football Edit

West mailbag: Things looking up for UCLA

After a down year, what are the prospects for Rick Neuheisel and UCLA in recruiting for 2012?
Who are the top Class of 2012 prospects in California?
Can any team unseat USC for top recruiting class in the Pac-10?
These questions and more are addressed by Rivals.com analyst Adam Gorney in this West region recruiting mailbag.
Feeling the heat?
After such a disappointing season, will Rick Neuheisel and UCLA be able to break the top 25 in recruiting for 2012? What are the chances with guys like Derrick Woods, Joshua Garnett, Davonte Neal, Ellis McCarthy, etc.?
- Jacob from Westwood, Calif.
The thing that should concern UCLA fans for recruiting purposes is that if the Bruins have another sub-par season then coach Rick Neuheisel could be on the serious hot seat. Like UCLA's problems with coordinator turnover that negatively affected the Bruins this season, questions about Neuheisel's future in Westwood could hinder recruiting progress for next recruiting cycle.
Something that could drastically help is if UCLA's offense takes shape this season even if it's with freshman quarterback Brett Hundley taking control. There could be some bumps in the road with a young QB but the Bruins have to show more progress on the field to attract the top players that are now going to USC or Oregon or Washington.
McCarthy is probably a strong USC lean at this point. Neal is probably a long shot and Garnett has national interest as well. Woods is a local kid from Inglewood who could end up at UCLA but it's probably going to be more tough sledding for the Bruins.
Future Stanford star?
How well can Wayne Lyons fit into Stanford's scheme?
- Allan from Vernon, Calif.
Lyons could be a star in Stanford's system because the kid is bright and hardworking plus he's bringing a certain South Florida toughness to the Pac-10. There were definitely a lot of questions surrounding Lyons when coach Jim Harbaugh left for the San Francisco 49ers but the Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) Dillard standout stuck with the Cardinal all the way.
Lyons was really impressive at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl and that says a lot moving forward. He might not be a game-changer from Day 1 in Palo Alto but long term Lyons should be a consistent starter in Stanford's secondary.
California's best
For the class of 2012, who in California do you think are the top two recruits at this point in time?
- Manuel from Long Beach, Calif.
There is a long list of impressive prospects and it's still before the early evaluation period but I definitely think Arik Armstead, Ellis McCarthy, Shaq Thompson, Tee Shepard and Jordan Simmons are definitely in the conversation along with Zach Kline, Byron Marshall, Jordan Payton and Bryce Treggs.
I definitely think that first list is ahead of those final four recruits but that's an outstanding early list. I've now seen everyone on this list - and I can certainly be missing a few top guys - but this is the group off the top of my head that I've been thoroughly impressed with. In a game setting, Thompson might have been the best. I saw him play running back and defensive back against Folsom early in the season and he just absolutely dominated that game.
Chasing the Trojans
Can any teams in the conference unseat USC in next season's Pac-10 rankings?
- Jason from Los Angeles, Calif.
USC will almost assuredly be limited in scholarship numbers so next season could be the chance for Oregon or Washington or Cal or possibly another team to unseat the Trojans atop the Pac-10 rankings.
Early on, I like Washington's chances. If coach Steve Sarkisian and his staff can close with in-state talent like they did this past season - getting Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Kasen Williams, Danny Shelton and Bishop Sankey - then the Huskies could have a good chance of being the Pac-10's No. 1 team.
Jeff Lindquist is one of the West's best quarterbacks and the Mercer Island, Wash., standout likes the Huskies a lot. All-purpose back KeiVarae Russell should be one of the best backs in the West as well. The real meat is on the offensive line where Zach Banner and Joshua Garnett are two of the top linemen maybe in a long time in the Pacific Northwest.
It is also a relatively solid year in Northern California and Washington could make up some ground there but Cal is going to get its fair share of top talent from that area and Stanford should be able to compete as well.
More competition
How will the addition of Colorado and Utah affect the Pac-10 in recruiting?
- Mike from Boulder, Colo.
From the prospects I've already talked with, it's been interesting because a lot of California kids are now interested much more in both programs. The question, though, is how many of those prospects will actually end up at those two schools and can the Buffaloes and Utes pull four-star kids out of that state?
Utah will have an easier time getting involved with players now because of the Pac-10 pull but can the Utes win as regularly now that they're in a tougher conference? Colorado's coaching staff has impressed a lot of people already so that's something to watch moving forward as they compete with other Pac-10 coaches for some of the West's best talent.