UCLA and USC's Signing Day Acquisitions: My Thoughts

Derek HartCorrespondent IFebruary 5, 2009

Watching Fox Sports Prime Ticket's signing day special last night and reading the Los Angeles Times this morning, I got a pretty big smile on my face.

For the first time in more than 10 years, the UCLA football program has signed a recruiting class that is being reckoned with across the country.

And particularly at the Bruins' crosstown enemy, USC.

I'm sure USC coach Pete Carroll and company are at least a little disappointed and miffed, if not outright upset, considering the fact that at least four of the high school blue chips that had verbally committed to the Trojans opted to sign elsewhere yesterday.

This includes Vontaze Burfict, who signed with Arizona State, and Manti Teo, the No. 1 linebacker in the country who opted for the Trojans' other rival, Notre Dame.

Here's what really upset USC folks: Two Trojan verbal commits decided to spurn Troy and become Bruins in Westwood this fall. Morrell Presley, the top tight end in the U.S., and wide receiver Randall Carroll, who's also the reigning state 100- and 200-meter champion, will go to UCLA.

Seeing this happen led me to think one thing: The message is out.

These high school studs are finally starting to understand what I've been telling people for a few years now—at USC, you are likely to have to wait your turn to start and get considerable playing time, while at other places you have a much better chance to play and contribute right away.

I'm sure that's what led those four athletes I've mentioned to make the decisions that they made.

Want some examples? The last two USC quarterbacks, John David Booty and Mark Sanchez, both had to wait three years for their chance to start.

Meanwhile, at UCLA, Presley and Carroll have a heck of a chance to get immediate playing time. Particularly Carroll, who I can see breaking off 70 and 80-yard touchdown runs returning punts and kickoffs with his speed this fall.

Now don't get me wrong here. The Trojans have a stellar recruiting class, led by the NO. 1 QB from Santa Ana, Matt Barkley, who's expected to compete for the starting job this fall.

But it's much more possible that the Bruins' quarterback signee, Richard Brehault, will start in Westwood this fall in 2009. Barkley had better get used to holding that clipboard for the next couple of years—I don't care how great he was at Mater Dei High School, he won't beat out Aaron Corp and Mitch Mustain.

And here's the clincher that UCLA is going to be a program on the rise: Scout.com has the Bruins' recruiting class at No. 4 in the country, ahead of No. 7 USC.

I can hear the Trojan fan base and bandwagon fans' comments right now: "Those guys didn't want to compete!" "We didn't want those wimps anyway!" "UCLA and Notre Dame still suck!"

But those people need to accept that the days of Pete Carroll signing every single top recruit in the country, and especially in Southern California, are over.

Coaches are not afraid of USC and Carroll anymore, especially Bruin coach Rick Neuheisel. That's the big difference here. Previous UCLA coach Karl Dorrell, as nice a guy as he was, was afraid of and intimidated by Carroll and his aggressive ways. Neuheisel is not.

And that, my friends, is good to see. It's good for college football and especially good for the Pac-10; no one wants to see one team dominate for too long. They get tired of them. I'm sure everyone in the Pac-10 outside of USC is sick of the Trojans' dominance.

Last summer, the L.A. Times ran a big ad from UCLA in the sports section that said "The Football Monopoly in Los Angeles Is Over."

With USC's dynasty being what it is, I don't think it's over. Not yet. But with what happened yesterday, that monopoly will come to an end sooner than most people think.

I say it will end in 2010. That's when those stud recruits that the Bruins signed will be playing, and when most of UCLA's players will be Neuheisel's.

And you heard it here first.