It’s not a two-man race

USC reels in three more all-everything football recruits on Wednesday, and just like that, the homecoming king just got a flashy new Ferrari, the prettiest girl in school just got the pony she’s always dreamed of.

The CEO just cashed in another $1 million bonus, the leading man just stumbled upon a $100 bill and gosh, someone just gave the lion some garlic with his filet mignon. The rich are getting richer, only in this case, the richest is getting digustingly, filthy, stinking rich. It’s as if Bill Gates found a money tree in his own backyard. The stars continue to align – and add up – for the big, bad boys across town, and now it suddenly seems that all the gains that the new UCLA staff has made in recruiting is for naught.

So what are the poor, little ol’ Bruins to do?

Simple.

Ignore it.

Sure, that’s like asking a dog to ignore a bone, but it’s essential, if UCLA is to continue to establish a new identity for itself. Stop feeling so poor, stop feeling so little, stop feeling so old.

No longer can the Bruins afford to play the woe-is-me game, to engage in a battle of star rankings.

The recent concession of highly touted offensive lineman Nico Falah was a crucial step in the continuing evolution of UCLA’s identity under Jim Mora. It was a signal that while Falah is a big fish, he is not the only fish. It was a signal that the Bruins understand that there are other fish to fry. And other such fish metaphors.

UCLA has an impressive class lining up – particularly at offensive line and the linebacker – and you begin to realize that USC’s success and UCLA’s success are not mutually exclusive.

“The one thing I will say is I really do feel that of all the coaches UCLA has had over the last 20 years, Mora especially gets it,” Scout.com West recruiting manager Brandon Huffman said. “He gets it better than Neuheisel did, by far than Dorrell ever did, and except for a couple flashes, better than Toledo did. He realizes youve got to have those young coaches. Tireless recruiters. Neuheisel should’ve never been the most aggressive guy on staff. Mora is doing a fantastic job of delegating certain responsibilities to different coaches.”

What Mora has come to realize quite quickly – he hasn’t even coached a game at UCLA yet – is that UCLA’s undoing in the mid-2000s wasn’t USC’s doing. It was UCLA’s undoing. Before you can reverse that trend, you have to own it.

Put more simply: USC’s greatness does not equal UCLA’s ungreatness.

With NCAA sanctions limiting the Trojans’ scholarships, the Bruins – and the rest of the Pac-12 – will benefit from the trickle-down effect. It’s on Mora and Co. to benefit the most.

“Especially since Pete Carroll took over, it should have never been about USC,” Huffman said. “He took it up a notch. UCLA should strive for top-20, USC is GOING to get the top-5. UCLA needs to be realistic. They need to beat Cal, Stanford, Washington, Oregon. USC and UCLA play once a year.

“USC is not competition right now.”

Nor will the Trojans be, until UCLA embraces that fact. It might be a tough pill to swallow, but it is an important one, if the Bruins are to become homecoming kings themselves.

And maybe get that new Ferrari.

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UCLA players on national watch lists

As expected, those UCLA football players coming off big 2011s are getting some recognition.

Senior running back Johnathan Franklin has been named to the Maxwell Award watch list, given to to the nation’s top college football player.

Senior tight end Joseph Fauria was named to the Mackey Award watch list, which goes to the best tight end.

And this morning, senior punter Jeff Locke was named to the Ray Guy Award watch list for what feels like the 47th consecutive year, though he’ll be attempting to the top punter prize for the first time. As a freshman, he got the closest, being named one of 10 semifinalists.

As more of the preseason watch lists roll out, more Bruins will be named.

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Hollins and Hollins talk UCLA commitment

The tweet threw me off.

It came from Deon Hollins Sr. randomly, without provocation, on July 1. Right when Hollins’ son and namesake, one of the top linebackers in the country, was getting UCLA fans nervous.

Listed as a verbal commit since March, Hollins Jr. had been coming under fire recently for showing interest in other schools – most notably taking a visit to Washington – but his father said that he did so with Mora’s blessing.

