2012 Recruiting Reset: Defense

With the evaluation period done and UCLA set to host three camps in June, we take a look at the Bruins' top targets, and their realistic chances with them, on the defensive side of the ball...

With the evaluation period over and the camp period starting, UCLA hosts an Early Elite Camp on Sunday, then their Lineman and Skill Camps later this month. UCLA has been out and about this spring targeting several key prospects not just in California, but beyond.

But, really, let's be candid: Whatever list we release now is pretty irrelevant. How UCLA does in recruiting on Signing Day 2012 is completely dependent on how UCLA does in its 2011 season. Whatever list of names we put out now is probably going to be drastically different than one next February 2012 – because either one of two scenarios will happen: 1) UCLA has an unsuccessful season, Rick Neuheisel probably loses his job and 2012 recruiting gets a boost from the new head coach, albeit very late in the recruiting season, or 2) Neuheisel has a successful 2011 season, recruits get inspired and jump on board and the list of names has changed almost entirely from what we released in February 2011.

If you want to look at it from an optimistic perspective, both are win-win recruiting scenarios, right? Even if scenario #1 might require a considerable process of pain during the season for Bruin fans, it still more than likely would result in an improved recruiting landscape for UCLA with the 2012 class than it is currently experiencing. And, of course, scenario #2 would be ideal (well, for most Bruin fans who want to see Neuheisel succeed) since, first and foremost, a successful 2011 season is the priority.

Last year at about this time, and throughout the spring, summer and fall, we asserted that 2011 recruits were in wait-and-see mode on UCLA, wanting to wait until the 2010 season to help them make their decision over the UCLA program. Well, we saw what an unsuccessful 2010 season did to the recruiting class. UCLA plainly lost a good amount of recruits you could easily assert it would have gotten had it been successful on the field in 2010. You could say, then, that 2012 recruits are in a very heightened level of wait-and-see mode with UCLA over the 2011 season.

As we've asserted before, if UCLA fans want to put a good spin on the unsuccessful 2010 season, here you go: If UCLA is going to be successful under Neuheisel, it was a season that had to happen, to lead to a purging of an offensive coordinator and defensive coordinator that to be candid (again), weren't going to help UCLA win over the long term. We certainly have no idea if the new offensive coordinator, Mike Johnson, or the new defensive coordinator, Jim Tresey, will be an improvement, but we know that it was highly likely the last set wasn't going to get it done. We've said before that, if there was a time in terms of recruiting for this to happen, the 2011 class for UCLA was perhaps optimal. Neuheisel had sold recruits in the last few recruiting classes on the program's potential, and essentially loaded up with top ten national recruiting classes in doing it. The 2011 class was, then, always going to be a small one, without many rides to give, and if you look at UCLA's projected depth chart for the next couple of years, barring transfers, it looks pretty deep and talented.

UCLA will have anywhere from 15-18 scholarships to give in the 2012 class, and they have two commits so far, both on offense.

Here is a look at the realistic targets for UCLA in the class of 2012.

DEFENSIVE ENDS

UCLA will probably take up to two defensive ends in 2011. The defensive end class in general in the West is just ok for 2012, but UCLA has already offered a few of the top pass-rushers in the region as well as a couple of more nationally.

Luke Kaumatule, 6-7, 230, Honolulu (Hawaii) Punahou.  Kaumatule has a number of offers, but he remains wide open.  Defensive line coach Inoke Breckterfield spent a lot of time in Hawaii in May, and got a commitment from his teammate Steven Lakalaka, and they've been a presence at Punahou again, recruiting Kaumatule and Buckner.  They'd love to snag all three Punahou prospects.  Kaumatule is a good student as well and he boasts offers from  BYU, Hawaii, Oregon, Stanford, Utah and Washington,   Offered. 

Damion Turpin, 6-3, 255, Compton (Calif.) Dominguez.  One of seven prospects from Dominguez with a UCLA offer, Turpin raved about his time at UCLA during the spring on an unofficial visit, citing his contact with Breckterfield and defensive coordinator Jim Tresey.  He's been kind of quiet since the early going, but UCLA is very much in the mix for him.  Offered. 

DeForest Buckner, 6-7, 230, Honolulu (Hawaii) Punahou.  Like Kaumatule, Buckner is another Punahou prospect that Breckterfield scoured the islands for, and is one of three prospects there that UCLA would like to get.  Buckner remains pretty wide open and his offers are from Utah, Washington, Washington State, Colorado, Arizona, Oregon and UCLA. Offered. 

