college football, Crosstown Rivalry, ESPN, Los Angeles, National Signing Day, NFL, Rose Bowl, Snoop Dogg, UCLA Bruins, University of California Los Angeles, University of Southern California, USC Trojans, Westwood
A shot of UCLA and USC lining up during the 2012 version of the Crosstown Rivalry Clash
A FEW THOUGHTS ON WHAT ALL OF THIS MEANS FOR THE BRUINS, THE TROJANS, AND EVERY OTHER COLLEGE IN THE NATION FOR THAT MATTER, AS THEIR SIGNEES JOIN THEM THIS COMING FALL
There’s no mistaking it, as even the fans of one school that hate the other school with a passion and wishes such school nothing but ill will are forced to admit it:
For the two largest four-year institutions of higher learning that call Los Angeles home, February 4th was a great day as the football programs at the University of California, Los Angeles (much more commonly known as UCLA) and the University of Southern California signed recruiting classes chock full of outstanding high school talent.
Which earned both the Bruins and the Trojans spots among the nation’s top ten, ranking anywhere from first to ninth according to media bases like ESPN, Scout.com, and 247 Sports.
Bruin coach Jim Mora was obviously ecstatic; I think signing the “…#1 running back, the #1 tight end, the #1 offensive guard, and the #1 offensive line in America…” in his words – not to mention the top-rated quarterback in the country who’s already enrolled in Westwood and will participate in spring practice – would make any coach excited.
Mora’s counterpart from just south of downtown L.A., Steve Sarkisian, is likewise extremely happy with his haul as he took full advantage of being able to sign a full class of 25 players for the first time since the Trojans were hit with sanctions in 2010.
Sixteen of USC’s 24 signees were ranked in ESPN’s top 300 as the Trojans focused on defense, with 13 of their recruits playing on that side of the ball.
It was an understandably happy day in Westwood and South L.A., and deservedly so.
It seems like thanks to the media National Signing Day, in many fans’ eyes, has become an enormously hyped event on par with Draft Day in the NFL, which Signing Day has essentially become the college football version of.
Visions of national championship glory dance in the heads of fans whose teams were chosen by the five-star talent out there, as well as extreme dejection and visions of Titanic-like disasters for those whose schools were spurned by those blue-chippers.
It must be kept in mind, however, that all of this hype of these big name college programs improving their teams on paper mean one thing at the end of the day:
Knowledgable fans understand this; I certainly do, and for this particular reason:
A highlight from the 2013 showdown at the Coliseum
The fact that schools like UCLA, USC and others such as Alabama, Florida State and (national champion) Ohio State improved their teams on paper by signing high school kids classifies as just that – improvement on paper.
Which will not mean a single thing if these four and five-star recruits don’t perform to their big potential on the field.
In other words, while right now these prep studs are “the man”, in a few months they will be nothing but freshmen.
Who will need to earn their time on the gridiron and to behave like one-stars and walk-ons trying to make the team rather than five-stars, if their college careers are going to be as successful as their high school ones.
It’s not just about how many stars a media source gives those young guys, it’s the kind of coaching they get and how hard they work once they step onto that practice field.
As proof of this, schools like Boise State have won major bowl games with classes made up of two and three-star players while USC, whose classes constantly rank in the top ten thanks to tradition, name recognition and past success, had a recent season where they began as the top team in the nation only to end up with a record of 7-6, losing to UCLA and a 6-7 Georgia Tech team in the Sun Bowl.
In fact, the Bruins have beaten the Trojans three years in a row, despite ‘SC having a higher ranked class in 2014.
As a matter of being fair and not sparing them, it should also be noted that UCLA once had the top-ranked class in 1999, which included a kid who rushed for 4,000 yards on his team the previous year, which ultimately did not pan out as the majority of them were more or less busts who ended up either having sub-par careers in Westwood or transferring to other schools.
While the Bruins mostly disappointed and underachieved during the first decade of the 21st century.
That’s why while it’s always good for the schools that sign the top recruits – as a UCLA alumnus (class of 1991) I was admittedly happy over the Bruins’ haul, which incidentally includes the son of rap legend Snoop Dogg – my attitude can be summed up in three simple words:
WE WILL SEE.
Time will tell if these youngsters who were stars of the high school pigskin will continue their progress at the next level, because there’s always that possibility that it won’t.
In the meantime, there’s nothing more to say except to wish everyone in the country that signed with the team of their desire the best of luck.
As a Signing Day treat, here are highlights from last year’s Crosstown Rivalry Clash, won by the Bruins at the Rose Bowl: