After a dismal National Signing Day, Go Joe Bruin writer Michael Hanna gives his take on why UCLA football recruiting is the way it is.
For UCLA Football head coach Chip Kelly, his system is the star.
That is the simplest explanation for the question most UCLA fans want to have answered today: why did UCLA’s 2019 football recruiting class fizzle out in such a startling manner? It’s almost unfathomable, but UCLA’s 2019 recruiting class finished a paltry 43rd in the 24/7 Composite Team Rankings and was only the 7th-best class in the Pac-12 according to 24/7.
We’ll get back to the “why” in a moment. The corollary to that — how did it happen?– is pretty straightforward: it turns out you usually have to recruit your targets in order to successfully land them.
We don’t say that to be glib. It’s simply a statement of fact. As UCLA recruiting obsessives have been noting on social media, message boards, and podcasts for months, UCLA’s football staff was putting little to no effort into maintaining contact with its recruits.
What’s more, when those recruits set foot on campus for visits, the time they spent was designed to be business-like to the point of being nearly monastic: hotel rooms on campus at the Luskin Center (versus to W Hotel Westwood or Beverly Hilton, where recruits had previously stayed); all meals on campus at the Wasserman Center training table (versus Fogo de Chao or other fancy eateries, where recruits had previously dined); and every moment of the visit spent on campus undergoing physical measurement, film analysis, and academic planning (versus tours of the Rose Bowl and visits to local landmarks and beaches, as recruits had previously done).
While certainly all well-intentioned, the impression it conveyed was one akin to a military academy. And if most recruits wanted to attend one of those, Army, Navy, or Air Force are readily available and more suited to their lifestyle needs than most other schools, much less one like UCLA.
Combine the all-business approach to in-person contact with the already sparse communication with the staff and it’s easy to see how a recruit would think “not only do they barely want me, but they also want to turn me into a robot.”
There aren’t many teenagers who would embrace that, and the fact that UCLA even found 19 of them speaks to a combination of the inherent appeal of UCLA, the lingering faith of some kids in the reputation of Chip Kelly, and, it has to be said, how far down the bottom of the barrel UCLA had to scrape to land a few kids at positions of need.