Football Recruiting Reset: Defense

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

UCLA football is kind of a hot commodity right now, and UCLA recruiting is reflecting that, with a clear buzz in recruiting circles, and more prospects showing interest in the Bruins.

The looming problem might be scholarship availability. UCLA currently has 18 verbal commitments, and could very well take upward of 28-30 in the 2013 class. How could they do that, given the limitations on scholarships in any given recruiting year and overall in the program? Geting under the 85-scholarship overall limit isn't that difficult to pull off, since by the time all of the recruits are actually enrolled there is usually room due to medical redshirts and transfers. Jim Mora and his staff didn't have much of a problem finding scholarships last fall to get under that limit of 85. Getting under the limit of 25 scholarships given out per year is a bit more of challenge, and UCLA will probably have to have some early entrants and gray shirts to make it happen.

On the defensive side of the recruiting picture for 2013, UCLA has seven (or six depending on whether you count Mossi Johnson a wide receiver or defensive back) commitments, and obviously looks very good in its linebacker recruiting.

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 five, which includes UCLA.  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.  He then visited last weekend and Washington appears to be the team to beat.  Academically, its uncertain if UCLA and him are a good fit.  Offered

Carl Lawson, Alpharetta (Ga.) Milton.  A longtime commit to Auburn, with the replacement of the staff there, other schools are trying. Clemson could be a factor, having lost Robert Nkemdiche, and Alabama is also making a big push.  UCLA was in town this week to have an in-home visit with Lawson, and the Bruins are trying, but we're hearing it's likely he won't leave the south. Offered

Naim Mustafaa, Alpharetta (Georgia). UCLA recruiting Mustafaa, the #20-ranked defensive end in the country and a verbal commitment to Georgia, is a recent development. UCLA coaches had an in-honme visit and the word is that Mustafaa will more than likely take an official visit to UCLA in January. At about 6-4 and 235 he could be more of an outside linebacker in the 3-4. Offered

Other Defensive Ends to Watch

Paulo Lepua, Harbor City (Calif.) Narbonne. UCLA recently contacted Lepua.

Austin Hooper, Concord (Calif.) De La Salle. Hooper is in the CIF State Championship Game Saturday and the word is that he'll come by UCLA's campus while he's in town.

DEFENSIVE TACKLE

It's a barren class for defensive tackles, but UCLA has a commitment from one of the few elite 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.  UCLA had an in-home with Clark this week and we heard it went extremely well.

Eddie Vanderdoes, Auburn (Calif.) Placer.  Vanderdoes has been committed to USC since July, but UCLA had him in for an official visit the weekend of the Stanford game, and then coaches saw him for an in-home a few days later.  While Vanderdoes remains a verbal to USC, he's planning to take all five official visits and will visit Washington this weekend, and plans to still visit Cal, USC and Notre Dame.  UCLA is trying and Mora has already had his in-home, so a lot more of the heavy lifting will be going to Angus McClure, who was the first assistant coach to recruit Vanderdoes. The prospect is such an exceptional player that he would fit very easily into the defensive end spot in UCLA's 3-4, and possibly be used in many different ways. He could be the best defensive line prospect in the west in many years, and if UCLA could flip him from USC it would make the recruiting class. Offered

Elijah Qualls, Petaluma (Calif.) Casa Grande.  While Qualls is a commit to Washington, and a pretty solid one at that, UCLA was by the school last week and had an in-home visit with Qualls last night.  It's probably a long shot, but UCLA is still trying. We're hearing that if he goes anywhere but Washington it will be UCLA. Offered

Other Defensive Tackles to Watch

Deonte Reynolds, Pinole (Calif.). Reynolds is a big kid, at about 6-5 and 295, and could play either nose or end in the 3-4, in kind of the way you project Ellis McCarthy to fit in UCLA's defense. UCLA hasn't offered but is definitely recruiting him.

