Rick Neuheisel era begins in earnest at UCLA
February 4, 2009. A date that could be the infancy of UCLA's resurgence in college football.
Who would have guessed that the Bruins would land the nation's 4th best recruiting class, ahead of No. 7 USC?
According to Scout.com, UCLA tied North Carolina for the fourth best class in America. They're the only teams in the top ten who failed to be ranked in the AP or USA Today final poll last season. Rivals.com wasn't quite so generous -- placing the Bruins at 14th -- but it's still a major improvement over the school's recent recruiting performances.
Rick Neuheisel didn't exactly return to Westwood with a fully stocked cabinet. He loaded up this year with talent that not only looks good from a national perspective, but fills immediate needs for the Bruins.
Big offensive linemen? Check. UCLA signed six, including a pair of junior college transfers, and could be looking at four new starters next season.
Help in the secondary? Check. The cornerback cavalry has arrived.
A quarterback of the future (maybe even now)? Check. His name is Richard Brehaut. It's pronounced Bree-ha. You'll be saying it soon enough.
Speed in the backfield? Damien Thigpen is a track star in Virginia. He's a little undersized, but so was some schlump named Maurice Jones-Drew.
A big steal from crosstown rival USC? Check and check. And check. And check. Not only did UCLA grab former Trojan commits Morrell Presley and Randall Carroll, both potential gamebreakers, they nabbed offensive linemen Stanley Hasiak and Xavier Su'a Filo from the top of USC's wish list.
The end of Neuheisel's honeymoon could be accelerated by the arrival of this talented group, and that's not a bad thing for UCLA fans. Many of those Bruin faithful were wringing their hands headed into this week, with the commitment list lacking major star power and gaining momentum very slowly. Wednesday afternoon changed all that.
There were those who started questioning Neuheisel's reputation as a rock-star recruiter. Somewhere in the J.D. Morgan Center, Dan Guerrero must have been thinking, "I told you so."
Wednesday night, Neuheisel got a huge ovation during halftime of the UCLA-USC basketball game at Pauley Pavilion. He hopes for an encore in the Rose Bowl.
-- Adam Rose
Photo by Mark J. Rebilas / US Presswire