UCLA, currently, only has 10 scholarships available for the class. Of course, it's likely more will become available, but you probably can't bet on more than 15-18 ultimately being signed to this class next February.
We've asserted before that basically this a "put-up" year for UCLA in recruiting. Rick Neuheisel has recruited well with his first three recruiting classes, selling recruits on the potential of his program. But the feeling now, with the 2012 class, is that it's now time that UCLA will have to show something substantial on the field if it hopes to recruit the same high quality it has in the last three recruiting classes.
We still believe that assertion, but the limited number of scholarships could potentially work for UCLA if the season isn't necessarily a greatly successful one. Simply, it's easier to find 10 or 12 four-star recruits that you can get to sign on the dotted line than it is to find 25.
So, yes, we believe that UCLA's season will greatly affect UCLA's recruiting for the 2011 class. But we're still confident, with so few scholarships to give, it might not affect it as much as it would have if UCLA had 25 rides it had to fill. Even now, three months before UCLA steps on the field for its first game of the 2010 season, it's not that difficult to project UCLA bringing in a pretty talented class among just the recruits the Bruins are doing well with currently. Of course, if UCLA went 10-2, the level of recruit talent would change markedly by December, but even so, if you take a reasonable guess right now at some of the recruits UCLA projects to bring in it's still a pretty talented – albeit small – class.
What really is going to make or break the class is how UCLA does in recruiting the most critical position on the field – quarterback. And at this point, UCLA is in a pretty precarious place in regards to quarterback recruiting. And here are some reasons why quarterback recruiting for 2011 is so critical.
First, let's look at the projected depth chart at the quarterback position for the next several years. UCLA this coming season will have a redshirt sophomore starter in Kevin Prince, presumably a true sophomore at the #2 spot in Richard Brehaut, and a redshirt sophomore in Nick Crissman.
We've also reported that Darius Bell, the quarterback at City College of San Francisco, is a real possibility to be enrolled by fall. We've recently heard that his academics aren't necessarily such a "done deal" as he implied a few weeks ago, but there's still a likely chance that Bell will be on the team by August. So, based on the odds, we'll include Bell in the depth chart. Next season he'll be a true sophomore, having four years to play three.
In a best-case scenario, let's say that Bell is good enough to back-up Prince this season and that enables Brehaut to redshirt.
Let's then look at quarterback depth for 2011:
Kevin Prince, R-JR
Nick Crissman, R-JR
Richard Brehaut – R-SO
Darius Bell -- JR
2011 QB – FR
That's looking pretty good, at least on paper.
But there are some variables here to consider. Will Brehaut stay at UCLA, if it looks like the first clear chance for him to be the starter isn't until the 2013 season, and as a redshirt senior? If he doesn't redshirt, it would make it very easy for him to transfer, being able to use the redshirt year to sit out per NCAA rules and not lose a year of eligibility. Will Nick Crissman be happy as a perennial back-up? He has redshirted, so that limits his chances to transfer to another D-1 program, but he could transfer to a D-2 program without losing a year or eligibility.
With four quarterbacks all bunched within two classes, there's probably a legitimate chance someone could transfer.
So, from that standpoint, getting a quarterback in 2011 is important.
Then, what if Prince, Brehaut, Crissman or Bell don't turn out to be high-level Pac-10 quarterbacks? That's not a stretch by any imagination. Prince has yet to truly prove himself, and the jury is definitely out on the rest.
There's another very solid reason that a 2011 quarterback is key.
Then, also, project a little further. After the 2012 season, UCLA conceivably could lose three – or maybe even four – quarterbacks all in one year. That would decimate your depth chart. In 2013, the depth chart could be topped by the 2011 signee as a redshirt sophomore. If you didn't sign a QB in 2011, the starter could be a redshirt freshman, and every UCLA fan knows how tough it is for any freshman quarterback to be effective. That scenario could potentially set back the program a couple of years.
The general rule is that a program bring in a quarterback every year. Given attrition, injury, etc., that's now considered the minimum. When UCLA lost its quarterback commitment for the 2010 class, Brett Nottingham, when he de-committed and signed with Stanford, that put UCLA in the position of missing on a quarterback for the 2010 class. Missing on one for 2011 would be devastating and, again, potentially set back the program considerably.
But UCLA has, so far, in recruiting the 2011 quarterbacks, found it a tough go. There has seemed to be some mis-calculations and mis-judgments on the part of UCLA, and it makes for a potentially worrisome scenario.
