Football Recruiting Reset: Defense

As the season quickly approaches, UCLA is going to gear up for an important fall, where a good season could open up many doors for a top class, with the makings of a good one already in place. Here is a defensive recruiting reset as of late August...

With the high school season starting across the country this weekend, and with UCLA starting their season next weekend, its overshadowing what September brings: the beginning of the Evalution Period.

Beginning September 1st, coaches can now get out to see high school prospects play during the season.  Typically, UCLA sends their coaches out the weekends of most home games and bye weeks and their yearly trip to the Bay Area usually has them covering Northern California pretty extensively.

There has already been some attrition this offseason with players leaving the program that still had eligibility (Iuta Tepa and Chris Ward among others), so when players leave, that leaves more scholarships for UCLA to give in the 2013 class.

Right now, UCLA has 11 verbals, with six on offense and five on defense.   Like we said last month in our last reset, UCLA would need to have some more scholarships come February, and they're already on track for that.

UCLA will probably fill out a class of 22 or 23 but are recruiting as if they'll sign 25.

Here is a look at where UCLA stands with their top defensive targets.

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 said he has a top ten, which includes UCLA, but the three favorites he continues to mention include Michigan, Washington and Nebraska.  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 in the spring 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.  OFFERED

Other Defensive Ends to Watch
Chauntez Jackson, Inglewood (Calif.)

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.

Kenneth Clark, Rialto (Calif.) Carter. COMMITTED.  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 then returned for UCLA's Elite Camp, and was probably the top performer of all the prospects. He camped at Washington a week later, and then pretty much within days, committed to the Bruins.  As good as their class has been, right now, you could make a case that Clark is their most important verbal, given UCLA's historical struggle of recruiting top defensive tackles, and now giving UCLA a good one at the position for the third time in four years. 

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.  He's still a bit under the radar, but UCLA is trying with him, and hoping he gets squared academically.  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.  Vea didn't do any camps this spring and has flown under the radar, even more so than Tulimasealii.  OFFERED.

Misi Taifane, Sacramento (Calif.) Grant.  The DL MVP of the Oakland NFTC, Taifane comes from the vaunted Grant program and is also cousins with UCLA freshman Nate Iese.  Taifane is a guy that UCLA will probably wait to watch a little more this fall before deciding if they want to offer him.

Other Defensive Tackles to Watch
Sam Smith, Elk Grove (Calif.) Cosumnes Oaks
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, and UCLA has pledges from three of them. And UCLA linebackers coach Jeff Ulbrich is already carving out a reputation as an excellent recruiter, and its already paying off.

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 will still take some visits and check out his options, but he told Scout at The Opening and Gridiron King that he's solid to the Bruins.  Still, UCLA will need to keep on him to keep him on board.  Hollins said that Notre Dame and Texas A&M are likely to get official visits out of him. 

Myles Jack, Bellevue (Wash.).  COMMITTED.  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.  Those two trips paid huge dividends with Jack, who ultimately committed to the Bruins in June, giving UCLA another excellent linebacker from out of state, and a versatile player at that.  Having said all that, despite reports that Washington dropped him for a few reasons, we've heard that wasn't the case, and the Huskies are still making a push for him, just as they did up to when he committed.  He's been to a couple of Washington practices, given their proximity, and he's also said he will visit Oregon officially, who has offered.  So UCLA will have some work to do with him as well..

Cameron Judge, Westlake Village (Calif.) Oaks Christian.  COMMITTED.  Judge got offered by the Bruins at their Junior Day, and they immediately became the favorite.  In June, Judge picked the Bruins, giving UCLA another stellar linebacker from a strong program, and a versatile backer who could play either inside or outside in college.  Judge's close friendship with 2012 signees Jordan Payton and Ishmael Adams played a big role too for the Bruins.  This is a commitment that UCLA will likely not have to sweat.

Isaac Savaiinaea, Honolulu (Hawaii) Punahou.  An early commit to Stanford, Savaiinaea has said he still considers himself a verbal to the Cardinal, but will take some official visits, having one set for Texas A&M.  He's also got to go through the arduous process of getting into Stanford, and he's got to get a couple classes squared to ensure that happens.  So UCLA, who signed one of his teammates in February, will continue to recruit him, and Jeff Ulbrich is making big inroads with Savaiinaea, who's the top middle backer in the West.

