September 20, 2005

Pac-10 Blitz: Bruins rolling along

While Southern California continues to grab all of the national headlines, there is a sense of building momentum for the UCLA program. The Bruins not only have made strides on the field (as was evidenced during last week's 41-24 victory against Oklahoma), but they've once again made themselves a factor in recruiting wars for top California talent.

During the past couple of years, it was Cal, not UCLA, which occupied the second spot in pecking order for blue-chip recruits in California behind the Trojans. But with an impressive victory over national power Oklahoma this past weekend and a great start to the 2006 recruiting class there definitely seems to be change blowing in the Santa Ana winds.

The Bruins already have snagged 17 solid commitments, including one from Jerzy Siewierski immediately after the Oklahoma game, and they've assembled arguably the nation's top offensive line class thus far, led by four-star commitments Andy Keane of Palm Springs, Calif., and Sean Sheller of Walnut, Calif.

All of UCLA's commitments average three-stars and the best might still yet to come.

If the Bruins can continue to win, don't be surprised if you see them swoop up five-star linebacker Allen Bradford, the nation's No. 6 overall prospect, four-star receiver Terrence Austin, four-star running back C.J. Gable, four-star inside linebacker Jonathan Cornell and Bradford's teammate Shareece Wright.

It's also way too early to write off the Bruins in the battle to land the nation's top tight end, Konrad Reuland. He recently cut his list to six finalists and UCLA was among them. Don't forget that the Bruins have already landed Kai Forbath, the nation's No. 1 kicker, and Christian Yount, who some kicking experts call the best long-snapper to come out of high school in the past five years.

If the Bruins land as good of a class as expected and continue to recruit well, the power in the Pac-10 will be heavily concentrated in Los Angeles for years to come.

Best is yet to come

Southern Cal has won the past two national championships and the past two national recruiting titles, but for some reason some Trojan fans aren't comfortable with only four early commitments.

Two bits of advice for those fans: take a deep breath and relax.

The best is still to come for USC. Pete Carroll and his staff have built the program to the top of the college football world and every blue-chip recruit that the Trojans show interest in almost always shows interest back.

A perfect example is Taylor Mays of Seattle. The five-star athlete had been long coveted by everybody in the Pac-10 and new Washington coach Tyrone Willingham made him recruiting priority No. 1 when he was hired.

However, Carroll and staff snagged him away from the Huskies and Mays joined a solid early group of commitments that includes four-star defensive end Derek Simmons, four-star offensive lineman Zack Heberer and elite junior college tight end Gerald Washington.

A solid group, no doubt, but at this point not the bunch of headliners one could expect from the Trojans come February.

To better put things in perspective, keep in mind that USC is still on the list for Percy Harvin, the nation's No. 1 player, five-star running back Demarco Murray, four-star safety Antwine Perez, five-star athlete Stafon Johnson and nearly every other prospect that the Trojans staff truly wants.

Huskies still have work to do

Though Washington has already landed four-star running back James Montgomery of Rancho Cordova, Calif., the Huskies might have to do a better job of recruiting to keep him committed.

Word on the street is that Montgomery, the No. 15 player in California, is very much interested again in UCLA and it would not shock insiders to see him take an official visit to Los Angeles to check out the Bruins. Montgomery was scheduled to take an unofficial visit to UCLA earlier this summer but said he was swayed by coaches at several schools telling him that the Bruins program was about to fall flat on its face, and he never made that visit.

He committed to the Huskies a few weeks later. With Washington struggling on the field, head coach Tyrone Willingham could have his work cut out to keep him committed.

One thing that could help Washington in this battle is that it has a solid quarterback in Rivals100 selection Jake Locker already committed, and the combination of Locker teaming up with Montgomery has to be appealing.

Those sneaky Bears

Cal coach Jeff Tedford is quietly putting together another top-shelf recruiting class. The Bears haven't gotten as much attention as UCLA and USC with some of the bluest of the blue-chippers out West, but with nine commitments Cal has a good foundation in place.

Quarterback Kevin Riley of Beaverton, Ore., was hand-picked by Tedford to be his quarterback in this class and the 6-foot-1, 192-pound Elite 11 selection has the skills to be a star in college. He also will have a good one up front blocking for him in Danville, Calif., four-star offensive lineman Mike Costanzo.

Who will win Arizona?

Whoever wins Arizona usually has the best class overall when the Arizona Wildcats and Arizona State Sun Devils lock heads. This year it might not be as important as in the past to win in state because there are only six players ranked three stars or above in-state, but from a perception standpoint it's vital for the Cats and Devils to do well in their own backyard.

Early returns have Arizona State landing three of the state's top 10 players, including four-star defensive end Jermaine Williams. But running back Brooks Reed at No. 2 is still on the board and he claims an offer from both in-state schools.

The good news for both schools when it comes to the big picture is that Arizona has made a second home in Texas - where the Wildcats can compete with any of the Big 12 schools - and Arizona State always does well in California.

Dual-threat heading to Eugene

It's too early to truly call him Oregon's quarterback of the future, but the Ducks went out on a limb early in August and offered a scholarship to Nathan Costa of Hilmar, Calif. The three-star dual-threat quarterback quickly snapped it up becoming the top high school prospect in the Ducks' early haul.

The 6-foot, 190-pounder might not be the traditional strong-armed quarterback that people are used to seeing in the yellow and green, but he does definitely bring a new "option" to the table.

"Nathan has great instincts and has a good understanding of the game," Hilmar quarterback coach Craig Handy said. "He knows when it is appropriate to tuck it and go or when to pass. Costa also has an excellent understanding of down and distance."


Stanford offensive line commitment William McBride of Seffner (Fla.) Armwood is the son of former Florida gubernatorial candidate Bill McBride… Washington State has done a solid job in state so far with five of its six commitments from in-state prospects. The top recruit in its class so far has to be running back Skylar Jessen, the No. 6 player in Washington.

More Recruiting Blitzes:
SEC: Big weekend for Gators
Big Ten: Irish stockpiling talent

Coming tomorrow: ACC, Big 12 and Big East.

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