Sometimes it’s really funny to watch UCLA fans go through the roller-coaster of emotions.
UCLA’s 2011 class ran the gamut – utter jubilation at times, downright depression at other, probably even the five stages of grief. Throughout yesterday, which started on a sour note with the commitment of Jalen Grimble to Miami – and to be clear, yes, UCLA was still in on Grimble when I made the “Just a note” post, and many experts were saying the same thing – the tenor of the fan reaction dropped and rose and dropped and rose and dropped and ultimately rose once more, settling into a sort of a nervous calm.
Call it fans being resigned to their fate, but I guess my question all along was, why were you surprised?
I had one UCLA fan on Facebook go from calling Rick Neuheisel “The Big Whiffer” to the “Best closer in the game” in a span of a week. And right back the other way, too. When Torian White “committed” to USC yesterday, you would’ve thought the Hindenberg crashed into Spaulding Field.
And I just didn’t get it.
This was a 4-8 team…the second in four years…without a defensive coordinator…after a downright baffling situation with the offensive coordinator spot…and an embattled coach who is fending off a ton of scorn from fans and media.
What did you expect?
To get Brett Hundley, and to get him to become the “face” of the recruiting class was alone a coup. But to also add guys like Kevin McReynolds and Devin Lucien on signing day was critical. Ultimately, I can understand the frustration of signing day, especially with USC cleaning up, with the exception of DeAnthony Thomas (Wow!, might I add). Coming after a couple years of massive signing day success must sting. I get it.
But the problem was NOT with how UCLA closed, but with how it opened.
Did you notice who “spurned” UCLA yesterday? Grimble, from Nevada, and Tony Steward, from Florida. Earlier, it was Cyrus Hobbi, from Arizona. And there were more earlier in the process.
A lot has been said about how UCLA pulled from other states last season, getting Owa Odighizuwa from Oregon and Aramide Olaniyan from Virginia. Two huge signings, to be sure.
Malcolm Jones, Cassius Marsh, Chris Ward, Jordan Zumwalt, Anthony Barr, Jordon James, Dietrich Riley, Anthony Jefferson. California, California, California…you get it.
I get the feeling that Rick Neuheisel got a bit too optimistic – haven’t we heard that before? – in his vision for the future, and in no way, none whatsoever, expected UCLA to crash to 4-8 this season. I remember him looking me straight in the eye before spring ball telling me he expected eight wins. I gave him a chance to qualify the answer. He didn’t. He was that optimistic.
But it seems that UCLA went out and recruited accordingly, ignoring some key California players.
To be fair, Lucien, White, Ben Wysocki, etc. are all good prospects.
But if you think I’m just a Thousand Oaks High honk, ask Brandon Huffman what he thinks about Richard Mullaney. Kid had 121 catches for over 1,600 yards and 20 touchdowns, against one of the toughest high school football schedules in California, and he barely gets any interest? No offer? And to show I’m fair and balanced as always: What about Westlake’s Nelson Spruce?
Or #35 RB Jordan Perkins out of Lodi, who flipped from Stanford to Northwestern. Maybe gotten in on Duke-bound Blair Holliday a little earlier and given him an offer before making a mad dash at the end. There’s La Mirada OT Bryan Peters, who went to Kansas, and didn’t appear to have any interest from UCLA.
Look, I’m not professing to know all of these kid’s back stories, and I certainly don’t know most of their SAT scores, but in my talks with recruiting guys, the common consensus is that coming off a 7-6 season, UCLA coaches thought they could go big, and after 4-8, they couldn’t.
On ESPN yesterday, Urban Meyer warned Oregon of the same thing last night, saying that they shouldn’t just go five-star hunting because of their success this season. I couldn’t agree more.
Perhaps Rick Neuheisel will remember that next season, particularly given the amount of talent on the west coast. Maybe he won’t even be tempted to look too far outside California.