Football Recruiting Reset: Defense

Coming off UCLA's Junior Day, there is quite a bit of information and it can be overwhelming. So, we re-set the recruiting table, detailing UCLA's top targets and who has UCLA at the top of their list, starting with defense...

It's difficult to project just how many scholarships UCLA will have available for the 2013 class. A few weeks ago we did an analysis of recruiting needs for 2013, which is a good orientation to this re-set. From that analysis, we loosely concluded that UCLA will have about 20 scholarships available for 2013.

UCLA certainly hasn't wasted any time offering 2013 prospects, with a number of targets already being verbally offered, both on the west coast and nationally. P> The Bruins have three commitments so far in the 2013 class, two on offense and one on defense.

On the defensive side of the ball, there has been some influences impacting UCLA's recruiting. The revelation that UCLA will be playing a base 3-4 defense is definitely affecting how they recruit in the front seven.

Another trend in UCLA defensive recruiting is how well they're seemingly doing recruiting the secondary for 2013, and at least some of that has to be attributed to Jim Mora's experience as a defensive backs coach in the NFL. It was something that a number of guests at Junior Day noted. Couple that with easily the most aggressive recruiter UCLA has had in recent memory as a defensive backs coach, Demetrice Martin, and it's no surprise that UCLA has a ton of offers out to defensive backs, and is doing very well with them.

Here is a look at some of the Bruins top targets defensively. Of course, it has to be noted that it's very early and this list could very well dramatically change by next winter. With the way Mora and his staff have already shown a penchant for recruiting, it's pretty safe to assert that, if the 2012 Bruins actually win and look good on the field, UCLA recruiting for 2013 could explode, and this list could look completely different by Signing Day 2013.


With UCLA going with a base 3-4, and having signed two hybrid OLB/DE types in Nate Iese and Jeremy Castro in the 2012 class, they can be selective in which defensive ends they'll likely offer, having offers out to only a handful right now.

Kylie Fitts, Redlands (Calif.) East Valley. The top pass-rusher in the Southland, Fitts was part of a monster defense at REV and UCLA offered him early and reconfirmed that to him last month.  Fitts had a very good time at UCLA's Junior Day and said that the Bruins are very much in the mix for him.  USC offered on Wednesday, though, and the Trojans have been his longtime favorite, so UCLA may now need to kick their recruiting up a notch.  OFFERED.

Joe Mathis, Upland (Calif.).  Mathis has three favorites, USC, Oklahoma and Nebraska, and even after a good time at UCLA's Junior Day, the Bruins weren't able to crack his top three list.  One advantage UCLA does have in his recruitment, is his relationship with Demetrice Martin, who he committed to when Martin was at Washington, so if Martin can recruit him for the next year, the Bruins will have a shot.  OFFERED

Robert Nkemdiche, Grayson (Georgia). The top prospect in the country in the 2013 class, he'll have his pick from around the country.  His coach played at Alabama and he's not far from Georgia.  Plus his brother plays at Ole Miss.  So it's probably safe to say that the SEC is his likely future home.  OFFERED

Carl Lawson, Alpharetta (Ga.) Milton.  One of Lawson's first offers came from UCLA and the Bruins are making no bones about their effort in the state of Georgia, given Mora's ties into the Peach State.  Lawson has a number of SEC offers but the Bruins cracked his early list of favorites so UCLA will likely turn Keyante Green and Eddie Printz (UCLA's two commitments in the 2013 class from Georgia) on Lawson.  OFFERED

Other Defensive Ends to Watch
Chauntez Jackson, Inglewood (Calif.)
Austin Hooper, Concord (Calif.) De La Salle
Jaylen Ruiz, Fresno (Calif.) San Joaquin Memorial


UCLA landed the best defensive tackle in the West last year, and the #2 prospect in the country in Ellis McCarthy, so they've filled a huge need.  Still, UCLA has always struggled to consistently bring in good defensive tackles, so they're not resting on McCarthy and have already offered a number of prospects.

Eddie Vanderdoes, Placer (Calif.). May be the Sacramento area's top prospect overall next year, Vanderdoes took an unofficial visit to UCLA last month and said he really enjoyed it and has a good relationship with Angus McClure, who recruits the Sacramento area and is also UCLA's defensive line coach.  Vanderdoes has said he plans to be back at UCLA in the spring to check out spring practice.  OFFERED

Justin Manning, Dallas (Texas) Kimball. One of the premier defensive prospects in the Lone Star State in 2013, Manning has a number of offers from in and out of state But, like many prospects from Texas, he'll be hard to pluck out of there, especially with a UT offer.  OFFERED