It was a bit of a departure for UCLA to offer a Santa Ana Mater Dei quarterback with any real thought that it'd have a chance of getting him. But that's what UCLA did with Max Wittek, who not surprisingly, verbally committed to USC. Of course, UCLA should have recruited Wittek, but sources were indicating that UCLA thought it had a real chance. It was evident in the fact that UCLA only had a very small handful of scholarship offers out to quarterbacks, an indication that UCLA felt it had a very strong chance with the guys it had offered, including Wittek.
UCLA offered Stephen Rivers, the prospect from Alabama, early on, but mutual interest has died. UCLA offered Kiehl Frazier, the #4-ranked quarterback in the nation, and there was a sentiment from the program that it had a real shot at Frazier – until he recently eliminated UCLA and then picked Auburn.
UCLA offered Cody Kessler, the prospect from Bakersfield, late in the game – and on the same day a few weeks ago when USC offered him. He just committed to USC this week. It's not difficult to say that UCLA missed the boat on Kessler by offering him so late.
It seems UCLA has been particularly picky in whom it has offered up to this point, while it doesn't seem to be in a position of strength to be that selective.
Right now, among the quarterbacks UCLA has offered, Brett Hundley, the very talented, #5-ranked prospect in the country from Arizona, is still on the board. UCLA is apparently doing well enough to be on Hundley's short list, but it's still pretty very uncertain whom Hundley will pick. Hometown Arizona is making a strong play, as is Texas A&M, among many others.
Now, if UCLA gets Hundley, really all the worries are allayed. Hundley is pretty much an ideal fit for Offensive Coordinator Norm Chow and even for UCLA's new "Revolver" offense.
But what if UCLA misses on Hundley?
And why has all this happened, in a recruiting year when a quarterback is so critical for UCLA?
There is the possibility that many quarterback recruits are afraid of going to UCLA in the same year as the head coach's son. There is no doubt Jerry Neuheisel is going to UCLA, and he'll get a real shot at being UCLA's quarterback. However, the word is that Neuheisel will grayshirt, and officially come in with the 2012 class, which would give the 2011 quarterback recruit more of an opportunity to establish himself. The point has been made that recruits could possibly be considering just how long Chow will be at UCLA. That could be a factor, but more than likely it isn't a particularly significant one. Of course, there is the draw for a quarterback recruit of studying under Chow, but right now the Chow offense hasn't necessarily been something that you would miss if he left. If UCLA's offense becomes successful enough that Chow potentially leaving is that significant it only means UCLA has had some considerable offensive success.
It's probably pretty logical to think that the main factor that has tempered the interest of quarterback recruits is the performance of UCLA's offense the last two years under Neuheisel and Chow. The Revolver has a chance to breathe some life into the Neuheisel/Chow offensive brand, but it also could very well be deemed unsuccessful. It's a true gamble, and you have to respect Neuheisel and Chow for having the guts to roll the dice like that.
If the offense, either the Revolver or the base, pro-style set, has success this upcoming season, and Prince has a successful year, then it's a whole new ball game for UCLA in quarterback recruiting. Recruits want to believe in the offensive pedigree of Chow and Neuheisel, but just need it to be manifested – even just a bit – on the field. If they see that, then you can probably anticipate the interest from quarterback recruits will heat up considerably.
If Bell does, in fact, come to UCLA this fall, it's believed that UCLA could only opt for one quarterback in the 2011 class, as opposed to what the two it had planned on bringing in. One one hand that makes it easier to recruit a quarterback, since they don't perceive they'll be directly competiting with another quarterback in their class. But on the other hand, it makes your margin for error smaller, and makes it far more critical that the quarterback you bring in is one that has a great chance of being an impact player.
Ultimately, you can't discount how important UCLA's recruiting of 2011 quarterbacks is to the program. Not just in this year, but in just about any year, the quarterbacks you bring will have a huge hand in deciding the fate of a program and its coach. You could easily make the case that the primary reason Bob Toledo's program at UCLA started sinking was merely because of a couple of years of unsuccessful quarterback recruiting. UCLA has had one clearly successful season in its last 10 years (2005), and it's not coincidental that it was the most productive year for a quarterback in the last 10. (Drew Olson threw for 34 touchdowns and 3,198 yards, the second most yards for a season in UCLA history.)
It's about the quarterback, and quarterback recruiting, stupid.