Football Recruiting Reset: Defense

As the spring evaluation period ramps up, UCLA is in on a number of prospects, and is doing particularly well with a strong group of defensive backs, easily the best positional unit in the region this class. Here is a defensive recruiting reset as of mid-May...

UCLA is destined for a scholarship crunch. As of this moment in time, even after figuring in the players that will graduate in 2013, the staff has just 9 scholarships to give to the 2013 high school class, and it already has 7 commitments. We've heard that the staff intends to give out upward of 22 when it's all said and done, so that means it's going to have to find 15 more rides by September 2013. Of course, some players will naturally leave the program, through medical retirements, transfers and such. But that's still a boatload of scholarships to dig up.

If UCLA has a good season in 2012, too, more elite prospects will get Bruin fever and consider UCLA seriously.

Of course, having too many elite prospects wanting to come to your program is a luxury that Jim Mora would love to have.

The staff finished off the 2012 class with strength, getting some elite recruits down the stretch of the recruiting season. It has, too, continued that momentum and started off recruiting the 2013 class very effectively. It's a testament to how good this new UCLA staff is at recruiting. It's also a testament to recruits buying into the promise of a new staff and program, and Mora and his coaches benefitting from the natural honeymoon period. Mora's recruiting honeymoon, though, might be shorter than it conventionally would be, since the dismal results on the field for the last, well, decade, has made the UCLA community a little less patient with the program turning the proverbial corner. And recruits are clearly less patient also. So, for UCLA's 2013 recruiting to be successful, Mora is clearly going to have to show something on the field for 2012.

We'll start with a re-set of UCLA's defensive recruits. As of now, it looks like UCLA will want to bring in 2-3 defensive linemen, probably 3 linebackers, two safeties and two cornerbacks.

DEFENSIVE END

There just really aren't a lot of elite defensive ends out West this year, and most of the national ones aren't looking at UCLA very seriously.

Joe Mathis, Upland (Calif.).  Mathis has three favorites, Michigan, Washington and Nebraska, but UCLA is still trying with him.  He's talked of a package deal with a number of UCLA's other targets but those rarely ever workout anyway so we're not putting a lot of stock into it.  Mathis committed to Washington, and to Demetrice Martin, when Martin was coaching with the Huskies, and he decommitted not long after Martin left.  But an unofficial last month to Washington has the Huskies back in the mix for him.  Still, UCLA is recruiting him and Martin is still doing his part with Mathis.  All that said, academically, Mathis is probably a long shot for UCLA, and might actually be on his way to a JC.   OFFERED

Danny Mattingly, Spokane (Wash.) Mead.  Mattingly plays outside linebacker and tight end, but with his size and athleticism, is more likely to end up as a defensive end at the next level.  UCLA was one of his first offers and he's got offers from all over the country, but continues to mention UCLA as one of his top five.  Washington could be tough to beat, and his brother played at Washington State, but Notre Dame may be the most difficult to overcome, having grown up as a fan of the Irish.  OFFERED

Other Defensive Ends to Watch
Chauntez Jackson, Inglewood (Calif.)
Austin Hooper, Concord (Calif.) De La Salle

DEFENSIVE TACKLE

UCLA landed the best defensive tackle in the West last year, and the #2 prospect in the country in Ellis McCarthy, so they've gotten a huge need filled.  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.). A top three defensive tackle nationally, Vanderdoes took an unofficial visit to UCLA earlier this spring and said he really enjoyed and has a good relationship with Angus McClure, who recruits the Sacramento area and is also the defensive line coach.  Vanderdoes has said he plans to be back at UCLA in the summer for an unofficial visit.  UCLA was the first school to offer Vanderdoes, McClure offering him last fall, before he blew up into a 30+ offer guy.  Oregon and USC are the frontrunners for him right now.  OFFERED

Kenneth Clark, Rialto (Calif.) Carter. Clark is the top interior prospect in the Inland Empire and UCLA offered him early and he came to Junior Day and had a great time and the Bruins are very much at the top of his list.  He also was at UCLA's Spring Game and came to some spring practices too and UCLA is doing very well with Clark right now.  OFFERED

Kennedy Tulimasealii, Waianae (Hawaii).  The Bruins offered Tulimasealii and he had a good showing at the Hawaii Nike Combine back in January.  He's got some work to do in the classroom but several Pac-12 schools have offered him and he's one of the more under-the-radar guys in the state of Hawaii.  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 was one of his early offers but Washington and Arizona have been doing well with him and USC just recently offered and those seem to be the schools he's favoring at this point.  OFFERED

Vita Vea, Milpitas (Calif.).  One of the more intriguing prospects in the Bay Area, Vea has played linebacker, running back and defensive end, but will likely end up as a tackle in college, at 6-3, 285.  He's a good athlete with good size and UCLA was one of the first schools to offer him and he was another guy that Angus McClure identified early on and now has offers from all over.  OFFERED.

