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UCLA Catches Up, USC's There

Football recruiting: Bruins get 20 and Trojans get 22 on the first day to sign letters of intent.

February 08, 1996|JIM HODGES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The lambs are all in the fold, and some college football staffs were throwing parties Wednesday night.

"You work hard, you play hard," said Bob Toledo, UCLA's coach. "And we worked hard."

The Bruin staff, which still has one opening, has been scrambling to recruit since Toledo took over for Terry Donahue, who resigned in December.

UCLA signed 20 players to letters of intent Wednesday, 17 of them from high schools, plus two junior collegians and Wasswa Serwanga, a defensive back transfer from Pacific's defunct program.

The Bruins got a late boost when Sylmar running back Durell Price, the City 4-A player of the year, said he had signed with UCLA on Wednesday night, even though he committed to Ohio State.

"When you miss three or four weeks, it's hard to catch up," said Toledo, who had been offensive coordinator and was not named head coach until four weeks after Donahue resigned.

"We lost some kids who committed elsewhere, but the kids who were sincerely interested in UCLA or who were still willing to visit, we got some of those."

That includes Damian Allen, a defensive back from Damien High, who at 5 feet 9, 160 pounds, falls in line with a long list of diminutive UCLA defensive backs; and Dylan Aquino, a quarterback from Hacienda Heights Los Altos who passed for 2,347 yards and 23 touchdowns as a senior.

Across town, USC, which signed 22 players, is touting its recruiting class as one of its best, and national recruiting services--those organizations that rate players--agree. One, in Laguna Beach, says only Penn State had a better class, and that was because the Nittany Lions got Rashard Casey, a quarterback from Hoboken, N.J., called by one rater "this class's Tommie Frazier."

USC's quarterback recruit is Mike Van Raaphorst, who passed for 2,207 yards and 19 touchdowns as a senior at La Mesa in San Diego. The Trojans also picked up three targets for him in Stan Guyness of Los Alamitos, Troy Garner of Sherman Oaks Notre Dame and R. Jay Soward of Fontana.

Perhaps most interesting, the Trojans did not sign a running back, getting only Ted Iacenda of Newhall Hart High, who is projected as a fullback. Iacenda set a Southern Section-record with 99 touchdowns and 604 points.

"It's a good class," Coach John Robinson said. "Recruiting is different now than before, and freshmen have to come in and help. In the past, you waited a couple of years to see what kind of recruiting class you had. Now, you need eight to 10 freshmen to come in and play."

The Trojan class is shy a couple of anticipated members. One, linebacker Na'il Diggs of Dorsey High, had said he would go to USC and submitted a letter of intent, but wavered on his decision Wednesday morning and it was retrieved from the school when the Trojans fired Charlie Parker as their basketball coach. Parker is married to Diggs' sister, Roslyn Simpson, and Diggs lives with them.

The other, Ralph Brown II of Bishop Amat, opted to attend Nebraska, where he will play defensive back.

Nebraska went the extra mile with Brown, who had not qualified for a scholarship academically because his Scholastic Assessment Test was not quite up to par. The school arranged for him to take the test at Lincoln, Neb., High while he was on a visit two weeks ago, Brown said.

But the Trojans did get Chris Claiborne, perhaps the Southland's highest-touted recruit as a linebacker from Riverside North.

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