“A lot of people say he was a soft commit, well yeah, but you’re talking about a 17-year-old kid who is a brilliant young man, 3.8 GPA in honors courses, a great kid, and he still had some places he hasn’t seen,” Hollins Sr. “Coach Mora told him, ‘I wouldn’t tell you not to enjoy this process. Go around, look around, but this is home.’”

Added Hollins Jr.: “I still hear what they have to say, but it would have to be perfect. Everything perfect to beat UCLA. Washington, you know how Tosh Lupoi is, he’s a real personable guy, but UCLA is more than that.”

Just look at the tweet.

Another program would have to be absolutely perfect for Hollins to even raise an eyebrow, and that’s because, the two say, UCLA is already there, with the combination of a fiery young coaching staff, a defense that suits Hollins’ strengths and a conference that should provide ample opportunity for growth.

“Initially we were all ready to sign with the Pac-12 anyway,” Hollins Sr. said. “I see Deon being a West coast, Von Miller-type, leading the conference in sacks. I can see that in that conference. I envision it. With the Pac-12 throwing the ball around, I saw it as an excellent opportunity for him to compete at a high level and showcase his skills, as well. When I got off the phone with Coach Mora – and I express all the time how great the hire was – I mean, just to talk to the dude. He said the exact same things. When I look at Deon, I think Pat Swilling, and man, this is Jim Mora saying the same thing! I was tripping over that thought process. So it was the Pac-12 and it was the 3-4. We were looking at Stanford, Cal, Oregon, teams that run that type of system, hybrid end/linebacker type of deal and when (Mora) told me they were running the 3-4, I damn near dropped the phone. A defensive coach, combined with my son’s ability? Deon was so excited. So excited. We mulled it over and Deon said, ‘Dad, I want to commit,’ I just said, ‘Well, gosh dangit let’s do it then!”

The phone call, Hollins said, wasn’t just a relief for the Hollins family.

In the younger Hollins, the Bruins will get a ballhawk with incredible burst, a quick first step and a deep understand of pass rush at an early age. They’ll also get a player coveted by some of the biggest programs in the country, as Hollins sports offers from Ohio State, Notre Dame and Oklahoma, among others.

“I remember Deon calling coach Mora, and it’s quiet here, and Deon says, “Coach, I want to be a Bruin.’ Coach Mora says, ‘You want to be a Bruin? You want to be a Bruin!’ and the whole staff was in the background clapping. Coach Martin did a hell of a job. A lot of the old regime was still intact when they took over, and they were talking UCLA out of it, oh we can’t get this kid. Martin comes in and says, ‘How do we know if we can get a home run if we don’t swing the bat?’
“They swung the bat and reached out to us and I was thrilled.”

One chat with the younger Hollins, and you get the feeling that the Bruins could have just scored a walk-off grand slam.

This is not only one of the most targeted linebackers in the country, but a bright, intelligent, social-conscious young man who is eager to hoist UCLA on his back.

“I’m trying to be the next in line to change things around,” Hollins Jr. said. ” I don’t want people to just say, ‘Oh, he’s a good football player.’ I want to be the kind of player people want to look up to, and it makes me want to work harder to get that. That’s a big thing for me. I’ve always been raised with academics first – my parents were big proponents of if you don’t pass your classes, you don’t get to play football, and in my case it was always, if you don’t get A’s, you don’t get football. When you raise the level of expectations, you have no choice but to meet them. Your body, your mind, you learn to do it. I see myself going to UCLA and being one of those types of guys, and that’s such a big thing for me. I don’t want to just be known as a football player. I pride myself on that.”

Hollins will get the opportunity, and with his father’s blessing. Deon Hollins Sr. describes the UCLA coaching staff with reverence, the sound of absolute trust in his voice. Hollins has taken an active role in his son’s football career since the peewee days, when his son became known around the park for getting into the backfield before linemen got out of their stance. For him to describe the coaching staff so glowingly, that means something to him.

