Open Mike

Hey guys,

First off, thanks for all the kind words and the get-wells as I deal with this biblical plague. It seems to have passed, and I haven’t broken out in boils, but I’m still a little feeble-boned.

I was feeling well enough to go through with lengthy sit-down interviews with Joe Tresey and Mike Johnson today for a two-man Q&A that will run next week, but I also asked Johnson one question about recruiting, about why he seems to love it so much, and well…(mind you, this is one answer, one five-minute answer:

“I believe that everything in life revolves around relationships, including recruiting. I love going out and talking to people. I love going out and selling a vision, a passion and a core conviction of beliefs I have inside. I believe that UCLA football can be a BCS-bowl football team and I believe that if I go out and do my job effectively in the inner-city of Los Angeles, and a couple areas around the nation, that we can bring the talent in here to get to that point.

This is a great academic institution, this is a great campus, and you’re sitting right here in the heart of Los Angeles, which is a great place to go to school. I believe that part of it. I also believe that in the city of Los Angeles, there are enough kids out there with strong character, fight, desire, will and it is my job as the L.A. recruiter to go out and get these guys to understand what we can be.

Now, in saying that, I’m looking for a kid who is not necessarily looking to go to a program that has a pretty uniform or go to a school that is winning right now. I want the kid that is strong enough to jump on the train that is going in the wrong direction, stop it and turn it around. That is what we did at Oregon State. Those are the kids I recruited in Los Angeles that took that program to where we took it, to a Fiesta Bowl.

That deal right there is something that is different, and you have to be able to see that. I don’t necessarily deal with kids that don’t listen to me, that don’t listen to that vision. You don’t want those kids. There are a lot of kids out there who are hungry, who want to be something special, who want to be difference-makers.

I say this quote all the time: “Nothing splendid has ever been achieved except by those who believe they were different than their circumstance.” I try to recruit kids that think exactly like I do, that believe they can go in and affect change. That is exactly how I believe. I believe the future is not something we enter, the future is something we create.

I am never going to be a guy who is defined by circumstance. I go out in the inner-city in Los Angeles and the surrounding areas, the San Gabriel Valley, and I look for kids that have that type of character. Those are the strong-willed kids who will walk into the Coliseum, that will walk into Autzen Stadium in Eugene and compete. That will fight. That will not be intimidated. That will go out and bring this program back to where it needs to be.

I absolutely love talking to people. So I get a chance to recruit L.A., from L.A., and that is a dream of mine, something I am passionate about. I have a good feeling for who is listening and who is not. It’s like I always did as I was younger and wasn’t married with women. I’ve always liked who liked me. That was it. I always like who liked me. It wasn’t always necessarily the prettiest girl, not necessarily the most glamorous girl. I liked who liked me. That’s the same way I recruit.

If you are a kid who is strong enough to say, ‘I can make a difference, I can take the UCLA program back to where it is supposed to be, where it’s been in the past,’ then you’re the kid I want to talk to. If you’re a prima-donna, if you’re a guy who just wants to go to a program that is on top right now or has a pretty uniform, then you go right ahead.

You’ll be the ones we beat in a couple years.”

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  • Anonymous

    Whoa. How can you not fight for this man? Any player not giving his all for this coach is a player I don’t want to see on the team.

  • JC

    Well people are going to say talk is cheap, but I love what I’m seeing and hearing from Mike Johnson. Now it needs to translate on the field.

  • Jono

    LOVE IT!

  • rejn

    OUTSTANDING!

    Blessings to you, coach!

  • Bob

    I get the feeling Mike doesn’t think our uniforms are cool.

  • diehardbruin

    I love this guy!

  • Reformed Droog

    Is it wrong that I just got half-chub? (I’m reserving full wood until I see the results on the field…)

  • Brock

    mike johnson for our next head coach! haha. i kid i kid.

  • cliq

    so what are you reserving the load for?

  • Reformed Droog

    Conference title, of course.

  • Ocean Blue

    Nice little puff piece. Certainly there is nothing here that would indicate Coach Johnson is a bad guy or has some sort of demons in his closet. Far from it, he seems to be a stand-up sort and someone with integrity and pride.

