USC Will Extend Rivalry Dominance Over UCLA Through 2016 Despite NCAA Measures
There is a battle for recruits in Southern California between USC and UCLA. As it stands now, USC is winning the 2011 war for talent, as they have for the last eight years. USC’s dominance will continue.
One reason is that the Bruins were woeful on offense last year with their new Pistol offense.
Another reason is the manner in which new offensive coordinator Mike Johnson was hired. UCLA’s existing offensive coordinator Norm Chow was still on staff, and the addition of Coach Johnson was very confusing considering Chow’s role.
The confusing manner and prolonged process in which Johnson was brought on board adds one more pickle to Rick Neuheisel’s daily dilemmas. These and other recent Bruin mistakes contribute to the USC Trojans excelling at recruiting, continuing their rivalry dominance and helping to dim the NCAA sanction spotlight.
These predicaments will also help keep Neuheisel on the hot seat. Here are a few reasons why:
USC’s Program Under Control; UCLA in Disarray
USC is managing its program very well despite sanctions. For UCLA, the Mike Johnson hiring was awkward. Johnson was hired as the offensive coordinator, but wasn’t Norm Chow the incumbent? Someone forgot to re-deploy Chow first, and this discrepancy caused turmoil.
Coach Chow has played Neuheisel’s gaffe perfectly. He may have had differences with Neuheisel, and interviewed for the offensive coordinator position at Utah, but he is not foolish. If he left voluntarily, he would have surrendered a million bucks. Since he was fired by Neuheisel, he gets the $1 million (or some buy-out value).
After the hiring of Johnson was announced, Neuheisel backtracked the next day, saying Chow was still on the staff and that Johnson was not. Well, the cat was out of the bag at that point. So, a few days later, Johnson is on the staff in an unsaid capacity. Three days later, UCLA admitted that Johnson was the offensive coordinator.
Coach Chow was finally re-deployed, but he didn’t blink first. This was an unprofessional way to handle a coaching staff. Throwing your coach under the bus tarnishes Neuheisel’s reputation. Grabbing your quarterback’s face mask when he throws an interception doesn’t help either. A UCLA program in disarray helps USC especially at a time of NCAA measures.
USC Staff Set: Time Running Out for UCLA’s Search
Coach Neuheisel said on December 6, 2010 that he would like to “move quickly” in making decisions about the future of his coaching staff. So one would think that these decisions would be made well before December 20, when recruiting contact goes quiet for a few weeks.
It took almost two weeks just to fire defensive coordinator Chuck Bullough and wide receiver coach Reggie Moore. It took another four weeks to announce Mike Johnson’s hiring. We still don't know the complete offensive coaching staff yet.
Six weeks later the status of the defensive coordinator and wide receiver positions are undetermined. It is hard to speculate on who will fill those two positions, but it better happen fast because spring practice starts in only two months.
There may even be additional positions to re-deploy besides those mentioned. At a time when UCLA should be focusing on recruitment, all these quandaries are eating up the clock. UCLA’s very slow coaching decisions help to portray USC as a better organization.
USC Is More Attractive Than UCLA
Despite sanctions, USC has attracted a quality coaching staff and continues to bring in top recruits. UCLA has spent the offseason trying to find a pair of coordinators and their ninth commitment (note: UCLA signed their 9th commitment, Steven Manfro, a 2-star RB from California on January 23rd).
Without a defensive coordinator, wide receivers coach, and considering UCLA's Johnson/Chow mess, will recruits continue to choose other Pac-12 schools? Especially USC?
Given the state of UCLA’s program and Neuheisel's hot seat, will coaches line up to join the Bruins staff?
Vic Fangio was Neuheisel’s first choice for defensive coordinator, but he turned down the offer.
Rocky Long was Neuheisel’s second choice for defensive coordinator, but he also turned down the offer.
Randy Shannon...your turn to make a decision.
Some of UCLA’s biggest recruits are choosing to go elsewhere too. Safety Wayne Lyons, wide receiver Devon Blackmon, defensive lineman Danny Shelton, defensive end Jason Gibson, offensive tackle Patrick Flavin, offensive tackle Donavan Smith and others have committed elsewhere.
With UCLA’s coaching staff turmoil, an offense ranked 103rd out of 120 in FBS and Coach Neuheisel’s three-year record of 15-21; it seems recruits have many reasons to choose USC over UCLA.
USC Continues To Out-Recruit UCLA
USC has placed in the top-10 rankings for recruiting classes nationally, as ranked by Rivals, since 2003. UCLA has not had the same luck. Only eight recruits have committed to UCLA this year.
This year is shaping up to be the worst year that UCLA has had in recruiting for quite some time. USC is already successful in 2011. The big drop in UCLA’s 2011 ranking could be attributed to last year’s record. Maybe it’s the coaching mess, or maybe UCLA does not have enough coaches to contact recruits.
A top-10 recruiting class will have a positive impact on USC’s program for the next four years. A lousy UCLA’s recruiting class will have a negative impact through 2015.
USC and UCLA are the two best universities in Southern California. Their recruiting classes should be similar and the recruiting battle is taking place locally. So why has USC out-recruited UCLA in the last nine years? UCLA’s lack of recruiting success eventually impacts the outcome of the rivalry.
USC’s Pro Style vs. UCLA’s Pistol
Most prospects want to pursue their greatest chances of being drafted into the NFL!
Coach Rick Neuheisel implemented the non-NFL Pistol offense even though former offensive coordinator Norm Chow was successful with his pro-style philosophy at USC.
