Q: With no clearly dominant team in NCAA basketball this year, the Bruins could possibly make a deep run into the tourney. Lets say they win it all (I know, I know), but lets just say they do. What becomes of the fan base that is so discordant?
A: Celebrate? I can’t imagine a national title not dissolving virtually all criticism. Bill Walton might even buy Ben Howland a round.
Q: Shouldn’t Xavier Su’a Filo be considered the starting left tackle next year? He started at LT his freshman season and was great. And with one year under his belt after his Mormon mission, I think he would be ready to anchor the O-line.
A: Xavier Su’a-Filo is arguably the best lineman in the Pac-12 and could play pretty much anywhere, but yes, a move back to left tackle could be ideal. Whether or not it happens likely depends on how the rest of the linemen perform through camp, particularly the seven incoming freshmen. Alex Redmond and Caleb Benenoch — or another name — could potentially lock down guard spots.
Q: I’m intrigued by Malcolm Jones’ alleged willingness to return as a walk-on. What’s your take on this development? Is a position change in the cards, along the lines of Anthony Barr last year?
A: We can move past “alleged.” He’s coming back barring further developments. Not sure if a positional change is in for him, but UCLA doesn’t have a clear-cut No. 1 tailback and Jones could figure into a committee. Anthony Barr’s switch was remarkable, and Jones probably won’t be able to make such a smooth transition to another position. Have heard some say that he’s not a guy whose life revolves around football, which isn’t necessarily bad. He’s working as a financial rep at Northwestern Mutual in Woodland Hills.
Q: Are we pushing hard to land Cornelius Elder? Do you think we’ll land him over Ohio State? When is he supposed to sign?
A: UCLA doesn’t seem to be a contender for Elder, who may end up staying in or near his home state of Tennessee. Brandon Huffman of FoxSports/Scout said in a live chat here last week that the Bruins haven’t recruited him hard lately. Elder doesn’t have a plan for when to sign yet, and may still be getting some new basketball offers as well (Memphis is looking). Jim Mora was most likely talking about Craig Lee (held up by academics) when he said the recruiting class wasn’t done. The next round of SAT results come out Thursday, so Lee could potentially sign on around then.
Q: Way too early football season predictions? Spring practice schedule available yet?
A: Let’s say another Pac-12 South title and 10-4 after a bowl win. Anthony Barr wins Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year. UCLA hasn’t announced the full spring schedule yet.
Q: Does UCLA have anybody looking recruits in Mexico? The country has over 100 million people so I am sure there has to be a couple of promising beefy linemen or power forwards among the bunch. (As a point of reference only about 5 million people live in Toronto and look how many colleges have struck gold there.)
A: There’s probably some potential in Mexico, but would the amount of work required be worth the return? It’s still a soccer-dominated country, especially coming off an Olympic gold medal over Brazil. Canada is now regularly producing top-level basketball talent, but almost all those players end up in American schools before going off to college.
Q: How is 2014 football recruiting looking?
A: A little too early to say, but the encore to this year’s haul probably won’t disappoint. Several recruits were around this past weekend, including four-star cornerback Adarius Pickett (El Cerrito, Calif.).
Q: With the four California schools being the top four in number of NCAA team championships in the Pac-12, each offering a great education and each in a great location, it would seem that the recruiting playing field is pretty even. How would you rank the effectiveness of the current athletic director of each school and why?
A: Stanford’s Bob Bowlsby would be first had he not left to become Big 12 commissioner; hiring Jim Harbaugh and then promoting David Shaw secures him the top spot. I’d leave out successor Bernard Muir for now since he started in mid-August.
The other three all have their warts, and it’s hard to separate them too much. Pat Haden is sticking hard with Lane Kiffin even though he didn’t hire him. Dan Guerrero hasn’t had UCLA tapping into its full athletic potential, although the Jim Mora hire was great. Cal’s Sandy Barbour tried to cut four varsity teams with almost no warning two years ago. They all ended up raising enough money to save themselves, but that announcement was horrendously botched. Some athletes didn’t find out until after reporters did.
Q: In the likely event that Ben Howland is gone at the end of the season, we’ll be needing a new coach. Any thoughts as to who UCLA will look to?
A: Butler’s Brad Stevens gets bandied around often for any high-profile vacancy, and he made a little less than $1.2 million in 2011. Ben Howland made $2.1 million that year, and UCLA would likely offer at least that to any potential replacement. Stevens might be inclined to remain Indianapolis’ deity-in-residence; VCU’s Shaka Smart could have similar inclinations as well, to a lesser degree. New Mexico’s Steve Alford is worth a look, but won’t inject too much immediate excitement into the program.
Q: With baseball season around the corner, do you plan on covering any of the games? Or will you ignore it until CWS time?
A: I’m not sure yet how regularly I’ll be at games, but I won’t completely ignore it until CWS.