With all the hype that now is part of the college football recruiting scene, there may come a time when wire services rank schools in the off-season on the basis of their prospects.
If so, UCLA is contending for the national championship. The Bruins reportedly brought in another blue-chip recruiting class Wednesday, as they did last year.
Wednesday was, of course, the day when high school seniors could officially sign letters of intent to the schools of their choice.
USC didn't sign as many so-called high school All-Americans as UCLA. But the Trojans, according to new Coach Larry Smith, closed fast in the recruiting race considering that they got off to a late start. There was a recruiting lull during the interim when former coach Ted Tollner was released Dec. 8 until Smith was hired Jan. 2.
There weren't many surprises on signing day, and players that had verbally committed to UCLA didn't waver.
UCLA's top recruits included quarterback Jim Bonds from Hart High in Newhall, defensive lineman Scott Spalding from El Toro High, linebacker Sean Howard from Crespi High, defensive back Matt Darby from Virginia Beach, Va., offensive lineman Brian Kelly from South Torrance High, defensive linemen Andre Farr, from Richmond, Cal., and offensive lineman James Rae from Anaheim Esperanza High.
All of these players made at least one high school All-American team.
Bonds, 5-11, 180, passed for more than 3,000 yards and threw 39 touchdown passes in his senior season.
UCLA Coach Terry Donahue, whose Bruins have been the dominant Pacific 10 team in the '80s, acknowledged that he had a good recruiting class, but cautioned that it's too early to judge the prospects.
"Based on the different scouting services, I would say that we were successful in recruiting a potentially outstanding group of youngsters," Donahue said. "You never really know until players have been in your program two or three years, or how they will develop, but I feel we were very successful in our effort. This is a very physical group."
As far as honors are concerned, USC lagged behind the Bruins. The Trojans signed only one prep All-American, tailback Scott Lockwood from Boulder, Colo. He was so designated by Parade Magazine.
USC also landed a junior college All-American in Bill Shultz, a 6-6, 280-pound offensive lineman from Glendale College. But Smith believes that he has some accomplished recruits who were overlooked by the scouting services.
"I'm quite pleased with every aspect of our recruiting," Smith said. 'Our staff did an outstanding job considering we only had a month after we were hired to put this class together. This recruiting class has great speed at the skill positions, excellent size at the line positions and top quality athletes overall. A handful of these players will have the opportunity to have an impact this year and I expect all of them to be playing a major role for us within two or three years."
The Trojans loaded up on running backs, notably tailbacks. Smith noted when he became USC's coach that he had only three tailbacks on scholarship--Ryan Knight, Aaron Emanuel and Steve Webster.
Lockwood, 6-0, 190, gained 2,020 yards for a 6.8 average his senior season and scored 44 touchdowns in his high school career. His father, John Lockwood, was a defensive lineman at USC in 1964-65.
Other running backs signed by the Trojans are Ricky Ervins (Pasadena Muir High), Calvin Holmes (Carson High), and Marcus Hopkins (San Diego Lincoln High).
Hopkins bears the same first name as a famous USC tailback out of San Diego Lincoln--Marcus Allen, the former Heisman Trophy winner.
There is considerable hoopla during the recruiting season with players being honored by such publications, or services as Parade Magazine, Scholastic Coach, USA Today, Sporting News, National High School Recruiting Service and Super Prep.
Then, there are such honors as Best in the West and Super 11, Toast of the Coast and the Tremendous 22.
Yet, don't expect many of the UCLA, or USC recruits to make much of a stir as freshmen players. For example, UCLA redshirted 19 freshmen last year with only tight end Charles Arbuckle and inside linebacker Brian Jones performing in backup roles.
USC redshirted 15 freshmen in 1986. But two played prominent roles--defensive tackle Tim Ryan, a starter, and safety Cleveland Colter, who was extensively used as a nickel back. Both were named to the Football News freshman All-American team.
Some of these prep All-Americans will fulfill their promise, while others will turn out to be just average athletes and a few won't even make the grade.
