Monday, November 18, 2013
Myles Jack scores with UCLA recruits
By Erik McKinney
The USC Trojans stole the Pac-12 spotlight on Saturday evening, wrestling away a 20-17 victory over the Stanford Cardinal. Lost somewhat in those national headlines and slightly buried by the fact it had to go up against recruits' own games on Friday night was a solid 41-31 victory by UCLA against Washington.
But as the weekend played out and recruits were able to look back at the Bruins' effort through watching the recorded game or multiple viewings of highlights, the big home win resonated more and more with UCLA commits and targets. The Bruins have already established themselves with recruits as a potential top-10 team with plenty of forward momentum, so while the win was nice, it was a particular aspect of it that grabbed the most attention.
UCLA played at least 13 true freshmen against Washington, continuing a season-long trend of putting first-year players on the field in important games and for important plays. That strategy's most obvious reward has come in the form of Myles Jack, a true freshman linebacker who rushed for more than 100 yards against Arizona, then followed that performance with a four-touchdown showing against the Huskies.
His performance -- and that of other freshmen -- has not been lost on 2014 recruits.
The way UCLA has used freshman Myles Jack on both sides of the ball has Bruins commits and targets buzzing.
ESPN 300 cornerback Adarius Pickett (El Cerrito, Calif./El Cerrito), who committed to UCLA shortly after taking an official visit there during the first week of the season, said it reflects well on the head coach.
"I've seen them playing a lot of freshmen if they show they are capable of playing early," Pickett said. "Coach ;Jim] Mora trusts in his young players."
Pickett, who plays both ways for his high school team, said he isn't concerned with continuing that feat in college -- although Jack's performances haven't gone unnoticed.
"It shows me that they trust him enough to play offense," Pickett said. "That's something I've been doing this year and could end up doing the same thing there, but my first priority is to go play cornerback. If they need me to play offense as well, I'll do it."
Jack's showings have made an impact on a number of 2014 recruits, but nowhere have they hit home harder than at his former school in Bellevue (Wash.). UCLA is after several recruits at the school this year, including ESPN 300 safety Budda Baker and offensive tackle Morgan Richey. The Bruins could be targeting recent Washington State decommitment, defensive tackle Marcus Griffin, too.
Griffin, who would likely look very favorably upon an offer from UCLA, has been blow away by the last two UCLA games. He said he stayed up late Friday night to watch the game after getting home from his own game.
"I just can't believe my former teammate is doing this," Griffin said. "I knew he was good in high school, but he's taking it to another level now. Plus, he's not just dominating on one side of the ball, he's dominating on both."
Again, the theme of true freshmen playing early was mentioned by Griffin.
"UCLA is giving a lot of true freshmen the opportunity to play early, and that is something that is appealing to any recruit."
Though UCLA didn't start out as quickly on the recruiting trail as some of its fans had hoped following a terrific close to the 2013 class, the Bruins' staff has shown an ability to close in a big way through December and January. Now, armed with the very real prospect of early playing time and a two-way star -- two of the most potent pitches in recruiting -- Mora and staff are again poised to close strong with the 2014 class as recruits have taken note of what's going on in Westwood.