Kenneth Clark, Rialto (Calif.) Carter. If Fitts is the best defensive end in the Inland Empire, Clark is the top interior prospect in that region. UCLA offered him, he came to Junior Day and had a great time, and the Bruins are very much at the top of his list.  OFFERED

Elijah Qualls, Petaluma (Calif.) Casa Grande.  The best jumbo athlete in the West in this class, Qualls has a number of Pac-12 offers and UCLA offered him a couple of weeks ago just after he took an unofficial visit to UCLA (the same weekend and time that Vanderdoes was visiting).  Qualls can also play fullback, but at 265 pounds, and likely to add more weight, defensive tackle is his projected position.  Qualls said UCLA is very much on his short list, which will be even shorter in the spring, when he trims it to about six schools.  OFFERED

Scott Pagano, Honolulu (Hawaii) Moanalua.  The Bruins just offered Pagano this week, and while he plays in Hawaii, he's a military kid who's originally from San Diego and he's talked of returning to the mainland.  Oregon seems to be the team to beat here and a number of other Pac-12 schools are in on him, but UCLA is hoping it can make a push for Pagano.  OFFERED

Lowell Lotulelei, South Jordan (Utah) Bingham.  Lotulelei was offered early by UCLA, but its uncertain if that offer still stands with the new staff in place.  Still, he's one of the top prospects in the state of Utah and UCLA has made some nice strides in state and will likely continue to recruit him. 

Other Defensive Tackles to Watch
Tashawn Bower, Somerville (N.J.) Immaculata- OFFERED
Sam Smith, Elk Grove (Calif.) Cosumnes Oaks
Jaylen Ruiz, Fresno (Calif.) San Joaquin Memorial


The move to the 3-4 as its base will make UCLA much more aggressive in recruiting outside linebackers in this class, and that's a good thing because there are far more top-end outside linebackers than middle linebackers in the west for 2013.  Still, they will target middle/inside linebackers in this class, though they got a good one last year in Aaron Porter.

Michael Hutchings, Concord (Calif.) De La Salle. The five-star prospect is one of the top defensive player in the West in 2013 and maybe the best pure linebacker prospect.  He has offers from all the big guns in the Pac-12, as well as several national programs.  Hutchings has said that Oregon and USC are his top two schools, but UCLA is very much in the mix for him and he plans to visit UCLA for spring practice.  OFFERED

Myles Jack, Bellevue (Wash.). A Georgia native who is now in the Northwest, he and his family have known Mora for years; his younger brother and Mora's son have played sports together.  UCLA offered him under the previous staff but the new staff re-affirmed the offer, had him in for Junior Day and it couldn't have gone better.  UCLA is very much at the top of his list and he said that no one is recruiting him harder right now than the Bruins. OFFERED

Cameron Judge, Westlake Village (Calif.) Oaks Christian.  Judge got offered by the Bruins on Sunday at their Junior Day and he said the offer was one he really wanted.  The wild card with his recruitment could be Oregon, where his father played.  But UCLA has made mega in-roads at Oaks Christian, signing two players last month, his teammates Ishmael Adams and Jordan Payton, and the Bruins have the hometown advantage with Judge. OFFERED

Sean Constantine, Bellevue (Wash.). The more pure linebacker between he and Jack, he was a defensive standout for the Wolverines, who finished in the top 10 nationally this year and won another state title in Washington.  Constantine was one of the first players in the 2013 class that Mora himself offered.  He also has an offer from hometown Washington.  OFFERED

Danny Mattingly, Spokane (Wash.) Mead. One of the better two-way threats in the state of Washington, Mattingly can play both tight end and outside linebacker and likely projects to defense in college.  Mattingly's brother played at Washington State but Washington was his first offer and that's made a big impression on him.  Still, UCLA will try with him.  OFFERED

Isaac Savaiinaea, Honolulu (Hawaii) Punahou.  The top prospect in Hawaii, Savaiinaea is considered by many to be the best prospect to come from the Islands since Manti Teo.  Stanford, Oregon and UCLA all signed teammates last month, and the Cardinal and Ducks would be considered leaders, but UCLA, who offered on Wednesday, is a school he's very interested in.  OFFERED

Other Linebackers to Watch
Ben Boulware, Anderson (S.C.) T.L. Hanna- OFFERED
Denzel Talifero, Duarte (Calif.)
George Frazier, Monrovia (Calif.)


The cornerback class is ridiculously deep and UCLA has been very assertive in offering guys both in the state of California and nationally.  The corner position isn't necessarily a huge need for UCLA, after signing a number of them last year, but they have a commitment from one of the best in Hunt and are in the mix for a number of other top-end ones.

