As most of you have heard, UCLA has released Josh Shirley, Shaquille Richardson and Paul Richardson from their letters of intent, making them re-recruitable by other teams and available to join other programs immediately.
So what does this all mean?
Well, first and foremost, I think it is the nail on the coffin on the “Slick Rick” moniker. Now, I’m not saying he won’t toe the line and make borderline decisions on occasion – I truly believe that any coach needs to play that line with utmost care – but the recent trend of good behavior no longer appears to be a trend. With this decision – not just delaying their enrollment but actually allowing them to choose new schools – it’s not only clear that Neuheisel is running a cleaner ship, but that he’s making it known to recruits and players.
Secondly, the loss of these three players might not be so damning. Shirley was clearly the most coveted player, and for good reason. But he would’ve joined an incredibly cluttered linebacker corps, and the Richardsons were to join crowded positions – wideout and cornerback – as well. Not saying these aren’t great players and top recruits. They certainly are. But the loss of, say, a Cassius Marsh or an Owa would be devastating. This should just sting a bit.
Thirdly, I wouldn’t completely close the book on these guys just yet. I’m sure Neuheisel has made it clear to them that there would be a difficult road back. However, any school who signs recruits with pending felons will face plenty of critics. I would be surprised if any school jumps on them just yet, at least with the charges pending.
Now, I’ve heard from several people that Shirley strongly denies involvement. I’ve tried to reach him, but he hasn’t returned my attempts, and I’d be surprised if he did any time soon. A very difficult situation, I’m sure.
Lastly, I know how important recruiting is to a program, truly the lifeblood and the future. But ultimately, a coach has to make a decision for the direction of his program. Neuheisel did. Like it or not, Neuheisel did.