Priest Willis, CB/S, 6-2, 195, Tempe (Ariz.) Marcos De Niza
5-Star, #41 Nationally, #4 CB Nationally, #1 CB in West
Tahaan Goodman, S, 6-2, 185, Rancho Cucamonga (Calif.)
4-Star, #63 Nationally, #7 S Nationally, #3 S in West
Johnny Johnson, CB, 5-10, 180, Fresno (Calif.) Fresno Central
4-Star, #78 Nationally, #8 CB Nationally, #2 CB in West
Tyler Foreman, S, 6-2, 205, Encino (Calif.) Crespi
4-Star, #96 Nationally, #8 S Nationally, #4 S in West
In terms of need for next season, a top recruiting priority for UCLA was stocking the secondary with talent. UCLA loses its starting two cornerbacks and a senior safety. Even beyond the seniors graduating, UCLA needed a talent upgrade if its intentions are for the program to go to the next level of success. These four represent the type of talent that can do that; they are, collectively, the most talented defensive back class UCLA has gotten in many years. They are talented enough to come in and immediately compete for playing time and even a starting spot.
Willis is the 5-star prospect of the group, and it's mostly because of the upside of potentially having the speed, agility and quickness of a corner but the size of a safety. He could very well end up at safety in college, but UCLA loves big corners, to be able to press receivers at the line and enable its front seven to aggressively rush the quarterback, so Willis will almost certainly get his first shot at corner. He has the top-end speed for it, but we'll find out if he does, indeed, have the hips and agility to be a college corner. In high school it's all he's ever done. In camps and combines, particularly at the B2G last summer, he exclusively played corner and was perhaps the best there. If he can, indeed, play corner in college it's a huge boost for UCLA's secondary of the future – and that future might come as early as this fall.
Goodman, even though he's so highly-rated, might be the most under-rated of the group. He is explosive, with the agility to play free safety but the instincts and hitting ability of a strong safety. He has a great nose for the ball and very good range – meaning he can cover a great deal of ground when the ball's in the air. He has a narrower frame than Foreman, and he'll probably have to put on a bit of weight – 10-15 pounds – to hold up under the pounding of playing safety in college. He has, though, a great combination of athleticism and instincts, the type that is very rare.
Johnson is the best cover corner in the west. He's not big, at about 5-10, but he's thick, very physical and strong, and able to physically match up with bigger receivers. He combines that physicality with some exceptional quickness and closing speed. He doesn't have blinding speed, but his feet are blinding actually. He's a blur in any kind of agility drill, like a ladder drill. Combine all of this – a toughness, thickness and physicality, with some great quickness, instincts and ball skills – and some swagger – and he's among the best cover corners to come of the west in years.
Foreman is a rangy, long athlete who physically appears to be able to add quite a bit of muscle, while already pretty well-built. He has a very wide frame, and there are some that feel he could end up a linebacker, but he has the quickness, instincts and cover ability to definitely play safety. He actually played some corner this season for Crespi and did very well, against some D-1 receivers. He could project to the linebacker/safety hybrid spot that UCLA used quite often this season. He, like Goodman, is a ballhawk and a big hitter.
These four very well could easily play together. Much will be dependent on whether Willis is, in fact, capable of playing corner. It could work out that Johnson is the boundary corner, the one who is left mostly without safety support, and Willis is the field corner, who can provide better run support to the wide side of the field. Foreman might project as the strong safety, a bit bigger and thicker than Goodman, and better at keeping the ball in front of him, and Goodman is probably a better cover guy and could lend himself more to being the free safety. However, it could be flipped: Goodman is very good at run support and could be a natural strong safety, and Foreman has good ball skills for being such a big kid.
No matter how they plug in, all four seem to complement each other well, and it's easy to see how they'd all play together.
Willis, Goodman, Foreman and Johnson – as one BRO message board poster said, it sounds like a law firm.
Willis, Goodman, Foreman & Johnson
The All-American Defense Team