JG: So getting down to brass tacks, we talked about guys UCLA has gotten in late on, a guy like a Richard Mullaney, or a Blair Holliday. Who CAN’T they miss on this year? Who’s a backyard guy that they just need to get?
BH: First of all, you’re darn right about Mullaney, and there’s Dylan Wynn.
I’ll say on record right now: Butch Pau, 5-11 linebacker at Servite, pound-for-pound there’s not a better linebacker in the west. Not a better one. And he’ll get overlooked because of his size and then go out and become a stud like they all do. Gosh, look at Oregon State. Mullaney and Wynn. That’s the kind of guy Mike Riley wins with.”
JG: Looking back after spring ball, with a few players gone from the program and a few players in, what is the one major position of need for this class?
BH: They need offensive linemen. There has never been a better class than this year’s. You look at losing Nik Abele, Jeff Baca going down, just how fragile the offensive line has been with freak injuries. Losing Su’a-Filo? That’s one thing that is definitely encouraging – their biggest recruit is a guy who already started 13 games for them. They need Sua back, and that solves a lot of problems. Franchise left tackle. Granted, he may be coming back in different shape. But making sure he comes back will alleviate a lot of that. You look at that 2012 line, slide Sua in at left tackle, Baca in at right, Chris Ward, whoever takes center and your line is pretty well set. But that position more than anything.”
JG: It’s often like that, though. Why this year?
BH: “This year’s class is so crucial. They have to get some elite linemen in. Even if you get the fourth best in the west, it’s a five-star! A guy like Kyle Murphy, UCLA shouldve never been his 17th or 18th offer. Guy has offers from Florida, Auburn, Michigan? He has grades, has talent, and if they would have offered him three or four months before, maybe they’re in it. Now he’s barely mentioning them. And they have to get linemen in. Good, talented running backs, some decent wide receivers coming up the pike. But you’ve got to get linemen. This is the year you bring in four or five and that fifth may still be elite.”
JG: Does Bob Palcic have that in him?
BH: “He garners a lot of respect because of where he’s been, what he’s done, who he’s coached. But on every staff, you have some who are better at the technical side and recruiting comes second to them. Palcic is definitely old school in the sense that he’d rather coach than recruit.”