Kyle Kelley, 6-3, 230, Irvine (Calif.) Woodbridge.  Kelley has the versatility to play outside linebacker or defensive end and is similar to past UCLA recruits Josh Shirley and Akeem Ayers, in that their natural position is defensive end, but they're more in the tweener mold of an outside linebacker who gets after the passer.  Kelley has a number of offers, including Florida and NC State coming across the country.  He visited UCLA during the spring and the Bruins are very much a candidate for his services.  Offered. 

Dwight Melvin, 6-1, 265, Laveen (Ariz.) Fairfax.  Talk about good timing.  With UCLA head coach Rick Neuheisel at the Stanford NFTC to watch his son, Melvin showed that he was the best defensive lineman there, earning DL MVP honors in Palo Alto.  Before the camp, he had no offers, but UCLA ended up offering him that night and Arizona followed suit a few days later.  UCLA has an advantage, being the first offer, but Arizona was a school he grew up rooting for. Still, Melvin isn't rushing a decision.  Offered. 

Eli Ankou, 6-3, 245, Orleans (Ont.) St. Peter.  The Canadian prospect got his first offer from UCLA and the Bruins are no stranger signing players from Canada, signing Anthony Thompson in the 2011 class.  Ankou is a good student too, with offers also coming from Vanderbilt and Virginia.  He's been stellar on the camp circuit and he'll hit up UCLA this summer for a camp, while also hitting camps at USC and Stanford.  He's hoping for some more Atlantic offers too, closer to his Ontario home.  Offered. 

Other Defensive Ends to watch:
Troy Hinds, 6-5, 225, Kaysville (Utah) Davis- Offered
Faith Ekakitie, 6-3, 275, Lake Forest (Ill.) Academy- Offered
Nate Iese, 6-4, 245, Sacramento (Calif.) Sheldon
Antonio Perez, 6-2, 230, Sacramento (Calif.) Sheldon
Justen Meaders, 6-2, 210, West Covina (Calif.)
Johnny Stuart, 6-4, 255, Westlake (Calif.)
Austin Hoyt, 6-7, 230, Jackson (Calif.) Argonaut
 

DEFENSIVE TACKLES (2)

UCLA signed two guys in 2010 projected to play defensive tackle, and you can never have too many of them, so you can expect the Bruins to try to sign 3-4 more in 2012.  The problem is, and this seems to be a recurring problem, is that the West is pretty barren with defensive tackle prospects and one of the elites (Aziz Shittu) is off the board.

Aziz Shittu, 6-4, 270, Atwater (Calif.) Buhach Colony.  The DL MVP at the Los Angeles NFTC, Shittu committed to Stanford back in April, but opened things up.  UCLA was one of three schools he said would be finalists before he committed to the Cardinal.  He attended a spring practice and the Bruins didn't give up recruiting him during the eval period.  Offered

Ellis McCarthy, 6-5, 295, Monrovia (Calif.).  The top defensive tackle prospect in the West, McCarthy got his first offer from UCLA and the Bruins were his favorite school growing up.  But as is often the case with elite defensive lineman, they get offers from all over and McCarthy isn't any different, with several schools like Florida and LSU throwing their name into the ring.  USC has also made McCarthy a priority too so UCLA will have their work cut out for them with McCarthy.  Offered

Justin Solis, 6-3, 300, Westlake (Calif.).  Solis has a half-dozen offers, with UCLA one of them, and he's planning to go through the whole process.  USC is the dream school, but with their lack of offers, one may never materialize for him.  Colorado is also doing well with him, having signed his teammate Nelson Spruce a year ago.  But he was a frequent presence at UCLA during the spring and will camp there and UCLA is doing well with Solis.  Offered.

Other Defensive Tackles to watch:
Eddie Goldman, 6-4, 300, Washington (D.C.) Friendship Academy.- Offered
Kamden Hilliard, 6-2, 261, Honolulu (Hawaii) Punahou
Drew James, 6-2, 265, Corona (Calif.)
Milo Jordan, 6-2, 275, Corona (Calif.) Centennial
Vaha Vainuku, 6-3, 295, Salt Lake City (Utah) East

LINEBACKERS

UCLA signed three linebackers in the 2011 class, two from the prep ranks (Orloff and Wallace) and one from the JC ranks (Hofmeister, who's got four to play three).  There aren't a ton of middle linebackers in the West, but there is a decent number of outside linebackers.  UCLA's three linebackers in the 2011 class were all outside backers.  Three of UCLA's top targets all committed to Pac-12 schools.

