Bolstered by its first Rose Bowl appearance in eight years, UCLA is off to a good start in football recruiting.
Although players cannot sign letters of intent until Feb. 2, Coach Terry Donahue and his staff have unwritten commitments from 10 players.
USC, rebuilding under Coach John Robinson after several sub-par recruiting efforts by former coach Larry Smith and his staff, has concentrated on filling specific needs and adding depth to both lines by recruiting community college players.
UCLA, which lost to Wisconsin, 21-16, in the Rose Bowl, has been actively recruiting out of state, especially the Midwest and Texas. And for good reason.
"It's not a great year in California," says Dick Lascola, who runs the Fallbrook, Calif.-based Scouting Evaluation Assn. "The strength of this class is the skill kids--running backs, wide receivers and defensive backs. There are virtually no quarterbacks, after Steve Campbell (Norco High) and Steve Buck (Alta Loma High), a handful of linemen and \o7 no\f7 linebackers. Overall, it's pretty lean."
USC has also been recruiting extensively in Texas, and both USC and UCLA could be helped by the five-year NCAA probation against the Texas A&M football program that was handed down Wednesday. (However, the Aggies are prohibited from appearing on television and going to a bowl game only next season.) Texas A&M has been the one Southwest Conference school in recent years that has consistently recruited well in-state.
Just this week, USC received a commitment from one of the top players in Texas, defensive lineman Cedric Jefferson (6-3, 270) of Ft. Worth, who also visited Alabama.
The Bruins are hoping to sign 20 players, an increase from their previously stated goal of 17 or 18.
UCLA's 10 commitments: quarterback Steve Buck (6-feet-4, 180) of Alta Loma; defensive back-wide receiver Glenn Thompkins (5-9, 165) and offensive lineman Rick Austin (6-3, 300) of Rialto Eisenhower; running back-safety Shaun Williams (6-2, 185) of Encino Crespi; defensive lineman Danjuan Magee (6-3, 260) of Long Beach Poly; tight end-linebacker Mike Grieb (6-4, 220) of San Jose Oak Grove; tight end-defensive end Robert Arthur (6-5, 230) of Brownsboro, Tex.; defensive back Akil Davis (6-feet, 180) of Mesa, Ariz.; safety DuVal Hicks (6-2, 195) of Benicia, Calif., and punter Justin Sogoian (6-4, 195) of Orange Coast College. Sogoian, who attended La Quinta High in Westminster, was an all-state selection who averaged 42.7 yards a kick last season. He also visited USC.
In addition, Newhall Hart linebacker-tight end John McLaughlin (6-4, 220) says that UCLA and Notre Dame are his top choices. Florida State, Arizona and Nebraska are also among his list of schools.
UCLA and Notre Dame are also the top choices of talented running back Ty Goode (6-1, 185) of Southeast High in Lincoln, Neb. Goode rushed for 1,494 yards and 30 touchdowns last season, but is considered an even better prospect at safety. So far, he has resisted pressure to stay home and commit to Nebraska.
Latest to sign with the Trojans are defensive end Marcus Bonds (6-6, 235) of West Los Angeles, offensive lineman Richard Beatie (6-6, 290) of Glendale and defensive back Mario Bradley (6-2, 180) of Cerritos. That group joins two earlier community college signees, wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson (6-4, 205) of West Los Angeles and linebacker Errick Herrin (6-3, 230) of Mt. San Jacinto. In addition, two other community college standouts have made commitments to sign with USC next month: offensive lineman Heath Baughman (6-7, 290) of Bakersfield and fullback Reggie Brown (6-1, 235) of College of the Desert.
Besides Jefferson, other high school players who have reportedly made commitments to the Trojans include standout running back-defensive back Rodney Sermons (6-feet, 180) of La Puente Bishop Amat, defensive end George Perry (6-6, 235) of San Bernardino and offensive lineman David Caldwell (6-6, 310) of Oakland. Next to commit may be defensive back-wide receiver Leon Blunt (5-10, 180) of San Fernando. Blunt made an unwritten commitment to Notre Dame during a recruiting visit last month, but has since reconsidered. He recently visited UCLA, but has told friends that he will eventually sign with USC.