Dashon Hunt, Westlake Village (Calif.) Westlake. COMMITTED. UCLA offered him as a sophomore and he committed in the summer. He may have been the best two-way player in the division, ahead of Ishmael Adams, doing damage as a running back and as a cornerback.  Hunt was at UCLA's Junior Day and got to meet with the new Bruin coaches and said it went very well and he remains solid to the Bruins. OFFERED

L.J. Moore, Fresno (Calif.) Central. A big, rangy cornerback, Moore has tremendous ball skills and UCLA is one of a number of Pac-12 schools to offer him. After his visit to Westwood for Junior Day, Moore said the Bruins were definitely in his top three, along with Cal and Notre Dame.  OFFERED

Johnny Johnson, Fresno (Calif.) Central. A smaller and chippier corner who will play opposite Moore, Johnson may be the toughest corner, pound-for-pound, in the state.  He'll hit you like a linebacker while covering like a corner.  The Bruins offered him well before Junior Day and his visit to Westwood, coupled with his time with Demetrice Martin, went a long way for him.  USC has offered and will be tough to beat but Johnson said the Bruins definitely are in the mix for him.  OFFERED

Chris Hawkins, Rancho Cucamonga (Calif.).  Hawkins is the top corner in the Inland Empire and the Bruins were one of his early offers.  While Stanford and Cal are in the lead for him, UCLA is right there.  An offer from USC, though, could be tough for Hawkins to pass up, but the Bruins will keep trying with him.  It doesn't hurt that the recruiter for the Inland Empire is Demetrice Martin, who coaches the secondary.  OFFERED

Cole Luke, Chandler (Ariz.) Hamilton.  Luke has offers from a number of Pac-12 schools and is the top pure cover corner in Arizona.  UCLA has had success in Chandler the last two years, albeit at his rival high school, Chandler High, but they're going to continue to recruit him and Arizona.  OFFERED

Other Cornerbacks to Watch
Cameron Walker, Los Angeles (Calif.) Loyola
Derek Babiash, Poway (Calif.)
Devin Holiday, San Marcos (Calif.) Mission Hills
Daquawn Brown, Los Angeles (Calif.) Dorsey


Like the cornerback position, the safety crop is very good and very deep for 2013 and UCLA is going after a number of top-end prospects from the West and from other regions, too.  Like corner, there isn't a dire need for safeties, but UCLA sure would like to bring in 1-2 elite guys.

Su'a Cravens, Murrieta (Calif.) Vista Murrieta. Cravens is the top prospect in the West in 2013, and could play safety or linebacker in college.  He's the kind of guy you just get in and turn him loose.  He had a very good experience at UCLA's Junior Day on Sunday and said that it was a completely different vibe from what he's felt before.  Interestingly, UCLA was the first school to offer him, doing so when he was a freshman.  He spent a lot of time with Mora and defensive coordinator Lou Spanos and they told Cravens he would play safety for them.  OFFERED

Priest Willis, Tempe (Ariz.) Marcos De Niza. UCLA has started to hit Arizona hard the past couple of years and Willis is one of the best in the state in 2013.  He was hoping to attend UCLA's Junior Day last weekend, but couldn't make it.  However, he told Greg Biggins that he would be coming in either March or April to visit UCLA.  He has over 20 offers from all over the country, including new ones from LSU and Florida.  OFFERED

Hatari Byrd, Fresno (Calif.) Central. Similar in style to T.J. McDonald, another Fresno native, Byrd teams with Moore for the best safety-corner combo in the region since Cliff Harris and McDonald. Byrd was recently offered by UCLA and took in Junior Day with his two other Central teammates and said the Bruins are now very much in the mix and in his top five.  OFFERED

Max Redfield, Mission Viejo (Calif.). The top pure safety in the class of 2013 in the Southland, UCLA offered him but USC has been his dream school and now several other national schools are getting heavily in the mix for him, making it even tougher for the Bruins. OFFERED

Tahaan Goodman, Rancho Cucamonga (Calif.). Goodman and teammate Chris Hawkins will rival Moore and Byrd. UCLA offered him and had him on campus for Junior Day.  He enjoyed his time on campus, but also said he wished he'd have been able to spend more time with the coaches.  OFFERED

Tyrell Robinson, San Diego (Calif.) Lincoln. One half of the Robinson twins, may not be as athletic as Tyree but is the more likely of the two to play football in college.  While Tyree has said that he wants to play basketball, Tyrell is far more open to football being his future sport.  OFFERED

Other Safeties to Watch
Leon McQuay, Seffner (Fla.) Armwood- OFFERED
Kameron Miles, Mesquite (Texas) West Mesquite- OFFERED
Tyler Foreman, Encino (Calif.) Crespi
Brandon Arnold, Encino (Calif.) Crespi
Jayme Otemewo, Los Angeles (Calif.) Dorsey

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