Jeremy Castro, 6-3, 245, Murrieta (Calif.) Vista Murrieta.  Castro is another one of those defensive end prospects who may be best suited as an outside linebacker in college. He's shown this offseason at a number of 7on7s that he can play the position, but admittedly, he's more natural and comfortable at defensive end.  UCLA was the first school to offer him, doing so a year ago after his sophomore year when he came to their 1-Day Camp.  But Oregon is in the drivers seat for him with Oklahoma running second and UCLA third.  Offered

Jeremiah Allison, 6-1, 210, Los Angeles (Calif.) Dorsey.  Allison got his first offer from UCLA early in the spring and has since picked up another four offers.  He's recorded 40 sacks the past two season as a defensive end for Jordan, but knows he's a linebacker in college so he's been diligently playing linebacker at every camp and 7on7 he's gone to.  Allison is an excellent student, with a 4.0.  UCLA is doing well with him, though he is hoping for a Stanford offer.  Offered

Aaron Porter, 6-2, 230, La Habra (Calif.).  The top middle linebacker in the West, Porter has numerous Pac-12 offers as well as from Boise State.  UCLA was his favorite school and he's also a talented baseball player and UCLA is recruiting him to play both sports.  He's a four-star and ranked among the top 10 in the country so UCLA would love to get an early verbal from him.  Offered

Ifeadi Odenigbo, 6-3.5, 217, Centerville (Ohio). The number three outside backer in the country, Odenigbo's offer sheet spans the country, with three Pac-12 schools, all in the Golden State, Cal, Stanford and UCLA, on it.  While many think he'll stay in the Midwest, he's got family out West and said he plans to visit during the summer.  Offered

Deaysean Rippy, 6-2, 200, McKees Rocks (Penn.) Sto-Rox.  The Pennsylvania has Florida as his heavy leader but he's still mentioning UCLA in interviews as a possibility (with a host of other schools) in case something changes with Florida.  Offered

Jared Afalava, 6-1, 225, South Jordan (Utah) Bingham. One of the premier defensive prospects in Utah, Afalava has recently seen his stock grow, with a number of Pac-12 offers.  The two in-state schools have both offered, and though he's LDS, he doesn't seem to be as high on BYU as he is with Utah.  Those two schools have traditionally done well at Bingham, the state power.  But UCLA is trying.  Offered

Butch Pauu, 5-10, 215, Anaheim (Calif.) Servite.  Pound for pound, there isn't a better linebacker in the West than Pauu.  While undersized, he plays much bigger than he is.  Was an all-state underclass pick for the second straight year, anchoring the Friars' defense and he was the linebacker MVP at the Los Angeles NFTC.  He'll camp at UCLA in search of an offer, but BYU is the leader right now.

Other Linebackers to watch:
Joel Skotte, 6-2, 225, Bend (Ore.) Mountain View
Darnell Murray, 6-0, 210, Perris (Calif.) Citrus Hill
Blake Rodgers, 6-2, 220, Las Flores (Calif.) Tesoro
Lavell Sanders, 6-1, 190, Compton (Calif.) Dominguez
Robert Wagner, 6-2, 215, Ontario (Calif.) Colony
Brian Guendling, 6-4, 215, Poway (Calif.)
 

CORNERBACKS (1-2)

UCLA needs to add at least two cornerbacks, but more likely three, to the mix, after only signing one last year in Thompson.

Ishmael Adams, 5-10, 185, Westlake Village (Calif.) Oaks Christian.  Adams has a number of offers from all around the country but seems to be favoring the West Coast schools.  He moved to Oaks Christian before his junior year after playing his first two seasons in Georgia, but in his time out West, he's grown an affinity for the region.  UCLA is doing well with him and some feel like they could be leading for him, but he says he's wide open.  Offered. 

Brandon Beaver, 6-1, 195, Compton (Calif.) Dominguez.  Beaver was a one-time silent commit to the Bruins, and has long been favoring UCLA, but after taking an unofficial visit to Washington for the Huskies spring game, the Huskies have made a big move and could be considered the leader for Beaver.  He was saying he might commit next week, but has since said he's taking his time and will wait it out.  We'll see if that happens..  Offered. 

