Jon Gold: Last year, as the team collapsed to 4-8, all the momentum and all the excitement from early in the recruiting period dried up by October. This year, there’s almost no buzz. Is it even worth following UCLA recruiting now, given how much the in-season performance will mean for the overall class?
Brandon Huffman: Exactly. If you look at the spring going into what became Karl Dorrell’s final season, he had nine commits one day in march. Coming off a win over USC, not that uncertainty of 4-8, some were pegging it as a Top-25 team, and then the wheels fall off. Now you look at this season, and it’s kind of a make-or-break year for Neuheisel, and they still don’t have any guys commit. And it might take a while, too. Probably the earliest would be June when they have their camps. It’s kind of funny because if you look at the year coming off Neuheisel’s first season, their first commit was Julious Moore, he didnt stick, and Tevin McDonald and Wesley Flowers, and that was middle of June. And that was selling a 4-8 season, too.
JG: But isn’t it to be expected, given all the turmoil on the coaching staff and the lack of success…
“No, I don’t think this is what should’ve been expected, especially when you think they went 7-6 in Year Two, but I understand it. Going 4-8 in Year One isn’t tough. You’re just building a program. You go 7-6 and you tell the class, see we just won the bowl game. Now they were 4-8, worse than they were even in Neuheisel’s first season to me, and now what are you selling? You’re selling a true freshman quarterback – albeit with a lot of potential – a lot of turnover with positional coaches, especially at key parts, especially defensive line coach/LA recruiter in Todd Howard. Recruiting has changed so much – you have to get on these guys as sophomores and juniors. You lose that if you fire a coach in January or February of a kid’s junior year.
JG: It really just seems like we’re not going to know a thing about this class until late October…
“That’s being generous. They might start off strong, but they have the meat of theirPpac-12 schedule kicking in around then. Even with last year, they were 3-2, with a win over Texas and on the surface it’s, “Hey maybe you got some things going.” Then the wheels come off, and they end up with very mediocre class. October is fool’s gold. Yeah they’ll have played Texas and Stanford, but those last five games are the determining factor in the season and will play a big role in recruits they might get. ASU is starting to be aggressive in SoCal, and they come in during November, and many predict they’ll be the top team in the Pac-12 South, so we’ll know more then. I don’t think recruits are going to look at four or five games, but the season as a whole. There are still going to be a guy who makes early commit because he loves the school, but for the elite guys, who tend to wait til the end, they want to see games 1-12.
JG: So then what’s next for UCLA recruiting? When will they get a commit?
“I think a lot of it depends on the kind of guys they get into camp. Bigger deal is how aggressive the new assitants are. Mike Johnson is not only recruiting LA, but he’s the offensive coordinator. Is he a Norm Chow? Or is he a Dwayne Walker? Is Neuheisel going to be the face of UCLA recruiting, or is he going to let his coaches do ace recruiting? That’s the potential that Mike Johnson and Inoke Breckterfield have, guys who both know the west coast landscape. I don’t know how Tresey is going to do on the west coast – he seems more of a football guy than a recruiter. But you’ve got two guys who know the Pac-12 landscape – guys who played or coached in the Pac-10 – so they know what they have to sell. Now Breckterfield has to show he’s not just a position guy but is an ambitious young recruiter. Look at the best recruiter in the conference, away from Ed Orgeron, is Tosh Lupoi. He’s known as being an ace recruiter. He gets guys in, gets a couple drafted. Breckterfield is going to have that potential.”