Enter Mike Johnson with a spread-option philosophy. Johnson has been groomed under the West Coast, Spread and Spread-option/Pistol offenses. Johnson was the San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator for 13 games (with a 6-7 record). Before that he coached 49er QB Alex Smith, who has thrown more interceptions (53) than touchdowns (51) in 50 career starts, and has a dangerously low passer rating of 72.1.
Add a new 2011 commit: spread offense quarterback Brett Hundley (UCLA's only 4-star commit), and you're almost guaranteed to see the Pistol offense remain at UCLA.
Maybe UCLA will find some bullets for its offense. My guess is that UCLA will show up for its high-noon gun fights with unloaded pistols. Commits consider looking for a pro-style offense in their college of choice, not a Pistol, for future National Football League experience.
USC runs a Pro-Style offense. At the start of training camp last summer, there were 54 ex-Trojans on National Football League rosters, including 13 rookies. A 2010 ESPN.com survey ranked USC as "the most fertile NFL draft pipeline" from 1979 to 2009. This partially accounts for USC’s 2011 recruiting success versus UCLA’s inefficiency, at least on the surface.
USC’s Player Quality Continues with UCLA’s Pistol
The advantage of the Pistol is that teams can run it with a young offensive line, or with offensive linemen who have average talent. It allows that offense to deal with opponents who have fantastic defensive linemen. The blocking schemes for the Pistol and the Spread use the same zone principles.
The drawback is that a team with a Pistol offense may start accepting average or 3-star talent. Teams with this offense will find it more difficult to draw the very top-talented linemen.
Before the Pistol, UCLA signed four 4-star offensive linemen in Xavier Su’a Filo, Stan Hasiak, Kody Innes and Chris Ward during 2009 and 2010. Then UCLA changed to the Pistol. As a consequence, UCLA has no 4-star O-line commits this year. Offensive guard prospect Cyrus Hobbi would be their best (maybe only) shot at a 4-star lineman.
Coach Neuheisel appears to be committed to the Pistol. If so, there may not be any 4-star offensive linemen commits in 2012 either.
At a time when USC really needs top offensive linemen, especially from Southern California, it makes it easier to fill that need when the main competition, UCLA, is making recruiting easier.
UCLA Pistol Can Be As Good As USC’s Pro-Style Offense
Nevada used the Pistol to beat Cal (at home), Boise State (at home) and Boston College in a bowl game. Some will conclude that UCLA can beat USC with the Pistol too.
Take a closer look at Nevada. This was not the same Cal team that held Oregon to two points. Cal had an up-and-down season. Nevada beat Boise State at home because of Boise’s two missed field goals. Boston College only went 7-6 in 2011. What about the rest of Nevada’s schedule?
- Colorado State (3-9), UNLV (2-11), San Jose State (1-12), Utah State (4-8), Idaho (6-7) and New Mexico State (2-10). Not the most difficult schedule in college football.
- The Pistol is more successful in a non-automatic qualifier conference where the level of competition is not as stiff.
Can UCLA win in the Pac-12 and beat USC with the Pistol?
- UCLA’s Richard Brehaut is not the same caliber of quarterback as Colin Kaepernick.
- UCLA plays in an automatic qualifier (BCS) conference, not the WAC.
- UCLA’s 2010 performance with the Pistol in was near the bottom of all college football.
- UCLA’s Pistol will struggle against Pac-12 teams with a disciplined defensive line.
USC Has Speed; UCLA Needs Speed
USC has more team speed than UCLA. Here is an example from USC's fall 2011 roster:
- 13 Trojans run a 4.4 second 40-yard-dash.
- 20 Trojans run a 4.5 second 40-yard-dash.
- 8 Trojans run a 4.6 second 40-yard-dash.
The Pistol, Spread-Option and Air Raid offenses depend on speed. UCLA has a few players with speed, but not enough.
UCLA wide receivers Randall Carroll and Nelson Rosario have good speed, but could stand to improve their ball-catching skills. Running back Jonathan Franklin also has good speed; however, the key is Richard Brehaut. He leads the Bruins in 2011 with a year of experience, but lacks speed.
Good dual-threat quarterbacks (like Darron Thomas of Oregon) usually have between 4.4-4.5 second 40-yard dash speeds. Brehaut clocks in at 4.9. Highly-rated, big offensive tackles can almost run that fast.
Hundley will be an improvement in 2012 (unless Neuheisel starts him as a true freshman). Hundley runs a 4.65 40-yard-dash.
UCLA’s Head Coach threw Norm Chow under the bus and his long delay in finding a new staff continues to be awkward and embarrassing.
The Bruins still do not have a defensive coordinator and two recent offers by Neuheisel were turned down, perhaps since to Neuheisel has the worst record of any UCLA coach since 1923.
Rick Neuheisel’s Pistol offense failed last year and he appears to be thinking of continuing with an offense that probably won’t work in the Pac-12.
UCLA will have trouble with the depth of its offensive line again next year for its new offensive coordinator who has less than one season of undistinguished experience.
UCLA lost its recruiting focus this year with a class rated below 50th nationally, and with National Signing Day closing in, UCLA has only one 4-star commit.
UCLA only has eight commits total and might not sign a full class in 2011 since over 90 percent of UCLA offers have been turned down by recruits so far.
USC has far superior team speed over UCLA and has out-recruited the Bruins for nine years straight with nine consecutive top-10 classes.
USC puts more players into the NFL with its Pro Style offense and is a more attractive program to recruits.
UCLA failed to capitalize on USC’s bowl game absence and USC will continue to dominate UCLA for the next four or five years.