UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel acted swiftly and sternly on Tuesday, when he dismissed three highly touted incoming freshman from the Bruin football program.
On the heels of being arrested and charged with felony theft, linebacker Josh Shirley, receiver Paul Richardson and cornerback Shaquille Richardson were dismissed by Neuheisel.
Shirley was the most highly-rated of the three, a U.S. Army All-American and four-star by Scout.com at outside linebacker, choosing the Bruins on Signing Day over USC, Washington, Miami and Arizona.
Both Paul and Shaquille Richardson were O-D All-American’s and the two were cousins.
So what does their dismissal mean?
First, all three will have the chance to be reinstated to UCLA in January, following the fall at a junior college. It was said in a statement “If they meet certain requirements set by Neuheisel, they may be allowed to enroll in January.”
The Richardson’s weren’t expected to play as freshmen, both were expected to redshirt.
At receiver, UCLA has several upperclassmen in the lineup, so Paul, one of the best route-runners in the West last year, would have been able to use the 2010 season to add weight and bide his time before making a push in the lineup in 2011. What makes the situation worse for Paul Richardson is his father is a former Bruin receiver, having been coached by Neuheisel (when Neuheisel was the receivers coach for the Bruins), and a teammate of current receivers coach Reggie Moore.
For Shaquille Richardson, UCLA returns one starting cornerback in Sheldon Price and Aaron Hester, who started at the beginning of the season before breaking his leg, was expected to start opposite Price. Courtney Viney, who replaced Hester early in the year after his injury was expected to be the third cornerback with Andrew Abbott slated to be the fourth corner, after also playing extensively. So Richardson was also expected to redshirt in 2010.
But Shirley was one of the few Bruin freshman expected to play as a true freshman. And the expectations for him were high.
Shirley was one of the best pass-rushing ends as a 2008 junior at Fontana (Calif.) Kaiser before moving to linebacker during his senior season.
That path was similar to the one that Preseason All-American Akeem Ayers took at Verbum Dei in Los Angeles. Ayers was the state’s sack leader in 2005 as a junior but moved to linebacker as a senior.
He’s now UCLA’s best linebacker, playing on the strongside, where he’s been named a Preseason All-American by several publication and is a strong candidate to leave for the NFL after this, his upcoming junior year.
So playing behind Ayers, Shirley would have been able to work behind one of the nation’s top linebackers, without the pressure of starting as a true freshman, but with the ability to move right into Ayers’ spot, should he leave after this season.
Now, all three will be away from Westwood for the fall, needing to stay focused and out of trouble, to have their chances of playing for the Bruins restored.
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