In 2012, UCLA Head Coach Jim Mora and his staff brought in the #12-ranked class, only a matter of days after coming on the job in Westwood.
In 2013, after the Bruins had a good season in 2012, and much was made of Mora turning around UCLA football, UCLA then signed the nation's #5-ranked class.
The 2014 UCLA class will be a little different, with UCLA probably not having the 25-27 scholarships to give like they did in 2012 and 2013, but probably more in the 17-20 range. Given that the Bruins have filled up on bodies for 2012 and 2013, and the smaller projected class, UCLA will almost certainly take a decidedly different tact with 2014, and be far more selective.
It might feel a bit different to all the BRO recruitniks, too; there will be recruits you would normally think that UCLA should be on in any other year, but they simply aren't in 2014.
It's March, so it's very early, and we know that any list of UCLA's top targets is going to look considerably different by next January. But with the smaller projected class, and UCLA being more selective, with its big board having far less names on it for 2014, it gives us a chance to perhaps get a better earlier handle on how the class might ultimately shape up.
The following list isn't at all comprehensive. It doesn't even have all of the prospects UCLA has offered on it. But, as of right now, in March, these are the guys that 1) UCLA has as a top target and 2) are doing really well with so far, and we think they'll have a legitimate chance to get and 3) we can see the scenario of how they'll end up at UCLA. So that means there are plenty of players, like say Michiah Quick, Nathan Starks or Malachi Dupre, that aren't on the list -- not because UCLA hasn't offered them or isn't recruiting them hard, but we just don't think they're prospects that UCLA ultimately will get.
In other words, this could be a far-premature but realistic guess (based on what we know at this time) at how UCLA's 2014 class might shake out.
RUNNING BACK: (1)
Joe Mixon, 6-0, 195, Oakley (Calif.) Freedom, National Ranking: #5 RB
Other Most Likely:
Demario Richard, 5-9, 190, Palmdale (Calif.), #26
Nick Wilson, 5-11, 195, Fresno (Calif.) Central East, #24
Royce Freeman, 6-0, 210, Imperial (Calif.), #32
D.J. Riggins, 5-11, 180, Westlake Village (Calif.) Oaks Christian, #71
Donovan Lee, 5-9, 175, West Hills (Calif.) Chaminade, #85 (WR)
Running back is definitely one of the positions that has the biggest need for 2014. So much will depend on whether Craig Lee, the verbally-committed prospect from 2013, gets admitted academically. We've heard he's doing everything he can, and just took the SAT last Saturday (he should have results within a few weeks). If UCLA does, in fact, bring in Lee, that helps considerably, but they could still take two running backs in 2014. If Lee doesn't qualify, you can almost guarantee they'll take two running backs.
There are a couple of things to consider, too:
1) When we describe the position as "running back," also under that heading are prospects that might fit into UCLA's offense as an f-back. That doesn't mean that only f-back types will be listed at running back; they could also be listed at wide receiver.
2) The 2014 running back class in the west is thin. It's not a good year to be needing two running backs, actually. It's very evident that, in a recruiting class that UCLA needs two running backs, it's only offered two prospects on the west coast, Mixon and Richard.
Unless a big-time west coast prospect emerges, or an out-of-the-region elite prospect suddenly starts loving on UCLA, UCLA's running back recruiting for 2014 could very well hinge on the decision of Mixon. He's easily UCLA's #1 running back target right now, and we know he liked UCLA early on, but with the amount of attention he's been getting nationally, it appears that might have cooled.
UCLA has offered Richard, who is a Jordon James-type, and could, perhaps, get most of his time at the f-back role in UCLA's offense. Reportedly, UCLA is doing very well with Richard.
UCLA hasn't offered Wilson but, if we had to bet, we think it's going to happen. As we said, there just aren't many running backs in the west, and you can easily see a scenario in which Mixon waits until Signing Day to decide. Wilson also goes to Fresno Central East, the high school of UCLA 2013 signee Johnny Johnson. Wilson has many Pac-12 offers – from Washington, Arizona State, Cal – and more nationally – Wisconsin, Tennessee, and Arkansas – and we could see UCLA offering him once they get to see him more in May. UCLA isn't among Wilson's short list of favorites right now, because they haven't offered and aren't recruiting him aggressively, but we bet that will change.
