have a legitimate chance of enrolling and playing at UCLA.
At this point, perhaps the one with the best chance is Williams, from Mt. SAC. UCLA is expecting him to be ready to enroll in summer and be on the field for fall camp in August. It's a big accomplishment since Williams could be the most valuable – able to play both offensive guard and defensive tackle, and getting very good reviews at Mt. SAC.
Because UCLA lacks defensive tackles, Warner, from Compton JC, is also highly prized. He has his academics in order, but there has been a snafu with paperwork, from what we've heard. According to sources, Warner has to get all of his outside course work sent to Compton, and then Compton won't release that and any other paperwork until he pays two full years of tuition. Once that gets settled, he'll then have to apply for his AA. It's believed that Warner will get this done, and it's even likely he'll have it completed in time to enroll in summer school at UCLA.
Johnson had thought to be the longest shot to get admitted, but lately we're hearing that he's done work to put him on track to also be enrolled in June.
Much of the difference with these JC players compared to others is, in the past, when UCLA got to this point with JC recruits, the recruits opted to go elsewhere. But Neuheisel and his staff have done a good job of keeping the JC prospects focused on coming to UCLA, which is a considerable achievement when they probably could jump through less academic hoops and enroll at another Pac-10 school.
Neuheisel, also, isn't done looking at the JCs for linemen. Buoyed by the improved enrollment chances of this class's JC linemen, and the fact that he still wants some more immediate help at the line of scrimmage, the head coach continues to look to the JCs for the class of 2010. In fact, we've heard that he could very well be far more open to taking JC players at other positions at this point.
There were contingents from Fullerton College, West Hills College, El Camino College, and L.A. Harbor College at Saturday's practice. While JC players have routinely visited UCLA's practice in the past, there now is a different feeling toward them since there is a better chance they could actually transfer in to UCLA now.
Here are a few of the JC prospects UCLA is currently considering:
John Cullen, OL, 6-6, 270, Fullerton (Calif.) College. Cullen came to Saturday's practice and looked physically ready to play. He's a well-put-together kid, without much excess weight on that 6-6 body, which makes you think he could easily put on more bulk. Most Recent Recruiting Update
Clayton Davis, OL, 6-3, 290, Coalinga (Calif.) West Hills College. We don't know much about Davis, but we've heard he's considered a good prospect and he attended practice Saturday.
Derious Simmons, OL, 6-7, 280, Torrance (Calif.) El Camino. Simmons is a physically very imposing specimen. His academic situation is unknown and, actually, his playing ability is pretty unknown. But man, he passes the eyeball test.
Montel Gamble, WR, 6-2, 180, Coalinga (Caif.) West Hills. Originally from Georgia, he has good size.
Dameron Fooks, WR, 6-3, 195, Fullerton (Calif.) College. Very good-sized receiver who had some looks out of high school.
Kyle Sharman, DL, 6-1, 265, Los Angeles (Calif.) Harbor College. Originally from Redondo Union High, has been very effective as a defensive end at the JC level.
Jake Whiting, TE, 6-4, 245, Fullerton (Calif.) College. Originally from Serrano High, he's a good physical body.
Justin Niutapuai, DT, 6-0, 280, Costa Mesa (Calif.) Orange Coast College. Niutapuai actually has decent academics, and he's getting interest from some BCS schools.
Trevor Roberson, DT, 6-6, 305, Los Altos (Calif.) Foothill College. Roberson could be one of the best JC prospects in the west. UCLA hasn't been on him much yet.
Brice Schwab, OL, 6-8, 320, San Marcos (Calif.) Palomar. Could be the JC OL in California getting the most recruiting attention. He hasn't as of yet expressed much interest in UCLA.