    Good for him and good for Ucla.

    But seriously, how is what this guy is saying any different from what any other recruiter/coach at any other program has said at any other time?

    Just like Neuheisel’s pep talks and optimism are the same stuff every other coach peddles, Coach Johnson’s passion isn’t unique at all.

    But at least he’s more animated than the comatose Norm Chow.

  • Deja Vu

    His answer started strong but I’m afraid it started to sound Dorrellesque at the end. Only wanting players that want to come here and already like the program. I prefer Neu’s style of making players like the program and going after the best.

  • UB (Ultimate Bruin)

    Show me on the field of play . . . .

  • King J77

    @ Deja Vu

    I see it differently. I take that comment to mean that he isn’t going to continue recruiting guys who won’t come to UCLA and fight to make this a winning program. Because at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if we have a top 10 recruiting class if those guys aren’t coming in to compete and be the best players possible. I take it as, he isn’t going to promise a guy that he’s gonna start right away, he isn’t going to talk about how many uniforms they can wear because that s#it don’t matter. He wants to talk about how much ass kicking you will be able to do under him if you come to work hard at UCLA. He’s trying to tell these kids that schools like $C and Oregon ain’t $hit and that you can go there and be part of “tradition” and “shiny outfits” if you want but you’ll be on the losing end of UCLA when we meet.

  • BruinFaithful

    He had me until he said this:

    “It’s like I always did as I was younger and wasn’t married with women. I’ve always liked who liked me. That was it. I always like who liked me. It wasn’t always necessarily the prettiest girl, not necessarily the most glamorous girl. I liked who liked me. That’s the same way I recruit.”

    So, he’s saying his recruiting strategy is to go after kids nobody else is paying attention to and like them and pay a lot of attention to them, so that they will like us? And even though UCLA isn’t the prettiest or most glamorous school, these recruits will like us because they don’t really have other options and we show them a lot of love?

    Well, that makes sense. NOT!!!!

  • http://www.insidesocal.com/ucla Jon Gold

    Man, Faithful, I could not have interpreted that more differently.

  • BruinFaithful

    Sorry Jon,

    But how else could that be interpreted? The antithesis of that, which I considered, would be that he’s going to show kids a lot of love. But, doesn’t every school do that? If he meant otherwise, I think he chose a really bad analogy, with the whole him liking who liked him thing. Or does he really think kids are going to like and come to UCLA because he shows them a lot of attention?

  • BruinFaithful

    BTW Jon,

    I’m glad you’re feeling better and I wouldn’t have known any different, had you not told us. Your coverage didn’t skip a beat.

  • TruBruin

    Faithless,
    You are the typical individual who only sees things one way, your way, and anyone who thinks different is,….well…..wrong. Your inner conflict must be overwhelming because “Faith” is never and has never been a part of your narrow minded opinions…..

  • TruBruin

    Black and White that is………..are you Female?

  • BruinFaithful

    TruBruin:

    Listen man, first of all, I wasn’t asking you. Second of all, there is NO need for name calling or personal attacks. If you want to dissect and have an educated discussion regarding the topic, fine. Thirdly, I was merely asking for clarity. In the current state of the program, clarity is paramount. As the previous message of hope and faith of future success is becoming mute. I was not there, so I can not read Johnson’s non verbal communication and neither can you. Based purely on Johnson’s comment, which I quoted, my comment has merit. I did not pass judgement on anybody being right or wrong, as you claim.

    With regards to faith, I support and root for my team faithfully and regardless of results. That is the definition behind my handle. The other faith, such as faith in this and previous coaching staffs, is earned. And they have FAILED miserably at earning it. I supported CRN faithfully when he was hired, but he has done his best to errode that faith. If you are too stupid to realize this is the SHOW ME faze of his tenure, and not the FAITH faze, well, then that is your own personal choice and short coming. I really like and respect Mike Johnson, but he will have to earn that FAITH, as will this whole coaching staff.

    There are many people listening and watching, not just us, recruits included. They are looking for direction. What is this new staff about? What do they stand for? Again, that message MUST be LOUD and CLEAR.