Freeman is a no-brainer. Unless there's some skeleton in his closet, it's a bit mind-boggling that UCLA – and other BCS conference schools – haven't offered him. It could be because he's from Imperial, which isn't exactly right around the corner and easy to get to, but that's still no excuse. Freeman does have offers from the likes of Arkansas, Cal, Arizona, Washington and Tennesee, among others. He's a load, and has quick feet, and we think that once UCLA gets a good look at him they'll be on him. It's a matter of whether they'll get a good look in time before other programs are pretty advanced in their recruitment of him.
We see Riggins and Lee as f-back types, and like them both. Riggins has some of the quickest moves of anyone we've seen in the west for 2014. He doesn't have the kind of build where he could be an every-down back, but he'd be a great fit being a tailback/f-back in UCLA's offense, showing nice hands catching the ball in the Vegas 7on7. Lee, too, is a good pass catcher, and being a receiver is primarily what he's known for, even though he worked out with the running backs at the Nike Camp Sunday. If either of these two attend UCLA's camp in June we think there's a good possibility they could garner an offer.
Something else to consider: Adoree Jackson as an f-back. Jackson is the #1 prospect in the west, currently the #7-ranked prospect nationally overall for 2014, and the #1-ranked cornerback. He might see himself as a cornerback, because that probably is where he projects as an NFL prospect, but he's such an electric offensive player it'd be a complete shame not to get the ball in his hands. He'll probably return punts and kick-offs in college, but you'd still like to get him the ball on offense. And here's a very exciting tidbit: We're hearing UCLA is doing well with Jackson and has a legit chance.
B>OFFENSIVE LINE: (2-3)
Casey Tucker, 6-5, 270, Chandler (Ariz.) Hamilton, #4-Ranked OT
Jermaine Eluemunor, 6-5, 315, Scranton (Penn.) Lackawanna JC
Natrell Curtis, 6-2, 300, Phoenix (Ariz.) Mountain Pointe, #6 OG
Damien Mama, 6-5, 340, Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco, #11 OT
Others Most Likely:
Toa Lobendahn, 6-5, 285, Lakewood (Calif.), #26 OT
Viane Talamaivao, 6-3, 285, Corona (Calif.) Centennial, #7 OG
Trenton Noller, 6-3, 311, Windsor (Col.), #8 C
Larry Allen, 6-3, 250, Concord (Calif.) De La Salle, #37 OG
Austin Hall, 6-6, 295, Phoenix (Ariz.) Brophy Prep, #16 OG
Kameron Schroeder, 6-6, 260, Elk Grove (Calif.) Consumnes Oaks
Layth Friekh,6-5, 260, Peoria (Ariz.) Centennial Analysis:
After taking 7 offensive linemen in the class of 2013, UCLA will have 18 OLs on scholarship for 2013, the most in a very long time, perhaps ever. For 2014, Offensive Line Coach Adrian Klemm is looking for just a few good men, perhaps even just a couple, probably one tackle and one guard. The list above, as we said, isn't comprehensive, but it includes the guys we think, at this stage, have a legitimate chance to end up at UCLA.
UCLA is trying hard with USC-committed Tucker, the #1-ranked offensive lineman in the west, and the word is that he won't end up committed to USC for long. Arizona State is going to go all out for Tucker, but you can bet that Klemm will put out all the stops in recruiting him also. The JC prospect Eluemunor has exploded with big-time offers recently. UCLA was one of the first on him, but it could be hard to keep an inside position with him. We would say UCLA might have one of its best chances with an OL in Curtis, who was just offered a scholarship Monday. He is teammates with 2013 UCLA signee Kenny Lacy, and that's helped UCLA's recruitment. UCLA just offered Mama, too, and he'll clearly be one of UCLA's top targets.
UCLA very well could get its two guys from that list of four. Even though those are pretty elite prospects, you can't underestimate Klemm's recruiting ability.
As we said, this list isn't comprehensive; UCLA has offered other 2014 offensive linemen from all over the country but, until we hear otherwise, we think those guys will probably be longshots for UCLA.
The seven others listed are all guys we know UCLA has shown interest in so far, that we think the Bruins would have a good chance of getting. It seems like things have cooled with Talamaivao, who was leaning to the Bruins for a while, but we think if UCLA picked it back up with him they'd be right in there again. Klemm will undoubtedly go see all of these guys in May, so that's when we'll know if UCLA will seriously pursue the likes of Noller, Schroeder, and Friekh. With possibly giving out only two rides to offensive linemen, UCLA very well, though, could wait on the top four targets to see what they do before offering any of the others, unless they show in May – and at UCLA's camp in June – that they are at least as good as the top four targets.
More 2014 Recruiting Class Analysis Coming Soon...