Many fans are in a bit of a panic mode, with UCLA having just 8 commitments and currently its class being ranked #64 in the nation by Scout.com.
Obviously, UCLA's 4-8 season affected the program's ability to recruit the 2011 class. That season result also inspired the current uncertainty in the coaching staff, which also contributes.
But if you look at it from a bigger perspective, it's not near as bleak. UCLA will give out 16 or 17 scholarships, which isn't many, so it would never really have a chance to be a top ten national class anyway. After three consecutive top-ten national recruiting classes in which UCLA had 23-25 commitments in each class and really loaded up, the 2011 class, with a limited number of scholarships, wasn't as critical for Rick Neuheisel's program. And don't think this was random and wasn't by design; Neuheisel completely realized that he should load up in his first few recruiting classes while he could sell the program's promise, and that it very well could be tougher sledding with the 2011 class after what was easily anticipated as a potentially tough season in 2010.
And, really, with UCLA having done well in the previous three classes, and with a depth chart fairly well stocked with young talent, we said last fall that the make-or-break element of the class would be whether UCLA could sign an elite quarterback prospect. It definitely succeeded on that front when it got the commitment of Brett Hundley, who just moved up to a five-star recruit and the #3-ranked quarterback in the nation, according to Scout.com.
So, with 2011 it was all about the quarterback spot, and then, with the already fairly stocked projected depth chart, there were a few little holes UCLA intended to fill. Some of the committed recruits already fill those needs, and the thought is that if UCLA can finish off the 2011 class with a few more key commitments the 2011 class will be a good compliment to the previous three top ten classes.
Here are UCLA's needs from a depth chart standpoint, and what it hopes to accomplish with the 2011 class.
Unless it's by injury or transfer, UCLA won't lose a quarterback from its roster until the 2013 season.
Of course, there are always depth concerns at quarterback. So, it was imperative UCLA bring in one in 2011, and with the way the position has been performing in recent seasons, it was just as imperative that Neuheisel make a big splash with the quarterback he got for 2011.
As we said, getting Hundley was truly the make-or-break aspect of the class. Without Hundley, or any other elite quarterback prospect, the class could easily be deemed a disappointment. But getting Hundley was even better than many would have anticipated in terms of a quarterback prospect, and he definitely went even a bit beyond expectation in his performance at the Under Armour All-American game and practices. Given UCLA's disappointing season, the fact that UCLA hung on to Hundley, and that he's already enrolled in classes (starting school last week with the UCLA winter quarter), was a major coup.
We've heard, too, that quarterback recruiting might not be entirely over for the 2011 class, but that's all we can say at this time.
If you project out UCLA's depth chart over the next few years, wide receiver could be the spot of biggest need, with UCLA currently having a number of upperclassmen. So, at this point, receiver might be UCLA's biggest targeted position for 2011. It took a hit when Brandin Cooks, the 5-11 prospect from Stockton (Calif.) Lincoln, de-committed, but the word is that UCLA is continuing to try with him.
UCLA's current big fish is Devin Lucien, the 6-0 prospect from Encino (Calif.) Crespi. He took his official visit last weekend and reportedly UCLA is among the leaders for him. He's also visited Arizona State and Kentucky, and has a plan to visit Colorado this week, and could use his last visit on Michigan or Miami. The thought is that Lucien won't ultimately want to leave home, but this is one that could go down to the wire.
Blair Holliday, the 6-1 prospect from Westlake Village (Calif.) Oaks Christian, is scheduled to take his official visit to UCLA this weekend. He's currently committed to Duke but after UCLA offered him a few weeks ago things have changed. Coming from a UCLA fan family, and then having ex-teammates Malcolm Jones and Cassius Marsh at UCLA, Holliday could very well switch allegiances this weekend. There is also another receiver prospect who is verbally committed to another school that UCLA is pursuing. Initially, former UCLA receiver coach Reggie Moore chose not to recruit him, but with Moore now gone UCLA is pursuing him and gauging interest, to see if it's possible to get back into it at such a late date. UCLA does have connections to the prospect, so it will be interesting to see how it plays out.
If UCLA, thought, got Lucien and Holliday it would be considered a win.
UCLA's depth at OL for the next couple of years is good. It will probabl only lose three players to graduation by the 2013 season, and it will very likely get back Xavier Su'a-Filo, from his Mormon mission, in time for the 2012 season.
UCLA has three OL commitments currently, and would ideally like to add two more offensive linemen to the 2011 class, and there are really only a handful of prospects UCLA is still pursuing seriously. Looking at the projected depth chart, the bigger need is at offensive tackle than offensive guard, so Fou Fonoti, the JC prospect from Cerritos College, is a pretty big priority. He took his official visit this last weekend and had a very good trip. He has a little bit of academic work to do to get into UCLA, but it's nothing like the work other JC players had to do in previous years to get past admittance. Michigan State and Arizona are the main competitors, while he still has one official visit remaining to Rutgers this weekend. The hope is that Rutgers (and Michigan State) will seem too far and too cold, and that Arizona won't be able to sell him on not having to do the extra course work.
