Football Recruiting Reset: Defense

With the spring evaluation period starting this week, we take an early look at UCLA's main targets on defense...

UCLA has brought in some big classes in Jim Mora's first two recruiting classes, for 2012 and 2013. The 2014 class will be a bit different, however. Rather than consist of 25-27 recruits, the 2014 class will probably be in the 18-20 range. So, UCLA will be far more selective in this class. It's a result, first, of UCLA having less scholarships to give, but also a matter that, with the upswing and momentum of the program, and UCLA having already stocked up in 2012 and 2013, the staff feels it can shoot for an even higher-level of talent in 2014.

Up until a few weeks ago, UCLA hadn't offered many recruits, but the UCLA staff recently went through some recruiting meetings, and a flurry of scholarship offers were the result.

Even though the evaluation period begins this week, the UCLA coaches won't be out to see prospects until UCLA's spring practice is over.

DEFENSIVE ENDS

It will be a big priority to get two DEs in 2014, and UCLA has some good early targets.

Solomon Thomas, 6'3, 245, Coppell (Tex.)
National Position Ranking: 5, UCLA Offer
--Thomas impressed UCLA last year at its Elite Camp in April. He's a very athletic player with a quick get off from the edge. We've heard that he really enjoyed his time at UCLA last year, and that the Bruins have a legitimate shot at him.  He was one of the top performers at last week's Dallas NFTC and UCLA has made him one of their chief targets.

Nifae Lealao, 6'5, 270, Sacramento (Calif.) Capital Christian
National Position Ranking: 7, UCLA Offer
--UCLA was one of Lealao's early offers, and the athlete is interested in also playing basketball in college. But Lealao said last week he's leaning towards the Bay Area schools, with Stanford sitting in a good place for him.

Rashaan Evans, 6-3, 215, Auburn (Ala.)
National Position Ranking: 15, UCLA Offer
--Evans is from Auburn, and has an offer from the hometown Tigers as well as Alabama.  Yet UCLA is on his short list.  While it will take a lot of work to get him out of the South, UCLA is going to try.

Malik Dorton 6'1.5, 220, Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco
National Position Ranking: 24, UCLA Offer
--Dorton is a bit of a tweener for UCLA's system, and would more than likely be recruited as an outside linebacker rather than a defensive end. He's an explosive edge rusher. He appeared close to committing to UCLA in March, but since has stayed relatively wide open.  UCLA is still doing well with him, but he doesn't seem to be in a rush to decide now.

Connor Humphreys, 6-4, 262, Portland (Ore.) Central Catholic
National Position Ranking: 45, UCLA Offer
-- Humphreys may be the top prospect in Oregon in the 2014 class, and UCLA offered him and then a few days later, USC offered him.  Humphreys was scheduled to visit UCLA this week for an unofficial visit.

Qualen Cunningham 6'4, 225, Chandler (Ariz.) Hamilton
National Position Ranking: 20
-- Cunningham is one of the best prospects in Arizona, has a good collection of early offers and UCLA is definitely interested in him and plans to see him this spring.

Uriah Leiataua, 6'4, 265, Compton (Calif.) Dominguez
National Position Ranking: 37
-- Leiataua has UCLA ties, he's the younger brother of former Bruin linemen Shannon Tevaga and Sonny Tevaga, and he grew up going to UCLA games.  He plans to camp at UCLA and earn an offer there, and an offer, he said, would be difficult to turn down.

Others to Watch
Malik McDowell, 6-6, 300, Detroit (Mich.) Loyola
Kennedy Emesibe, 6'3.5, 235, Oak Hills (Calif.)
Terran Hasselbach, 6-3, 235, Aurora (Colo.) Regis Jesuit
Jase Franke, 6-4, 260, Ventura (Calif.) St. Bonaventure
Sumner Houston, 6'3, 240, Concord (Calif.) De La Salle

DEFENSIVE TACKLES

Nose guard is like quarterback, you need to take at least one every year.

Ainuu Taua, 6'1, 270, Lompoc (Calif.)
National Position Ranking: 7, UCLA Offer
--With the frame to still add more weight, Taua could be a potential nose guard at UCLA. He's very quick for his size, and has a good motor. UCLA offered him early, and has been very much a front runner for him.  Ole Miss, though, is also making a big push for him.  He was the DL MVP at the Los Angeles NFTC and has already been invited to The Opening.

Bryan Mone, 6'4, 316, Salt Lake City (Utah) Highland
National Position Ranking: 5, UCLA Offer
--The big defensive tackle earned an offer from UCLA in the fall, but Mone's early leader has been Michigan and he committed to the Wolverines.  But not long after he committed, the defensive line coach at Michigan recruiting him left for Oklahoma and we've heard that he may look at schools closer to home.

Tashon Smallwood, 6'1, 285, Fresno (Calif.) Central East
National Position Ranking: 11, UCLA Offer
--Smallwood committed to USC merely minutes after he was offered by the Trojans last month.  UCLA offered him earlier this month and he took an unofficial visit.  He's said he's pretty solid to USC, but said he still plans to take all five visits before Signing Day, and UCLA will continue to recruit him.

Others to Watch
Shariff Williams, 6-3, 320, Fresno (Calif.) Central
Tyrone Fa'anono, 6'2, 250, Westlake (Calif.) Oaks Christian
Greg Gaines, 6'1, 273, La Habra, (Calif.)

OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS

After getting a good, deep crop in 2013, you'd probably think they wouldn't need that many LBs in 2014, but they'll lose Barr, Zumwalt, Bowens, and Graham in 2013, so UCLA will need to take probably three LBs (inside and outside combined) for 2014.

