Football Recruiting Reset: Defense

UCLA has seven commitments on defense and their sight set on more, including a handful of the West's top defensive backs...

With UCLA coming off their bye weekend, coaches were all over the country in the last week, checking out some of their top targets, and top commits, their first extensive recruiting weekend, which even had UCLA head coach Jim Mora on the road, in his native Northwest.

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. There is also the uncertainty of some 2012 signees, like Jeremy Castro, who will take the ACT this weekend to achieve a qualifying test score, and Lacy Westbrook, who had some health issues after signing.  And it appears that Javon Williams and UCLA have parted ways as well.

Right now, UCLA has 17 verbals, with nine on offense, six on defense and one on special teams. Like we said in the preseason, 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.  UCLA is taking a long look at a pair of JC prospects in the meantime.

Joe Mathis, Upland (Calif.).  Mathis has said he has a top ten, which includes UCLA, but they're not mentioned that prominently.  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, but there doesn't appear to be a lot of effort there.  OFFERED

Lyman Faoliu, College of San Mateo (Calif.).  UCLA was by CSM over the weekend to check out Faoliu.  The 6-2, 275-pounders has offers from Maryland, Oregon State and Washington State and UCLA is checking to see how he checks out academically.

Sione Sina, College of San Mateo (Calif.).  UCLA also got a chance to see Sina when by CSM over the weekend.  The 6-4, 250-pounder can also play outside linebacker in a 3-4,  and has double-digits offers, including offers from BYU, Cal, Oregon State, Pittsburgh, Texas Tech and Washington State.

Other Defensive Ends to Watch
Kyle Kragen, Diablo Valley (Calif.) College
Paulo Lepua, Harbor City (Calif.) Narbonne

DEFENSIVE TACKLE

Its a barren class for defensive tackles, but UCLA has a commitment from one of the few elite prospects and had an elite JC guy on campus this week.

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. 

Marquel Combs, Los Angeles (Calif.) Pierce College.  The JUCO defensive lineman has 40+ offers, but just recently had UCLA get on him, and he responded by visiting Westwood this week.  He's originally from Tennessee, and was committed to Ole Miss, but we've heard he likes Southern California, and so UCLA had him come by this week to see if he's good to go academically. If he is, you can bet UCLA will offer and be all over him.  OFFERED

Other Defensive Tackles to Watch
Kennedy Tulimasealii, Waianae (Hawaii)
Vita Vea, Milpitas (Calif.)
Misi Taifane, Sacramento (Calif.) Grant

LINEBACKERS

The move to the 3-4 as its base made 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.

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 games, 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.  Which is largely why Mora made it a point to be at Bellevue's game during the Bruins' off week.

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, though he's yet to take an official visit anywhere.

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 and he's already been to a couple of UCLA games.

Jayon Brown, Long Beach (Calif.) Poly.  COMMITTED.  Brown was kind of a surprise when he got offered, but when it was as an outside linebacker more than as a safety, it made sense.  He's had a good season, and had a good spring and summer, and long coveted a UCLA offer.  Plus, anytime you can bring in a player from Poly, that can't hurt.

Isaac Savaiinaea, Honolulu (Hawaii) Punahou.  An early commit to Stanford, Savaiinaea has said he still considers himself a verbal to the Cardinal, but has taken official visits already to Texas A&M and Notre Dame.  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.  In fact, Ulbrich spent last weekend in Hawaii, namely to recruit Savaiinaea.

Other Linebackers to Watch
Johnny Ragin, Wilsonville (Ore.)
Denzel Talifero, Duarte (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.  UCLA and Stanford have been his top two for some time, but Washington, who had him in for an official visit last month, is very much in the race.  He's taking 3 AP classes to spruce up his academics for Stanford, but UCLA is right there in the thick of it.  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's taken some official visits.  Having said that, its uncertain how seriously UCLA is recruiting Moore at this point.   OFFERED

Patrick Enewally, Cerritos (Calif.) Gahr.  Enewally just got a UCLA offer this week, and the Bruins shot to the top of his list.  While he insists he's going to go through the recruiting process, we've heard that UCLA is going to be extremely tough to beat for Enewally.  He was originally a safety, but moved to corner, and at 6-1, has good size, but also the athleticism and hips to be a good corner.  He's also a very good student.  OFFERED

Other Cornerbacks to Watch
Daquawn Brown, Los Angeles (Calif.) Dorsey OFFERED
Nate Willis, Yuma (Ariz.) Arizona Western
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. There has been talk for some time that he's a USC silent, but we've also heard there isn't anything to it.  Everything we've heard is that its a USC-UCLA battle, with LSU and Washington also somewhat in the mix.. 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 soared because of it, and he's backed it up with a great senior season.  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.  Right now, it's a UCLA-Oklahoma battle for Foreman, with the Sooners slightly in the lead, but Foreman has already visited Oklahoma officially, but not UCLA.  OFFERED

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


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