Luca Bruno, Oak Park (Calif.).  UCLA has just recently began to pick up its interest in Bruno, who grew up not far from UCLA, and more importantly, is the son of former UCLA fullback Frank Bruno, so he comes from a UCLA family.  He was at a couple of UCLA's spring practices in April and there is definitely interest from him towards UCLA.  He doesn't have an offer yet, but he's been invited to the Bruins' Lineman Camp next month. It's an entirely plausible scenario that the UCLA coaches like what they see of Bruno at the camp, offer him and he commits.

Sam Smith, Elk Grove (Calif.) Cosumnes Oaks.  A former teammate of UCLA freshman Marcus Rios, Smith is one of the top defensive linemen in California, and now, with his academics shaped up, is drawing more and more attention from college coaches, including UCLA, USC and Cal.  He's planning to visit UCLA unofficially this summer, having been down earlier in the spring.

Other Defensive Tackles to Watch
Scott Pagano, Honolulu (Hawaii) Moanalua
Lowell Lotulelei, South Jordan (Utah) Bingham
Ryan Steele, Kingsburg (Calif.)
Jaylen Ruiz, Fresno (Calif.) San Joaquin Memorial

LINEBACKERS

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 backers. 

Deon Hollins, Missouri City (Texas) Marshall.  COMMITTED.  When Hollins committed to UCLA, it was kind of a surprise, since he'd never visited Westwood.  But Demetrice Martin put in a lot of work with Hollins and the four-star, who was one of the standouts at the Dallas NFTC, committed to the Bruins.  Hollins has offers from all over the country, and has said that he may still take some visits and check out his options, but he and his father have told Scout's Greg Biggins that they're solid to the Bruins.  Still, UCLA will need to keep on him to keep him on board.  OFFERED

Michael Hutchings, Concord (Calif.) De La Salle. The five-star prospect is one of the top defensive player in the West in 2013 and UCLA is on his short list, with plans to visit Westwood unofficially, but USC is the leader here for Hutchings and the likely destination.  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 reiterated that to him and had him in for Junior Day and then for another trip down in April, which he really enjoyed.  Washington has a commitment from one of his teammates, and being the local school, will help, but UCLA has made him one of the priorities and the Bruins are doing very well with him. OFFERED

Cameron Judge, Westlake Village (Calif.) Oaks Christian.  Judge got offered by the Bruins at their Junior Day, and they would have to be considered one of the favorites for him.  Judge is close friends with incoming freshman Jordan Payton and the only school that could be a real threat to the Bruins is Oregon, where his father played.  But UCLA is in a very good place with Judge right now. OFFERED

Kevin Palma, Tulare (Calif.) Mission Oak.  One of the surprise players of the spring, Palma had an outstanding performance at the SoCal NFTC and he's an excellent athlete, at about 6-2, 235.  He took an unofficial visit to UCLA during the spring and really enjoyed it and he'll be back next month for the Bruins' 1-Day Camp, and a good performance there will likely earn him an offer, which will make a big impact on Palma, who's got very good grades.

Denzel Talifero, Duarte (Calif). Talifero doesn't have an offer from UCLA yet, but actually got his first offer from Adrian Klemm when he was at SMU.  Talifero will camp at UCLA this summer, the Bruin coaches telling him they want to see how he does moving around, since much of his film is of him blitzing.  He's been one of the best backers we've seen on the camp circuit.

Alani Latu, Rancho Cucamonga (Calif.).  One half of the twin tandem at Rancho Cucamonga, Alani is the middle linebacker and has looked very good this spring at the SoCal NFTC and at some 7on7 tournaments.  He said an offer from UCLA would land an immediate commitment and he's a package deal with his brother, Viliami.  He'll camp at UCLA next month.

Viliami Latu, Rancho Cucamonga (Calif.).  The other half of the twin tandem at Rancho Cucamonga, Viliami plays on the outside and while he's not quite as big as Alani, he's the more athletic one and he too has looked very good this spring.  Like his brother, he plans to camp at UCLA this summer.

Other Linebackers to Watch
Edward Tandy, Tustin (Calif.)
Koa Kaleopaa, La Mirada (Calif.)
Tanner Vallejo, Grass Valley (Calif.) Nevada Union
Jeff Camilli, Shingle Springs (Calif.) Ponderosa
George Frazier, Monrovia (Calif.)

