2013 Class Analysis: Defense

UCLA filled a lot of needs with its defensive recruiting in 2013, pulling in a great class of defensive backs and linebackers...

DEFENSIVE LINE

Kenneth Clark, 6'2, 285, Rialto (Calif.) Carter,, #20 DT
Kylie Fitts, 6'4, 260, Redlands (Calif.) East Valley,, #12 DE

Kylie Fitts
Position Recruiting Analysis: While the switch to the 3-4 last season would seemingly have reduced the need for defensive linemen, that's actually not really the case. In a 4-3, there's much more leeway in what a defensive lineman can look like, with defensive ends weighing anywhere from 230 pounds to 270. In the 3-4, even defensive ends need to weigh somewhere north of 250, so the pool of candidates for the three positions is smaller. So, going into this year (and really every year from here on out), with three defensive linemen graduating after next season, getting at least two linemen was a priority.

UCLA hit that minimum, snagging Kenneth Clark and Kylie Fitts. Of course, the Bruins missed out on the big fish, Eddie Vanderdoes, who succumbed to some late recruiting from Notre Dame after leaning toward UCLA for about a month. With Vanderdoes, UCLA would have been set on the defensive line for this class, and likely would have had its 2014 defensive line in place already. Without him, the situation is only a little bit murkier.

Immediate Impact: Clark is arguably one the most unheralded member of the recruiting class, given his intensity and athletic ability. He can be explosive, and once he starts working with Angus McClure on his hands and technique, he could be a dynamic threat even from the inside. He can play both end and tackle in the 3-4, but he's most likely going to be slotted as a nose to start out. His first year, you can expect him to back up Seali'i Epenesa (and possibly redshirt depending on how Brandon Willis, Ellis McCarthy, and Brandon Tuliaupupu continue to develop).

Fitts was the big steal late, with his decommitment from USC coming just before the start of USC's spring semester. He is another high intensity guy with a great motor. Physically, he already looks the part of a defensive end in a 3-4, long armed and big. Fitts could easily come in and play his first year, given the lack of depth at defensive end, and could provide some pass rush from the end spot, which would contribute to filling the hole left by Datone Jones. Right now, there isn't a definitive number three end behind Owamagbe Odighizuwa and Cassius Marsh, so Fitts has a good shot of getting playing time.

Long Term Impact: All in all, UCLA hit its minimum needs for defensive line this year, because you almost certainly need players of Clark and Fitts' caliber to play significant time in two years when Odighizuwa, Epenesa, and Marsh all graduate. Both Fitts and Clark have the potential to be big time starters for UCLA by that time.

LINEBACKERS

Myles Jack, 6'3, 230, Bellevue (Wash.),, #4 OLB
Isaac Savaiinaea, 6'3, 230, Honolulu (Haw.) Punahou,, #3 MLB
Cameron Judge, 6'2, 215, Westlake (Calif.) Oaks Christian,, #20 OLB
Deon Hollins, 6'2, 222, Missouri City (Tex.) Marshall,, #21 OLB
Jayon Brown, 6'0.5, 205, Long Beach (Calif.) Poly,, #87 OLB

Isaac Savaiinaea.
Position Recruiting Analysis: When the situation with Anthony Barr was more fluid during the season, the thinking was that it was very important to load up on outside linebackers because it wasn't a given that Barr was going to stay, and replacing his production would be an absolute necessity for this defense. Now that Barr is returning, the linebacker situation is nowhere near as dire, and it looks like only one of the talented incoming freshman might be asked to come in and start immediately. However, given that two starting linebackers graduate this year, it was imperative to bring in a big class of linebackers. UCLA managed to hit on all of its targets, and even managed to bring Judge back into the fold when he was wavering after UCLA dialed back its recruitment.

Immediate Impact: There is one starting spot to fill in the base linebacker set, and there are probably two candidates among the freshmen who figure to have a chance to fill it: Jack and Hollins. At 6'3, 230, Jack already has good size for the position, with the ability to fight past offensive tackles to get in the back field. If there's one area to work on for him, it'll be his ability to range out and cover tight ends. Luckily, Barr played that role more than Holmes toward the end of last year, especially against Stanford, so Jack probably wouldn't get that assignment too much except against twin tight end sets. As a pass rusher and run stopper on the edge, Jack would seemingly fit in well.

