There will be plenty to explore on the football field when cross town rivals UCLA and USC collide at the Coliseum on Saturday Nov. 30, but off the field the stakes of both of their coaches and the landscape of Southern California recruiting is also on the line.
In two years under Jim Mora, UCLA has proved to be the dominant collegiate football team in this town and the Bruins football expectations are higher than those of the basketball program.
UCLA was the No. 14 ranked team in the country when we went to print and because of the play of the first Black quarterback to ever start a full season for the Bruins, they are also among the most popular.
Quarterback Bret Hundley became the first Black to throw for more than 400 yards in a game since Jackie Robinson in 1940. Robinson was a running back. Hundley passed for 410 yards California in the fifth game of the season.
Hundley who hails from a humble Christian Arizona family is a redshirt sophomore who is now being considered as the next rising star, a potential first round NFL draft pick.
This season he has been spot on, throwing for 2,384 yards and 20 touchdowns against just 8 interceptions. That doesn’t even include the 502 yards rushing and 7 touchdowns.
You get the picture. He’s special and will be a handful for the Trojans, which is trying to finish strong and hopefully remove the intern tag from coach Ed Orgeron who has led USC to five wins in six games since Lane Kiffin was fired.
However, Hundley is not the only Bruin stud who will be playing on Sundays, linebacker Anthony Barr from Loyola could have left and been a high pick in 2012, but return to distribute more punishment.
The job that Mora has done in two seasons has not gone unnoticed on the local recruiting front where he has commitments from View Park’s Cameron Griffith, Compton centennial’s Denzel Fisher and Serra’s Jordan Lashly.
Rumors are circulating that Mora is high on the University of Texas wish list after it cans Mack Brown following this season. No matter what happens the low budget Bruins cannot afford to keep him after this season.
Meanwhile, USC’s remarkable resurgence has twisted the Trojan Nation into debating whether to give the gig to Orgeron or drive the cardinal and gold brinks truck to the doorstep of the highest profile candidate.
Was Lane Kiffin so bad that no matter who came behind him the results were going to be better?
Is Ed Orgeron such an ideal fit with USC that he wouldn’t excel as head coach at any place but here?
This is tougher question than Rhodes Scholar Athletic Director Pat Haden has ever had to deal with.
Star junior receiver Marqise Lee has been injured and will more than likely be gone to the NFL after this season. Hopefully Lee who went to Serra will put in a good word for the Trojans in their recruitment of five star phenom Adoree Jackson.
Then there is Hayes Pullard, arguably the most dominant and consistent player on the defensive side of the ball and he too could and probably will bolt for the NFL after his junior campaign.
While not considered as highly as Lee, many scouts predict that he will be playing in the NFL for a long time.
Pullard, who went to Crenshaw and played for coach Robert Garrett, managed to aid the Trojans in securing Crenshaw’s Ajene Harris.
USC and particularly Orgeron has been fantastic is securing the best players from the region as evident in Lee, Pullard and freshman receiver Derreus Rogers of Carson High.
The Trojans got one big name to switch from Alabama to USC and also has commits from St. John Bosco receiver Shay Fields and Serra linebacker Olajuwon Tucker.
Thus, the coaching hire could make or break the stellar recruiting class while regardless what happens in Westwood as long as Hundley stays the Bruins are a good bet.