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. UCLA linebackers coach Jeff Ulbrich is already carving out a reputation as an excellent recruiter, and it's 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 slew of Washington games, given their proximity, and he's set his visit schedule for January.  He'll visit Arizona State, UCLA, Washington and then Oregon.  UCLA had an in-home with him this weekend, with Marques Tuiasosopo, Jeff Ulbrich and Lou Spanos visiting him.

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 the word is that he's pretty solid to UCLA these days. Still, UCLA will need to keep on him to keep him on board.  Hollins plans to take some official visits but he'll be in Southern California next month for the Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl and then for his official visit.

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.

Jayon Brown, Long Beach (Calif.) Poly.  COMMITTED.  Brown was kind of a surprise when he got offered, but when it was as a linebacker/safety hybrid, it made sense.  He's had a good season, 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, the #3-ranked middle linebacker in the nation, has decommitted from the Cardinal and this one is now down to Texas A&M and UCLA.  Jeff Ulbrich and Jim Mora have had their in-home visit with him, and he's already taken his official visits.  He plans to announce his decision in three weeks at the UnderArmour All-America Game. Offered

CORNERBACK

The cornerback class is ridiculously deep for 2013 and UCLA has been very assertive in offering guys both in the state of California and nationally.  UCLA's defensive backs coach Demetrice Martin is one of the best recruiters in the West, but we've heard that Mora's bonding with some of the elite DB prospects has made a huge impact. .

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.  Since he attended UCLA's Spring Game, it's thought UCLA has been the favorite.  He's taken a couple of unofficial visits, and will visit  UCLA officially next month.  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.  He's likely to decide at the UnderArmour All-America Game next month. The more we hear from inside sources on Willis the more we believe he's UCLA's to lose. Offered

Johnny Johnson, Fresno (Calif.) Central. A smaller and chippier corner, 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 with him. It had been UCLA and Stanford leading, but Stanford is now out of it so UCLA is the heavy favorite for Johnson right now, with Washington on the outside looking in. Offered

Patrick Enewally, Cerritos (Calif.) Gahr.  Enewally received a UCLA offer earlier this fall, and the Bruins shot to the top of his list.  He visited Boise State last weekend and will visit Washington this weekend.  He's planning to visit UCLA next month, but he said he'd like to commit beforehand. He is close with Kelly (see below) so that could possibly hurt UCLA's chances with Enewally. Offered

Jermaine Kelly Los Angeles (Calif.) Salesian. A lot has transpired this week as Kelly de-committed from UCLA. There have been many questions about it, but suffice it to say there was a falling out; perhaps some of it was UCLA's fault, but some of it, too, was probably some negative recruiting that has been in the ear of the Kellys. At this point, it's looking unlikely that the situation can be salvaged but never say never in recruiting.

Other Cornerbacks to Watch
Cydney Calvin, Frisco (Texas) Centennial

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.  UCLA would like to bring in at least one safety, and Mossi Johnson could end up as a safety (or cornerback) as well.

Tahaan Goodman, Rancho Cucamonga (Calif.). UCLA offered Goodman early and had him on campus for Junior Day. The recruitment has been up and down since, but recently it appears the Bruins have moved into the lead position. He and Willis have long talked about playing together in college, and UCLA would be more than happy to allow that to happen. LSU and USC are likely to get official visits from Goodman; UCLA having him in for an official the weekend of the USC game while Willis took an unofficial visit and that went very far to cementing UCLA has Goodman's leader. He may announce at the U.S. Army Bowl, which would be good publicity for UCLA. Offered

Tyler Foreman, Encino (Calif.) Crespi.  Foreman is right there in the discussion for safeties who've looked stellar this season. While he committed to Wisconsin last month, that was before Bret Bielema left Wisconsin for Arkansas.  While he's still solid to Wisconsin, UCLA has been by the school a couple of times since and they're going to keep trying. The Bruins have an in-home visit with Foreman tonight. Offered

PUNTER

Sean Covington, Saint Petersburg (Fla.). COMMITTED. With Jeff Locke graduating, Covington will come in and immediately take over the putning duties.


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