Saturday, June 23, 2007

High Pressure Tactics

We're still in the month of June, but Karl Dorrell and the coaching staff have given out 19 of the 25 scholarships alloted for 2008. Even if the Bruins take a few early applicants, we're still only looking at 6 - 10 rides left for this class. With the number of free slots dwindling rapidly, it sounds like the staff is stepping up the pressure on recruits to make their commitments official. Brian Dohn reported that the latest commitment, Donovan Carter, wanted to give the Bruins a soft verbal, but the coaches pushed him into making it a solid verbal.

On the one hand, this isn't a bad strategy for the coaches. The recruiting process has accelerated over the last few seasons and if you don't get a guy on board early, he may commit to another school. So far these tactics seems to be working as the coaches have landed a very impressive class. Looking at last year's class rankings as a reference; UCLA's current list of recruits would already be considered a top-10 class, even if they don't land another player.

The other advantage is that the coaches can focus on keeping the guys who have already committed, instead of having to land the bulk of the class later in the year. Coach Walker has already proven he can keep guys with this team as he did a fantastic job last season landing pretty much the entire 2007 class, including fending off late pushes by Pete Carroll and USC. Trying to juggle 25-30 guys has to be a lot easier than tracking 40-50+ high school kids.

A potential downside to this strategy is that recruits might say they are on board, but still keep their options open with other schools. It sounds like Carter might already be thinking along those lines. He had this to say in the interview, “If Oregon is still interested, I would like to go up there because I heard the facilities are crazy. I was talking to Miami, but I don't know about right now. If they're interested, I would love to go there because my mom lives near Florida.''

Some kids might also get turned off by the pressure. It sounds like Hamani Stevens and Carter are a little apprehensive to make such a big decision this early. The big stars aren't going to want to verbal this soon anyways, as they have a lot of schools courting them. It must be a delicate process, trying to convince them to make a decision but not trying to push them too hard that they get turned off. These are just teenage boys, after all, and I'm sure they'll change their minds a few dozen times before it is all said and done.

The other potential disadvantage is that we are burning through the scholarships quickly, so if a big star like Darrell Scott decides he likes the program late in the process, we may not have a ride left for him. It is definitely one of those dilemmas that a staff faces each recruiting season. Do you go with the kid you know or do you hold out for the super star? I think they will keep a few scholarships left, just in case, for those really big names still considering Westwood.

In any case, the 2008 class looks really, really good so the coaches are definitely doing something right. Let's just hope that they land their last few players and keep all these guys sold on the program. There is still a long ways to go until letters of intent are signed in February.