“The level of trust I have comes from their sheer experience,” Hollins Sr. said. “You talk about Lou Spanos, you talk 17 years. Coach Mora, 27 years. Coach Martin’s experience, Coach Klemm, McClure. You start adding those numbers up, Super Bowl rings, those things stand out. Of course, UCLA has great academics and a beautiful campus and the three Bs – Brentwood, Beverly Hills and the beaches – it’s a beautiful place. But the excitement comes in on my end because I watched these gentlemen’s career, and to know that my son will have a part of that, and that they’re going to instill a toughness, an NFL-minded toughness to this team – because let’s face it, UCLA has had the rep of being soft, that they can’t compete with the big dogs – but now? I believe. And they’re reaching abroad – Georgia, Texas, Arizona – and they’re saying we’re going to tap into and get the best players to fit what we do. That’s what exciting for me.

“When I talked to Coach Spanos he told me an interesting story, when I brought up the West Coast Von Miller deal,” Hollins Sr. continued. “‘I hear you say Von and I’m looking at Deon and I’m not taking anything away from Von, but I think Deon has the ability and talent to be better than Miller. The system that was implemented by Tim DeRuyter, they came to Pittsburgh and worked alongside LeBeau and myself to learn the defense that Von Miller was so good in.’ That gave me goose bumps all over again! We’re talking about 17 years alongside Dick LeBeau. Come on, man! There are going to be a whole lot of times when they bring the pressure. They’re going to bring the pressure and the old cliche, pressure is going to bust pipes. And if my son gets the opportunity to rush the passer, the fans better get ready for it. He’s special.”

But other programs have experience, too. UCLA’s new coaching staff may have more NFL years and Super Bowl rings than the previous group, but they don’t corner the market on crow’s feet.

No, Jim Mora and Co. are selling more than just experience.

“That is something that my dad and I were talking about, being the start of a dynasty,” Hollins Jr. said. “Why not come to an upstart program and be a guy who can turn things around? It’s all about vision. Sometimes when you’re a younger kid – and I fall victim to it myself – you have tunnel vision, you only think about today and the day after that. You don’t think about years from now. You don’t think about future after football. But when you put those two together – life after football and life after – I don’t see a better place for us than UCLA.”

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UCLA track to combine men’s, women’s programs

From UCLA:

UCLA Athletic Director Dan Guerrero has announced the decision to combine the leadership of the university’s men’s and women’s track and field programs, the general direction now favored by many of the top programs nationwide.

“We recognize that a unified vision as it relates to the track and field programs was needed to get both of them where we want them to be nationally,” Guerrero said. “We are confident that we are taking a very important step today for the future of track and field at UCLA.”

In the new model for UCLA Track and Field, men’s head coach Mike Maynard has been named UCLA’s first-ever Director of Track and Field. He will take the lead on fundraising and the general direction of the program and will be the liaison between the program and the athletic administration.

“I am proud to be a part of the consolidation of the UCLA Track and Field Program and to join with all of the coaches and the student-athletes to help get UCLA back to where it belongs, at the top the NCAA standings,” Maynard said.

Meanwhile, Jeanette Bolden remains the UCLA Women’s Head Coach and has also taken on additional responsibilities, coaching men’s sprinters.

“I am a Bruin through and through and am excited to be given the opportunity of coaching the men’s sprinters in addition to continuing in my role as the women’s head coach,” Bolden said.

Additional coaches will be brought in to complete the coaching staff for the combined program.

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Bauer set for MLB debut

From UCLA:

Former UCLA right-hander Trevor Bauer has been promoted to the Arizona Diamondbacks’ major league ballclub and will start against the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field on Thursday, the organization announced this week.

Thursday’s game at Turner Field will be televised by FS Arizona and by SportSouth (formerly Turner South). Game time is 4:10 p.m. (PT)/7:10 p.m. (ET).

Bauer became UCLA’s first-ever Golden Spikes Award winner in 2011 after going 13-2 with a 1.25 ERA and nation-leading 203 strikeouts in 136.2 innings. The native of Valencia, Calif., was selected third overall in the 2011 MLB Draft by Arizona.

