WESTWOOD—With all the hullabaloo surrounding the Super Bowl, it’s hard for anything else to get some face time. Everyone always calls the weeks leading up to the Super Bowl some of the driest weeks in sports, and though that may be true, college football always gives the sports world something to talk about when high school players around the country let all of us know where they will be spending the next four to five years of their lives.
This momentous occasion for college football teams across the nation is formally known as National Signing Day. It may seem a little apprehensive to look so much into the signing of players fresh out high school, but the impact of the recruits signed on this day not only provide significant results for present, they are a very good indicator of where a universities program will be in the future. Consider the football programs of Florida, Ohio State, Alabama, and yes even that school across town. Every year the bring in recruiting classes that are ranked in the Top Ten in the country, and every year during the season these same teams find themselves consistently among the Top Ten teams. It’s really no secret that to be an elite program, there needs be a few elite players in that program, and Rick Neuheisel knows just how to get that done.
In just his third year at the helm, Neuheisel already has the Bruins marching back to the top of college football. After a forgettable 4-4 finish to his first season, the Bruins took a big step in the 2009 season finishing 7-6, highlighted by a bowl victory over Temple in the Eagle Bank Bowl to give UCLA its first postseason victory in two years. Last Wednesday, Neuheisel took an even bigger step after he landed the 11th ranked recruiting class according to ESPN. National Signing Day is always a day full of the unexpected because up until signing day, a recruiting class is made up of just verbal commitments and not everyone who says they are going to a certain school actually go. UCLA was unfortunately no exception to this, but thankfully they didn’t suffer too many losses. If anything the Bruins actually gained more than they lost. Despite losing linebacker Hayes Pullard and defensive tackle Ricky Heimuli, the Bruins were able to bring in defensive end Owamagbe Odighizuwa, the 17th rated player in the nation, safety Dietrich Riley, the 108th rated player in the nation, and stole linebacker Jordan Zumwalt away from Stanford.
With most of the Bruins losses coming on defense and offensive line, Neuheisel and his staff paid special attention to those areas with their 2010 class. Out of the 22 players signed, 14 were either defensive players or offensive linemen. This class is highlighted by Owamagbe Odighizuwa and All-American running backs Jordan James and Malcolm Jones, and even though the class finished out of the Top Ten according to ESPN, the Bruins class was respectable enough to be the 8th best recruiting class for Scouts and Rivals.com.
The Bruins start off with a rough four game stretch to bring in the 2010 season. After opening up with Kansas State, they have to play the next three against Stanford, Texas, and Houston. These four teams could possibly be all ranked in the Top 25 next season and Texas is coming off trip to the National Championship Game. Those four game will be telling of what’s to come for the rest of football season and the season’s to be played in the future, but if Neuheisel continues to bring in the type of talent he brought in this year, the question of who is the best college football team in Los Angeles will be a lot tougher to answer.