    If this blog is not about opinion, then what is it about? My opinions have merit and are often poignant. But thank you for taking a page out of Kobe’s greatest hits and exposing yourself as a homophobe and anti-feminist by 1.) questioning my manhood and 2.) insulting women.

  • Fleeinghomework

    @BruinFaithful: “It’s like I always did as I was younger and wasn’t married with women. I’ve always liked who liked me. That was it. I always like who liked me. It wasn’t always necessarily the prettiest girl, not necessarily the most glamorous girl. I liked who liked me. That’s the same way I recruit.”
    He never refers to his own appearance, and it himself that he compares to UCLA for the analogy. He’s saying that he’s not looking for the player who all the guys (other coaches) are after, he’s looking for the player who can work with him and his personal coaching philosophy. In the end, I believe this is much more important to the success of a program than the best recruits. (As we’ve seen over the past couple years.)
    Also, chill out. His question about being female was because the quote would have meant something completely different if Mike Johnson was a woman; a woman would probably interpret the quote differently.

  • BruinFaithful

    TruBruin and Others:

    BTW, if you disagree with my comments, maybe you should look at the message, 29 year old Tosh Lopoi is successfully sending over at Cal, which just finished 5-7. He kicked our tails for many recruits this year and probably recruited the best defensive class in the country. He also coached a top 15 defense against the run. Don’t you think UCLA deserves the same, if not better? Read here:

    http://sports.espn.go.com/ncaa/recruiting/football/news/story?id=6272961

    As many of you have wrongly speculated here in the past, he is not a Pacific Islander and that did not factor in his success of recruiting that ethnic group. He is actually Italian, but success and passion transcend color barriers.

    TruBruin:

    Questioning authority is healthy, it effects change. Just like questioning my Government doesn’t make me a terrorist or an Anti- American radical, questioning the Bruins Staff does not make me unfaithful. It means I care enough to criticize my own. But you probably wouldn’t know that, since your such a conformist.

    Since I know your going to ask, I will preempt you. I am actually up this late working, because I care. Just like Tedford and Lopoi cared enough to sleep in their offices 4 nights a week. I wonder how many Bruin coaches care enough to do the same.

  • BruinFaithful

    Fleeing:

    I understand that take, and I considered it, but that still doesn’t cut it. Saying he’s interested in who likes us. You are however wrong on TruBruin’s comment, he asked me if I was a woman.

  • http://www.insidesocal.com/ucla Jon Gold

    First of all, everyone take it down a notch. Not important enough to have heated emotions.

    Here’s the deal, Faithful: You make it seem like if UCLA doesn’t go for the 5-stars, they’re going for the no-stars. That just simply isn’t how it is. I’ll give you a perfect example of a kid UCLA should go for right now: Devin Lucien. Lucien has zero, and I mean zero, zero, zero prima donna attitude. He is extremely hard-working and humble, and he understand that every day is a chance to improve to the ultimate goal. That is not the NFL. That is being a part of a winning system and school.

    Look at Oregon’s recruits until this year, particularly at wide receiver and quarterback. Nothing special. I’ve written multiple times, I think one of UCLA’s problems recently was not recruiting the second-tier athlete who would bust his ass and try to become a first-tier talent. How the Bruins weren’t on TO’s Richard Mullaney, Westlake’s Nelson Spruce, and even Lucien, because it took them a while to show major interest in him, is baffling.

    Recruiting is not an exact science. It’s not even an inexact science. There’s no science to it. It’s about finding a kid who will pursue the excellence that you set for him. At some programs, that means insanely talented guys with terrible attitudes. Because for every Robert Woods, there is a Markeith Ambles.

    Regarding the, “I’ve always liked who likes me comment,” that does not mean, “I only like ugly girls, because that’s all I can get.” It means he has the confidence to pursue talent, but he understands that if the attitude doesn’t match that talent, if the player doesn’t prove that he is up to Johnson’s standards, someone else can have the headache.

  • Karl Dorrell

    I LOVE this Johnson guy!