Football recruiting isn't an exact science.
USC basketball Coach George Raveling believes that it's easier to identify skilled players in his sport than it is in football.
"You can compare basketball players against each other in all-star competition and summer camps," Raveling said. "In football, it's a lot of guesswork.
"I would never want to be a football coach. The one uncontrollable factor is injuries. In recruiting, you can get the best running back, or best lineman and there's no guarantee that they're going to be any better at USC.
"In basketball, you let me have the best guard in the country and the best big guy and I guarantee you that it will have a tremendous impact on the team."
There are some examples. USC outside linebacker Marus Cotton is a potential All-American. Yet, the only all hyphen he had next to his name at Oakland's Skyline High School was All-City.
Knight and Emanuel, however, were were swamped with high school honors but, for whatever reason, they haven't reached that potential. The only way to judge the class of 1987 is to take note of it now and check it out in a couple of years.
UCLA brought in 19 high school players and one junior college transfer. USC recruited 18 out of high school and three from junior colleges. . . . Of the Bruin recruits, six are offensive linemen and five are linebackers. . . . UCLA recruited tailback Maury Toy from Mountain Home, Ida. He gained 1,714 yards his senior season. . . . UCLA and USC are both still in the running to recruit linebacker Junior Seau, 6-5, 225, from Oceanside High School. USC also hopes to sign wide receiver Patrick Rowe from San Diego Lincoln. . . . Andre Farr, a UCLA recruit, is the cousin of UCLA fullback Mel Farr Jr. and flanker Mike Farr. . . . USC signed Muir quarterback Vince Phillips, a nephew of of former Trojan All-American safety Charles Phillips. USC Coach Larry Smith said that Phillips is like quarterback Rodney Peete inasmuch as he has agility and is also a baseball player. . . . USC's Scott Lockwood reportedly runs the football 40-yard dash in 4.4 or 4.5 seconds. . . . The Trojans brought in some pro-sized linemen in Darrell Marshall (6-4, 290) from Bakersfield College, Michael Moody (6-7, 270) from Washington High in San Francisco, and Matt Willig (6-8, 240) from St. Paul High. Smith said that tailback Aaron Emanuel is still bothered by a sprained big toe and might miss some work in spring practice.
CAL STATE FULLERTON SIGNEES HIGH SCHOOL
Name Previous School Ht. Wt. Pos. Ervie Barnes Monrovia 5-11 160 Linebacker Keith Coury Norte Dame (Riverside) 5-10 175 Safety George Cross Quartz Hill 6-5 200 Linebacker Jamaal Jones Monrovia 6-1 230 Linebacker Teddy McMillan Verbum Dei 6-0 205 Linebacker Anthony Pack Montclair Prep 5-9 165 Wide Receiver Keith Radocvich Woodbridge 6-5 225 Defensive Tackle Steve Wood Los Alamitos 6-3 235 Offensive Lineman Davin Wright Lake Elsinore 6-3 250 Defensive Tackle
Name Junior College Ht. Wt. Pos. Kevin Bernell Fresno 6-5 255 Offensive Tackle Steve Brazas Saddleback 6-2 215 Linebacker Damon Culbertson Bakersfield 6-3 227 Linebacker Dennis Ellis Southwestern 6-3 290 Offensive Tackle Rob Greive Arizona Western 6-2 235 Linebacker Troy Grimes Walla Walla 6-2 215 Linebacker Tim Harris Merced 5-9 200 Running Back Kevin Henderson Glendale 5-11 185 Safety A.J. Jenkins Merced 6-3 225 Linebacker Stan Lambert Long Beach 6-0 170 Kicker Ed McFarland Pierce 6-3 230 Linebacker Michael Moore Riverside 5-9 185 Running Back William Robinson Merced 5-11 210 Fullback Joe Scott El Camino 6-2 230 Linebacker Tommy Thompson Compton 6-3 250 Defensive Tackle