Since pitching in his final game for the Bruins on June 4, 2011, Bauer has quickly ascended through the minor leagues. He went 1-2 with a 5.96 ERA, totaling 43 strikeouts in 25.2 innings between single-A (Visalia) and double-A (Mobile) last season.

Bauer has gone 11-1 with a 2.23 ERA in 16 starts between double-A (Mobile) and triple-A (Reno) this season. Since being elevated to the Reno Aces in mid-May, Bauer has gone 4-0 with a 2.82 ERA, 56 strikeouts and 22 walks in 44.2 innings (eight starts) at the triple-A level.

After enrolling at UCLA one semester early in Jan. 2009, Bauer went on to have the most dominant career of any pitcher in school history. He finished his three-year career with a 34-8 record and 2.36 ERA, having logged 460 strikeouts in 373.1 innings.

Bauer became UCLA’s career leader in victories (34), strikeouts (460) and innings (373.1). As a starting pitcher, he posted a 32-5 career record in 44 starts. He established UCLA’s single-season strikeout record with 203 punchouts in 2011, shattering his previous school-record total of 165 in 2010.

He helped lead the Bruins to a program-record 51 victories in 2010, as UCLA advanced to the finals of the College World Series for the first time in school history. Bauer helped UCLA win the 2011 Pac-10 Conference title in outright fashion for the first time since 1986.

Bauer will become the fifth UCLA player under head coach John Savage to advance to the major leagues. With Bauer’s debut on Thursday, at least one player from each UCLA team from 1965 through 2011 will have played in the major leagues.

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Zach LaVine verbally commits to UCLA

Just got off the phone with No. 17 PG Zach LaVine, who just committed to UCLA. Let’s just say he was giddy. It was the Bruins’ second big commitment of the day, only Jim Mora benefitted the first time, not Ben Howland, as No. 19 OLB Myles Jack committed to the football team.

Here’s my interview with Lavine.

JG: So, big night for you?
Zach LaVine: “It’s just been hectic. So many phone calls. I’m really excited. All my family is from UCLA. California is home away from home for me. My dad’s favorite school. They’ve always been my favorite. I’ve been on a bunch of visits, they’ve seen me play 10, 15 times, and it seems like the right idea.”

JG: Right now, Russell Westbrook is in the NBA Finals, you’ve got Darren Collison and Jrue Holiday and Jordan Farmar…
LaVine (cutting me off): “The list goes on man! I just want to be just like them. My dream is to play in the NBA, but I’m gpoing to play step by step and go in with the mentality that I want to be the best I can be and help UCLA as a program.”

JG: When you think of these guys as not only your heroes, but now they’re going to be fellow alumni, brethren, you’re playing against them at UCLA during the offseason, talk about what it means to not just have them as heroes but to have them available?
ZL: “It’s going to be a great resource. Up in Washington, I work out with Tony Wroten, Jamal Crawford, Brandon Roy, Will Conroy, a lot of those guys, and when I play against them, I have the mentality that I’m the best on the court. Every time I step on the court I think I’m better than everyone, and that’s not to talk in a cocky way, but that’s just my mentality to get it going. So it’s going to be so much fun playing with those guys and trying to get better and learn from them.”
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UCLA to hold fall camp at Cal State San Bernadino

UCLA will hold its fall camp on the campus of Cal State San Bernadino, the two schools announced today. Camp will take place from Aug. 3-16 at the Coyotes’ athletic fields, and will be open to the public and media.

“We are pleased that coach Mora and the entire UCLA football staff will begin their fall season here at Cal State San Bernardino,” CSUSB Director of Athletics Kevin Hatcher said. “That our two staffs can collaborate on this project is no small undertaking. The cooperation of many individuals and departments here at CSUSB has enabled us to move forward.

“I know I speak for many as our entire university looks forward to working with and hosting the Bruins and staff as they get ready to begin a new era under coach Mora.”

Mora wanted to give the team a football-focused environment as the team prepares for its season opener at Rice on Aug. 30.

“We believe the move to CSUSB will be a very positive experience for our football team,” UCLA head coach Jim Mora said in a release. “We are excited for the opportunity to continue to lay the foundation for the coming season.”

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