  • TruBruin

    Listen man, Try and lighten up a little, you may very well jump off a bridge if you sustain your personal expectations for the Bruins. In 40 years of attending Bruin football games and following the program closely, disappointment often times (especially recently)overshadows the excitement. Anyone who has read my post over the years knows that I have held the program accountable for the mediocrity. Hell, Dohn even reprimanded me for it and other softy Bruin fans on the blog questioned that I was even a fan because I was so bent out of shape during the Dorrell years, conformist I
    am not. But Dude, your so damn bitter and very black and white! Your right though man, Im a homophobe women hater because of me joking that your black and white views are very similar to my wife (and many but not all women) of 22 years. Look up “Faith” in the dictionary….wait im going to use caps to underscore my strong feelings about the meaningless crap..LOOK UP “FAITH IN THE DICTIONARY” because your guote, “I really like and respect Mike Johnson, but he will have to earn that FAITH”……Faith is not earned its belief that is not based on proof. I respect your passion for the Bruins but “faith” is not a part of the equation when it comes to your opinions. I seriously wonder how long you have been a Bruin Fan because your type of expectations are the ones that UCLA football has never consistently met in the past.
    BTW, Tedford and Cal is a joke and he is the most overpaid coach in college football, They do absolutely nothing with their talent and are consistently mediocre. Hell, if you were a Cal fan you would have probably jumped off the bridge already

  • Reformed Droog

    To be fair, TruBruin, BruinFaithful was stating his opinion and you jumped down his throat, set him off, then came back to tell him to lighten up.

    We should all strive to challenge each other respectfully, no?

  • BruinFaithful

    Jon,

    I understand we have recruited the 5 stars, but that talent has not been developed and as proved this year, the message of hope has been muted. There is only so many years you can sell change and hope for. I also COMPLETELY agree that we need to recruit more kids like Devin Lucien. Kids with a chip on their shoulder. Kids with something to prove.

    However, the Oregon example doesn’t fit because they run a completely different system. A system that maximizes their strengths. We try to fit a square peg into a hole. I have said for years that, with the defficiencies we have on O, we should run a Spread Offense. As it gives us the best chance to win. A spread is the perfect system for a school with major issues on the O Line. You also don’t need the best or most athletic players to run it. You do need a smart QB, who has a gunslinger mentality, but not necessarily the strongest arm. You also need posession WR’s who run good routes and are smart enough to get to the right spots and a decent back and that’s it. Look at Boise St., TCU, and Oregon.

    What TCU is doing, is just AMAZING. I just watched Gruden’s QB Camp on ESPNU with Andy Dalton the other night. I was impressed, smart tough QB. Again, nowhere near the most athletic or strongest armed QB. They ran this weakside option play, where the Center hikes the ball at a 45 degree angle to the QB who is already in motion. The QB already on the move, in one seemless motion, then quickly catches the ball, makes the DE bite, and pitches it to the TB who runs for a deep gain. Just AMAZING. Even Gruden was astounded. We DON’T play smart FB. We play stupid possession FB, to try to control the clock and keep our D and their O off the field. Well, that’s a great strategy if you have a BIG bruising physical Offense.

    Honestly, with the backfield talent we have. I would love to see us run a few Wishbone plays. With Hundley or Prince at QB, and Barr at FB and James and Franklin and maybe Thigpen at TB. WOW!!!!

    Tru,

    Say what you will about Tedford, but he’s a good smart coach. His stuff doesn’t always work, but boy when it does. This year on our trip to Berkeley, he gave us about 5-6 different looks. Just off the top of my head he ran Option, Spread, Pro, Wildcat, and a Zone Read, similar to Pistol. They punched us in the mouth from the opening kick off. And let me tell you, Tedford does a LOT more with his talent than we do. He has NEVER had anywhere near the talent we have recruited the last 3 great classes. Since he has been there his classes have been ranked 62, 24, 29, 9, 23, 12, 32, 34, 27, and 15. Very average if you ask me. He took a 1-10 team to a 7-5 record the next year. Maybe Cal has reached their ceiling. But right now, if you tell me you wouldn’t take 10-2 or 10-3 or 9-4 or 8-4 or even 8-5, you are crazy. Only once since 1999 has UCLA been better than Tedford’s worse record, before last year.