Conor McDermott, the prospect from Nashville (Tenn.) Ensworth, is an interesting development. The younger brother of current UCLA walk-on tight end/long snapper Kevin McDermott, he's a big boy, at about 6-8, but still fairly skinny. He reportedly has good feet, having played basketball for most of his life, and only recenetly has taken the thought of football seriously. He'd be a grayshirt candidate and a long-term project.
Cyrus Hobbi is perhaps the biggest fish left on UCLA's recruiting board. The OL prospect from Scottsdale (Ariz.) Saguaro was rumored to have verbally committed to USC after his official visit there last weekend. Arizona State was considered the favorite for a while, and before that it was thought UCLA was the leader. He attended three UCLA games in 2010. With the Bruins getting his last official visit this weekend, UCLA will try to win him over and nail it down.
Steven Manfro, from Valencia, will take an official visit this weekend. We just posted video clips from his record-breaking senior season: Manfro Senior Season Video. He has a scholarship offer from Wyoming, and interest from other mid-majors. UCLA is pretty deep at running back and didn't pursue many running backs in the 2011 class. UCLA hasn't offered Manfro, but could if they feel they'll have scholarships available, with Manfro being a good student and a solid depth-provider at the position.
UCLA's depth at defensive tackle over the next couple of years looks pretty good, with some good young talent in the program. The feeling is always, though, that you can't have enough DTs, and one strong commitment for 2011 would be a real bonus and, of course, UCLA wouldn't turn down more at the position if it were possible.
Right now it looks like Kevin McReynolds, the #24-ranked DT in the country, from Washington D.C., is the primary remaining target. He took his official visit to UCLA the weekend of the USC game and was very impressed. He has since visited Syracuse and Mississippi State, and cancelled a visit to Oregon. Kansas State is trying to make a push. It's believed by many close to the recruitment that UCLA is the leader, so it's a matter of UCLA pushing it over the finish line.
UCLA is still trying with Christian Heyward, the prospect from San Diego Point Loma, but the uncertainty over who will be UCLA's next defensive coordinator definitely threw a wrench into that recruitment. Heyward has said publicly he's eliminated UCLA.
UCLA continues to try with USC commit, Jalen Grimble.
With good projected depth at DE, and one commitment for 2011 already, UCLA would like to get a commitment from one more defensive end in the 2011 class.
The #8-ranked defensive end in the country, Jermauria Rasco from Louisiana, took his official visit to UCLA this last weekend. Reports were that he expressed the fact that he had a very good time on the visit, but UCLA is still considered a longshot for him.
Also visiting last weekend was Faigame Lopa, the prospect from Sacramento Grant. He already visited Arizona State and still has visits to Oregon State and Washington State on the docket. UCLA is in a good place with him, but the feeling is that Lopa really doesn't know whom he favors at this time.
There is another defensive end prospect currently committed to another Pac-10 program who very well could take an official visit to UCLA this weekend. Some observers feel the prospect might end up an offensive lineman down the line.
UCL signed quite a few linebackers last season, and already has commitments from two in this class, so it's not a huge priority position for the next two weeks.
UCLA is still involved with the #1 middle linebacker prospect in the country, Michael Steward from Florida. He visited UCLA during USC weekend, and also visited Clemson, Alabama, Florida State and Florida. UCLA is considered a bit of a longshot for him.
The Bruins are also checking into a bit of a sleeper, Vladimir Gray, the prospect from Harker Heights (Tex.) High. Gray is supposed to be a tough, fast athlete, but under-sized at about 6-0 and 210. A UCLA coach is actually going to Texas to see Gray in person this week, and if things check out he could take an official visit next weekend.
The safety position isn't a big priority for UCLA. With the 2011 class, it was always a case that if UCLA could get an elite one (say, Wayne Lyons), it would take him, but wouldn't take someone just to take someone.
UCLA is still pursuing Marqise Lee, the athletic prospect from Gardena Serra. In fact, Rick Neuheisel is supposed to be going to one of Lee's high school games this week. The Bruins, however, aren't a favorite for Lee at this point.
UCLA would ideally like to sign one cornerback, and the big target is Stefan McClure, the #4-ranked cornerback in the country from Vista. He visited UCLA last weekend – unofficially – after new Michigan coach Brady Hoke convinced him to take his last official visit to Ann Arbor this weekend. But reports have UCLA now back in the lead for McClure.
UCLA will also get an official visit from Jeremiah Hendy, from Bowie (Maryland) High, next weekend. UCLA has yet to offer, and it could be a case where they might be waiting to see if they get McClure.
UCLA is also still recruiting Fred Wilson, from Bakersfield (Calif.) West, who is verbally committed to UNLV. He very well could visit UCLA officially next weekend.