CORNERBACK

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. 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.  That said, he's now talking about taking some other official visits in the fall, so this one will be interesting to watch. OFFERED

Tyree Robinson, San Diego (Calif.) Lincoln. One half of the Robinson twins, Tyree got an early offer from UCLA but from the get-go, maintained that basketball was what he wanted to play in college and he would sign to play basketball.  Now, he's saying he wants to sign for football but also play basketball in college and UCLA is in his top three right now, and the Bruin basketball coaches would be more than happy to take him as a football signee.  He can also play receiver, but since participating in a camp this spring, he's been working more as a cornerback.  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 Moore. After his visit to Westwood for Junior Day, Moore said the Bruins were definitely in his top three, and then he came back down for a spring practice and then for the Spring Game.  UCLA is doing very well with Moore and is one of his leaders, but he'll still take some official visits this fall.  OFFERED

Johnny Johnson, Fresno (Calif.) Central. A smaller and chippier corner who will play opposite Moore this fall, 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, Cal, Notre Dame and Oklahoma are also on Johnson, who's been out of action for much of spring because of a shoulder injury, but will be at the Oakland NFTC this weekend.  Cal could be the team to beat for him right now.  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.  He's one of UCLA's top targets on their board, but he recently didn't have UCLA on his list of schools he's seriously considering.  OFFERED

Daquawn Brown, Los Angeles (Calif.) Dorsey.  Brown has had a pretty good spring, playing on both sides of the ball, but has a UCLA offer, albeit a contingent one on his grades being up to par, as a corner.  He's fast and could be a good candidate to play in the slot in college.  UCLA is one school he's long coveted an offer from so the Bruins are definitely in the mix for him.  OFFERED.

Darius Allensworth, Romoland (Calif.) Heritage.  Allensworth committed to Arizona not long after he got an offer from the Wildcats, but no sooner did he commit to Arizona then more offers started rolling in, including one from UCLA.  Allensworth has said he's still solid to Arizona, but the UCLA offer definitely has him thinking and he will camp at UCLA next month.  OFFERED.

Derek Babiash, Poway (Calif.).  The top defensive back in San Diego, Babiash has said numerous times he'd love an offer from UCLA and he's been to a UCLA practice this spring.  However, UCLA still has yet to offer him.  Washington did, and he committed to the Huskies almost on the spot, but just this week, he decommitted and is back to being open.  UCLA was planning to be by his school this week to watch him work out and an offer could now be back in play. 

Other Cornerbacks to Watch
Devin Holiday, San Marcos (Calif.) Mission Hills
Cameron Walker, Los Angeles (Calif.) Loyola
Delvin Batiste, Upland (Calif.)
Elijah Mitchell, Corona (Calif.) Roosevelt
Devin Ross, Mission Hills (Calif.) Alemany

SAFETY

Like the cornerback position, the safety crop is very good and very deep 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 they sure would like to bring in 1-2 top end 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 had a very good experience at UCLA's Junior Day in February and said that it was a completely different vibe from what he's felt before.  That said, USC is considered the prohibitive favorite for him and he is planning to announce next month, and the Trojans are considered the likely destination. OFFERED

Priest Willis, Tempe (Ariz.) Marcos De Niza. UCLA has started to hit Arizona hard the past couple of years and Willis is the top prospect in the state in 2013.  He was at UCLA's Spring Game and had a good time, and UCLA is doing much better than before and is very much considered a legitimate contender for him.  UCLA likes Willis' versatility and if he were to come to UCLA, he could play either cornerback or safety. While, as we said, we don't put a great deal of stock in package deals, the fact that Willis is close to Tahaan Goodman, and both are now considering UCLA pretty seriously, their friendship could help the Bruins with both of them.   OFFERED

Hatari Byrd, Fresno (Calif.) Central. Similar 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 offered by UCLA in February 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.  He's talked about playing with Moore in college and UCLA is doing very well with both of them.  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 and he's rarely ever mentioned UCLA. OFFERED

Tahaan Goodman, Rancho Cucamonga (Calif.). Goodman and teammate Chris Hawkins will rival Moore and Byrd and UCLA offered him and had him on campus for Junior Day.  He enjoyed his time at Junior Day and then was at a spring practice before taking in UCLA's Spring Game and now UCLA has moved into the short list of leaders for Goodman and he's one of their heaviest focuses in this class.  Outside of Cravens, no safety has looked better this spring out West than Goodman.  OFFERED

Tyrell Robinson, San Diego (Calif.) Lincoln. The other half of the Robinson twins, Tyrell is the better pure football player of the two, and was the more likely of the duo to play football exclusively in college, but he is certainly interested in playing both sports in college, and UCLA is on his short list too.  He and Tyree have been insistent on playing together in college, and they would like to play both football and basketball at the next level.  OFFERED

Tyler Winston, Antelope (Calif.).  Winston has flown under the radar, but has a couple of offers, including one from Boise State.  He's one of the better athletes we've seen on film from the Sacramento area, and UCLA was his first offer.  He may camp in Westwood this summer, so we'll be able to get a look at him then.  OFFERED

Other Safeties to Watch
Tyler Foreman, Encino (Calif.) Crespi
Brandon Arnold, Encino (Calif.) Crespi
Patrick Enewally, Cerritos (Calif.) Gahr
Tedric Thompson, Valencia (Calif.)
Jayme Otomewo, Los Angeles (Calif.) Dorsey


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