The hefty expense of recruiting, with trips from Hawaii to Utah, paid dividends for UCLA on Wednesday.
Offensive coordinator Norm Chow alternated suitcases, one with shorts and sandals, the other with a heavy coat. Offensive line coach Bob Palcic spent enough time in Provo that he may be eligible to vote in city elections.
But the Bruins’ recruiting strategy was successful in all climates. They filled their greatest need and sent a message across town.
The Bruins’ coaches gathered offensive linemen as if they had two-for-one coupons. The haul included guard Stanley Hasiak of Hawaii Kapolei and tackle Xavier Su’a-Filo of Provo Timpview, two of the top players in the nation.
The first words out of Coach Rick Neuheisel’s mouth at his post-recruiting news conference were, “Hopefully you all had a good day, I believe UCLA’s football program had a great day.”
It got better, as L.A. Cathedral wide receiver Randall Carroll announced he would sign with UCLA two hours later. Along with Carson tight end Morrell Presley, that gave the Bruins two players who had been committed to USC.
UCLA tied with North Carolina with the No. 4-rated freshman class according to Scout.com. But the bonus points the Bruins scored may be in perception. Hasiak and Su’a-Filo were both pursued by USC.
“I decided I wanted be a part of something big,” said Presley, who has already enrolled in school. “Instead of being a part of something that was already built, I wanted to be a part of bringing something back. Instead of being a good player where they had a lot of good players, I wanted to be a great player.”
Neuheisel said one-upping USC “was not the focus.” But he added, “USC hasn’t won as many Pacific 10 championships without having the best and the brightest. We made it clear we had zero problems competing for quality kids.”
Presley’s decision in December to enroll early “made noise,” Neuheisel said. Presley, in turn, helped in recruiting others.
The final haul was significant for a program that had a 4-8 record last season, with six offensive linemen among the class of 24. The Bruins were 116th out of 119 major college teams in rushing and 110th in sacks allowed.
That the Bruins were able to land both Hasiak and Su’a-Filo was the direct result of recruiting efforts by Chow, a Hawaii native and former Brigham Young assistant, and Palcic.
“At the start of recruiting, Bob Palcic had never been to Hawaii,” Neuheisel said. “He has been there four times in the month of January. He said, ‘As long as I get to go with Norm it’s OK because he gets us in first class.’ Norm is a big name over there.”
Both Hasiak and Su’a-Filo are ranked among the top 10 at their positions.
“We would have been happy just to get one of those guys,” Neuheisel said.
At one point in recruiting, Chow got off an airplane from Hawaii and flew to Utah hours later.
“They’re on the rise, I believe, and I think I can go help them,” Su’a-Filo told ESPNU. “The coaching staff is awesome and I really connected with a lot of players over there.”
The Bruins bulked up their line prospects with Nik Abele of Irvine, Greg Capella of Visalia El Diamante and community college transfers Ryan Taylor (Tyler College) and Eddie Williams (Mt. San Antonio College).
“We went in [to recruiting] knowing that the offensive line was one of our biggest needs,” Neuheisel said.
The Bruins also brought in five defensive backs, including Marlon Pollard of San Bernardino Cajon. They picked up Damien Thigpen from Manassas (Va.) Stonewall Jackson, a speedy running back who had originally committed to Tennessee.
Richard Brehaut, a quarterback from Rancho Cucamonga Los Osos, signed and will enroll in time for spring practice.
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PLAYER;P;HT., WT.;HIGH SCHOOLHOMETOWN
Nik Abele; OL; 6-6, 255;Irvine Irvine
Jayson Allmond; FB;6-0 1/2 , 257; Bloomington Fontana
Isaiah Bowens; LB; 6-3, 220; Bishop Amat La Puente
Richard Brehaut ;QB; 6-2, 206; Los Osos R. Cucamonga
Greg Capella; OL; 6-4, 326; El Diamante Visalia
Randall Carroll;WR;5-10, 185;L.A. CathedralLos Angeles
Todd Golper; LB; 6-0 1/2 , 225; Arcadia Arcadia
Keenan Graham; DE; 6-4, 225;Silverado Las Vegas
Stanley Hasiak;OL; 6-6, 320; Kapolei Kapolei, Hawaii
Dalton Hilliard;RB; 5-11, 195; Punahou Honolulu
Jared Koster; LB; 6-1, 220; Norco Norco
Taniela Maka; LB; 6-1, 220; Jordan Long Beach
Ricky Marvray; WR;5-11 1/2 , 184; Centennial Corona
Alex Mascarenas; DB; 5-11 1/2 , 175; Mission Viejo Mission Viejo
Stan McKay; DB; 6-2, 205; Poly Long Beach
Marlon Pollard; DB; 6-0, 170; Cajon San Bernardino
Morrell Presley; TE; 6-4, 215; Carson Carson
Sheldon Price; DB; 6-2, 165; Bishop Amat La Puente
Brandon Sermons; DB; 6-1, 180; Diamond Ranch Pomona
Xavier Su’a-Filo; OL; 6-5, 285; Timpview Provo, Utah
Iuta Tepa ;DL; 6-3, 238; Poly Long Beach
Damien Thigpen; RB; 5-9, 170; Stonewall Jackson Manassas, Va.
PLAYER;P;HT., WT.;JUNIOR COLLEGEHOMETOWN
Ryan Taylor; OL; 6-3, 305 ;Tyler College Tyler, Texas
Eddie Williams; OL; 6-1, 331; Mt. San Antonio Walnut