Much more of a pure pass rusher than Jack, Hollins has a very quick first step, and can be explosive getting into the back field. Size might be a concern against the run, but his pass rushing skills might serve to offset that. His cover skills are also still a work in progress, as he spent most of his high school career, like Jack, playing more like a defensive end. Even if he doesn't win the spot, he could factor in as a situational rusher as early as this season.

Along the rest of the line, you can figured that Isaac Savaiinaea will have a chance to contribute early in the two deep, given the overall lack of depth at inside linebacker. Starting, however, would probably be a longshot, even if Zumwalt moves back to outside linebacker. As we saw last year from Kendricks and Zumwalt, adjusting to inside linebacker in this system, with all of the play calls you need to make, is extremely difficult. It took Kendricks six games to adjust, and expecting anything better from a true freshman would likely be foolhardy.

Cameron Judge figures to play the mini-linebacker role recently vacated by Dalton Hilliard and still inhabited by Stan McKay. Judge is about 6'1, 215 and body type-wise you can see why the coaches want to give him a shot in that role. It'll likely take some work, though, to improve his pass coverage skills to the point where he could take on that role behind McKay, given the demands of the position. He could also play some inside linebacker in the base defense.

Jayon Brown is another linebacker who will most likely be a mini-backer in this system. Again, though, McKay will almost certainly start at that position, so Brown and Judge will be competing for back up time. With the overall depth at linebacker, we could see Brown (and Judge, possibly) redshirting this year.

Long-Term Impact: Jack could potentially be a four year starter at linebacker, while we could easily project Hollins making an impact from his first season, given his unique skill set. Savaiinaea figured to be one of the best candidates to fill Zumwalt's departed spot when he leaves, and we actually like Judge's potential as an inside backer down the line. All four have starter potential, although Hollins could be best suited for situational roles, and we project Brown as more of a backup.

DEFENSIVE BACKS

Priest Willis, 6'2, 190, Tempe (Ariz.) Marcos De Niza,, #4 CB
Tahaan Goodman, 6'2, 190, Rancho Cucamonga (Calif.),, #7 S
Tyler Foreman, 6'2, 190, Encino (Calif.) Crespi,, #8 S
Johnny Johnson, 5'10, 180, Fresno (Calif.) Central East,, #8 CB

Priest Willis.
Position Recruiting Analysis: With the amount of players that UCLA graduated last year, and the overall need for a huge talent infusion at the position given the demands that the new scheme puts on the defensive backs, UCLA needed to get at least four high level defensive backs in this class. Defensive back was one of the early priorities for UCLA, and by the end of summer, the Bruins were already the favored school for Priest Willis and Johnny Johnson. Now that Signing Day has passed, and Willis has finally signed his National Letter of Intent, it's pretty clear that the Bruins did just what they needed to do at defensive back: get four high quality players who could come in and start immediately.

Immediate Impact: There are three vacated spots in the secondary, just among the starters, that could be filled by freshmen. Tevin McDonald, too, could have a tenuous hold on his free safety spot after having a subpar year and being suspended for the bowl game. Willis, to begin with, could start immediately at either safety or cornerback. His frame would dictate safety, but he's played corner most of his high school career, and we know that UCLA wants to give him a shot on the edge first. At either position, he's one of our picks to start immediately at one of the vacated spots.

Johnny Johnson might have the next best shot at starting early, given the depth at corner. Assuming Randall Goforth stays at safety, Johnson could be one of the early contenders for either corner spot, factoring into a group that could include Willis, Ishmael Adams, and Marcus Rios.

The depth chart isn't quite as open for Tyler Foreman and Tahaan Goodman, given there's a returning starter in McDonald at free safety, and another safety who played well at times this year in Randall Goforth. Given what we know about the staff though, and the talent level of Goodman and Foreman, you could easily see a scenario where one or both players start this season. Goodman is more of a free safety and Foreman is more of a strong safety, so they complement each other well.

Long-Term Impact: If all pans out, UCLA has its starting secondary locked up for the foreseeable future. All four have star potential, and represent an immediate (and huge) talent upgrade throughout the defensive backfield.

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