As if UCLA’s recruiting prospects did not seem dim enough after the Bruins’ 50-0 loss at USC on Saturday at the Los Angeles Coliseum, Rick Neuheisel’s firing on Monday morning has thrown a wrench in even the best-laid plans.
Verbal commits now will have to reconsider their decisions, those undecided who might have built a good rapport with UCLA coaches now might look elsewhere, relationships will have to be reestablished, or in some cases, reestablished.
The Bruins currently have 16 verbal commitments, including those from No. 3-rated center Hiva Lutui (Euless, Texas), No. 9 middle linebacker Aaron Porter of La Habra and no. 14-rated guard Lacy Westbrook of Compton Dominguez.
“This is the time when guys become fair game,” Scout.com recruiting analyst Brandon Huffman said. “Especially guys like Lutui, Porter, guys who are committed and upper-echelon guys; this is when people can put doubts in their mind.”
The volume of those doubts will be turned to 11 after the Bruins big loss to the Trojans, the big, bad crosstown rival who collects five-star talent like they’re postage stamps.
After a loss like that, Huffman and Rivals.com’s Rick Kimbrel agree, recruiting top talent can be almost impossible.
“It’s gonna be tough,” Kimbrel said. “It’s difficult – this is one of those game where everything that could go wrong did – and you have to revert back to the Arizona State game, Colorado – the positives., Colorado the positives.
Added Huffman: “Actually, if Neuheisel had been retained, I think the USC loss would’ve slammed the door shut for most guys. Like, ‘This is what I’m getting myself into?’ Instead, there’s always excitement when a new coach is hired.”
Huffman points to the Bruins’ procurement of Maurice Jones-Drew in 2003, brought in by Karl Dorrell and most notably Eric Bienemy, after Bob Toledo’s firing.
The key, Huffman said, is the continuity that remains, as UCLA has named pavement-pounder Mike Johnson as interim head coach upon Neuheisel’s dismissal following the Pac-12 championship game on Friday night at Oregon.
Apparently, though, the loss to USC didn’t scare everyone off.
Justin Combs, an ESPNU three-star cornerback and Sean “Diddy” Combs’ son, verbally committed to UCLA on Monday.
“Today I am truly blessed and thankful to accept my scholarship and give my full commitment to UCLA,” Justin Combs said in a press release. “Playing Division-I football was a lifelong dream of mine, and through hard work I was able to achieve it. I am a living testament that with a strong relationship with God, family, and hard work dreams do come true.”
Added Sean Combs in a statement: “As a parent, today is one of the proudest moments of my life,” Sean Combs said in a statement. “This is everything a father could want for his son, for him to excel at what he loves to do and is truly passionate about. Justin is a shining example of what hard work, determination and a strong mentality can achieve. I am honored to call him my son and am happy that he is fulfilling his dream.”