Kevon Seymour, 6-0, 175, Pasadena (Calif.) Muir.  UCLA was one of Seymour's early offers, but he's gotten big nationally, and the longtime USC fan got an offer from the Trojans in mid-May.  That put USC in the lead for him and the feeling is they'll be the ones who end up with his commitment, and possibly sooner rather than later.  Offered

Cleveland Wallace, 6-1, 170, San Jose (Calif.) Oak Grove.  Wallace jumped on an early offer from Oregon State and committed to the Beavers. But he then added offers from Boise State and UCLA and while he remains committed to the Beavers, those close to him say he may have decided prematurely and they think he'll open up his recruitment and look at both the Broncos and the Bruins seriously. Offered

Alphonso Marsh, 6-3, 185, Compton (Calif.) Dominguez.  Marsh got an early offer from UCLA, one of a number of Dominguez prospects with a Bruin offer, but the Bruins may have cooled on him of late.  He and Beaver have talked about being a package deal, which would favor Washington or a few other schools that have offered both of them.  He also suffered a knee injury recently that will likely sideline him for the rest of summer.  He struggled this spring at corner, and he looks more destined to play safety. Offered. 

Other Cornerbacks to watch:
Kenneth Crawley, 6-1, 185, Washington (D.C.) Woodson- Offered 
Randall Goforth, 5-10, 175, Long Beach (Calif.) Poly- Offered (Committed to Arizona State)
Marcus Rios, 6-2, 170, Elk Grove (Calif.) Cosumnes Oaks- Offered (Committed to Boise State)
Chaz Anderson, 6-0, 175, Los Angeles (Calif.) Loyola
Dalis Bruce, 5-11, 185, Danville (Calif.) Monte Vista
Bryan Harper, 6-0, 175, Ontario (Calif.) Colony
Donte Deayon, 5-9, 165, Fontana (Calif.) Summit
Bryan Harper, 6-0, 175, Ontario (Calif.) Colony
Diamonte Wiggins, 6-3, 175, Lynwood (Calif.)

SAFETIES (1)

Initially, on Signing Day last February, it appeared UCLA wasn't going to sign a safety in the class of 2011. But they ended up getting commitments from Anthony Thompson and Kyle Lewis. Thompson enrolled for spring practice and plugged in at safety, and that's also where late-committed Lewis projects. But UCLA will still be looking for some impact safety prospects in 2012, with a handful of offers out.  They'll also take a closer look at a number of them at their camps this month.

Shaquille Thompson, 6-2, 210, Sacramento (Calif.) Grant.  The top skill prospect in the West, Thompson was an easy five-star, and could be at running back too.  He's built like a mack truck and is the most college ready skill prospect in the West.  The younger brother of former Cal defensive back Syd'Quan Thompson, the younger committed to Cal but then a week later, decommitted, saying he wants to go through all of his options.  While the feeling is that he'll still end up with the Golden Bears, he said he will take all five trips and UCLA is one of those schools he'll visit.  Offered.

Seth Jacobs, 6-2, 205, Arroyo Grande (Calif.).  The new addition to the Scout 300, Jacobs has 14 offers including from most of the Pac-12, and UCLA is a school that is high on his list.  He will be taking all five official visits and UCLA would like to grab one of those from him.  Offered.

Zach Hoffpauir, 6-0, 200, Peoria (Ariz.) Centennial.  A gifted two-sport prospect, he also is a stellar baseball player, Hoffpauir got a recent offer from UCLA and said the offer excited him.  Both of the in-state schools have offered him as well.  Offered.

Kendrick Mathis, 6-1, 185, Ventura (Calif.) Buena.  Mathis' uncle is Eric Turner, one of the finest safeties in UCLA history, and the Bruins were his favorite school growing up.  His cousin, E.J. Turner, Eric's son, is a walk-on with the Bruins and his aunt plays soccer for UCLA.  So the Bruins are a school that he's dreamed of playing at.  He's really emerged in the spring and he'll camp at UCLA in hopes of landing an offer.  Mathis can play either safety or cornerback.  Offered.

Other Safeties to watch:
Stefon Diggs, 6-1, 180, Olney (Mary.) Our Lady Good Counsel- Offered
Jarrod Wilson, 6-2, 190, Akron (Ohio) Buchtel- Offered
Taylor Lagace, 6-1, 210, Arcadia (Calif.)
Devian Shelton, 6-2, 180, Inglewood (Calif.)
Ma'ne Manaea, 6-0, 195, Lakewood (Wash.) Lakes
 


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