Tyrell Robinson, San Diego (Calif.) Lincoln. One 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.  But like Tyree, with UCLA doing well with their other targets, he doesn't appear to be as much of a priority 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 he camped at UCLA.  While UCLA has three commits at linebacker, they're going to keep an eye on Palma still this fall, and determine if he'll fit at the linebacker position.  Palma has showed this spring he's likely suited more for the inside than the outside, given his size and athleticism, so he'll be a guy they'll watch at that position.  He has been offered, but with three verbals already, they'll probably wait a bit before deciding to go full bore on him as another linebacker and he did say last week that he hasn't heard from UCLA as much.  OFFERED

Other Linebackers to Watch
Victor Egu, Concord (Calif.) De La Salle
Johnny Ragin, Wilsonville (Ore.)
Denzel Talifero, Duarte (Calif)
Alani Latu, Rancho Cucamonga (Calif.)
Viliami Latu, Rancho Cucamonga (Calif.)
Ray Davison, Encino (Calif.) Crespi

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 would glady take a few of them if they can get them.  This is a place where having Demetrice Martin, one of the best recruiters in the West, not just recruit this position, but coach the position, is helping UCLA.

Jermaine Kelly, Los Angeles (Calif.) Salesian.  COMMITTED.  Much like Palma, Kelly has seen his stock rise this spring, after several excellent performances.  Part of that was him flipping from receiver to corner almost full time, and showing that's where he's best suited.  He had a good performance at the USC skills camp by all accounts, and then followed it up with a better showing at UCLA's camp, where he ended up with an offer.  He then went to Washington's camp and got an offer from the Huskies, but ultimately chose the Bruins. 

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, perhaps even the favorite.  UCLA likes Willis' versatility and if he were to come to UCLA, he could play either cornerback or safety, and would be that swing DB that UCLA wants in this class, that could play any of the defensive back positions.  Willis' offers from all over will mean UCLA will have their work cut out for him, but the Bruins do appear to be doing pretty well with him  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.  It was though that Cal and USC were leading for him, but as Greg Biggins last month, UCLA is now doing extremely well for Johnson and would have to be considered the leader along with Stanford, but he's mentioned UCLA far more prominently than Stanford.  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.  Initially, it seemed like a longshot that Moore would end up in college with Johnson, but now it appears that it could very well happen, and UCLA is on both of their short lists.  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 schools 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.  Having said all that, he doesn't appear to be a priority for UCLA at this point.  OFFERED

Other Cornerbacks to Watch
Marcellus Pippins, El Cerrito (Calif.). OFFERED
Daquawn Brown, Los Angeles (Calif.) Dorsey. OFFERED
Patrick Enewally, Cerritos (Calif.) Gahr
Kalan Montgomery, Compton (Calif.) Dominguez
Walter Jones, Redlands (Calif.)
Elijah Mitchell, Corona (Calif.) Roosevelt

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 and Martin is doing very well with a couple of them.

Tahaan Goodman, Rancho Cucamonga (Calif.). UCLA offered Goodman early 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.  He and Willis have long talked about playing together in college, and UCLA would be more than happy to allow that to happen. That said, it was pretty significant that Goodman didn't attend one of UCLA's practices at CS San Bernardino, especially given how close CSUSB was to his Ranco Cucamonga home, and yet he did visit USC for some practices.  The latest scuttlebutt is that Goodman is a silent to USC, but we've heard different stories on if he really is or not.  Still, UCLA is trying. OFFERED

Tyler Foreman, Encino (Calif.) Crespi.  Foreman is right there in the discussion for safeties who've looked stellar this spring and summer, and his stock is soaring because of how well he's played.  He had a good showing at The Opening, and showed he definitely belongs in the conversation for some of the West's top defensive backs.  Foreman said that UCLA and Cal are recruiting him the hardest, and the Bruins would love to add another local product.  He's also planning to visit Oklahoma, and the Sooners have already taken one  OFFERED

Other Safeties to Watch
Tyler Winston, Antelope (Calif.)  OFFERED
Brandon Arnold, Encino (Calif.) Crespi
Mossi Johnson, Los Angeles (Calif.) Crenshaw
Tedric Thompson, Valencia (Calif.)
Jayme Otomewo, Los Angeles (Calif.) Dorsey


Bruin Report Online Top Stories