Dwight Williams, 6'1, 212, Gardena (Calif.) Serra
National Position Ranking: 6, UCLA Offer
--Williams had over 30 offers and recently cut it down to 16 schools, with UCLA on it, but the Bruins are more likely in his top 3-5 schools.  He was at a UCLA practice earlier this month and wearing a UCLA sweatshirt, and he said it was somewhat significant, but he's still saying that he's wide open and looking at all the schools in his top 16.  Still, he's clearly one of UCLA's top targets, getting an offer a year ago from the staff.

D.J. Calhoun, 6'1, 205, El Cerrito (Calif.)
National Position Ranking: 10, UCLA Offer
--Calhoun actually thought about committing to UCLA after visiting for the Arizona game last year. Calhoun is being recruited as a mini-linebacker at UCLA.  He's maintained UCLA as his leader for some time, and the Bruins are doing very well for him.  USC offered, and the Trojans have his sister on a basketball scholarship, but he still said that even after the offer, UCLA is his leader.  He's the top defensive prospect in the Bay Area and one of three El Cerrito prospects with a Bruin offer, but Cal is also targeting him.

Marquis Ware, 6'2, 210, Los Angeles (Calif.) Salesian
National Position Ranking: 14, UCLA Offer
--UCLA is one of Ware's early offers, alongside Boise State, Texas A&M and Washington. He's one of the more physically impressive junior linebackers in the West. Since he's at Salesian, there is a concern that the Jermaine Kelly situation might be something to overcome for UCLA. 

Ismael Murphy-Richardson, 6-4, 215, Goodyear (Ariz.) Desert Edge
National Position Ranking: 58, UCLA Offer
--Murphy-Richardson got a UCLA offer earlier this spring and Scout's Jason Jewell said he thinks he's one of the most intriguing prospects and has as much upside as anyone in this class.  Murphy-Richardson said he planned to visit UCLA this spring during practice.

Others to Watch
Jamardre Cobb, 6'2, 215, Los Angeles (Calif.) Salesian
Curtis Bolton, 6-2, 215, Murrieta (Calif.) Vista Murrieta
Greg Hoyd, 6'2, 200, Murrieta (Calif.) Vista Murrieta
Donavin Buck, 6-4, 200, Brawley (Calif.)
Tyler Cook, 6'3, 204, Murrieta (Calif.) Vista Murrieta

INSIDE LINEBACKERS

Nyles Morgan, 6-3, 220, Crete (Ill.) Crete-Monee
National Position Ranking: 6, UCLA Offer
--The stud linebacker is seeing great interest from the Big Ten as well as nationally, so it could be difficult to pull him out of the Midwest, but he told Scout earlier this month that he plans to visit UCLA at some point.

Kenny Young, 6-2, 225, River Ridge (La.) John Curtis Christian
National Position Ranking: 8, UCLA Offer
--Young is the top linebacker in Louisiana and a key target for in-state LSU, but he's already taken an unofficial visit to UCLA and may return.  Two of his teammates are also being pursued by UCLA and UCLA would love another run at John Curtis Christian like they had almost a decade ago.

Michael Lazarus, 6-2, 215, Berkeley (Calif.)
National Position Ranking: 11
--Lazarus has just a couple of offers, but once the spring eval period heats up, expect more offers to come.  UCLA has not yet offered him, but they are watching him and he's very tight with the El Cerrito three, so an offer to Lazarus could bolster their chances with them.

Others to Watch
Chandler Leniu, 6'1, 225, Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco
Zach Brown, 6-3, 235, San Diego (Calif.) Henry
Rick Gamboa, 6-0, 215, West Hills (Calif.) Chaminade

SAFETIES

After doing so well at safety, getting two and possibly three (depending on where Priest Willis shakes out), UCLA will be selective, probably taking just one, or two if there are an elite two that want to come.

Juju Smith, 6-1, 185, Long Beach (Calif.) Poly
National Position Ranking: 1, UCLA Offer
--Smith just named a top five on Monday, which included UCLA along with USC, Notre Dame, Michigan and Ohio State.  UCLA was his first offer and the Bruins would take Smith on whatever side of the ball he wanted to play.  UCLA has done pretty well at Poly the last couple of years too.

Budda Baker, 5'10, 175, Bellevue (Wash.)
National Position Ranking: 5, UCLA Offer
--UCLA was one of Baker's first offers and have long been a factor in his recruitment.  He's also pretty tight with Myles Jack, who signed with UCLA in February and played at Bellevue. In fact, the two took an unofficial visit in September.  Washington is making him their top priority and the Huskies would like to keep him in state, while Jim Mora, who lived in Bellevue, would love to take another one from there.

Nick Glass, 6'1, 202, Suwanee (Ga.) Peachtree
National Position Ranking: 29, UCLA Offer
--The Georgia prospect visited UCLA in February for Junior Day and they have been on his short list, though he said he remains committed to Georgia.

Quincy Wilson, 6-2, 195, Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) University
National Position Ranking: 32, UCLA Offer
--Wilson was offered by UCLA last month and the offer impressed him enough to make him say he'd like to take a visit out West.  He's got a plethora of Southern offers, but UCLA is trying with him.

Mattrell McGraw, 6-0, 175, River Ridge (La.) John Curtis Christian
National Position Ranking: 37, UCLA Offer
--The third prospect from JCC that UCLA has offered, McGraw has talked at length of coming back out West to take another unofficial visit to UCLA and has said he'd like to take an official visit come fall.

Jeff Farrar, 6-1, 193, Upland (Calif.)
National Position Ranking: 47, UCLA Offer
--Farrar is an interesting prospect; he's considered himself a soft commit to UCLA, but it's uncertain if he has a committable offer, or an offer at all.  UCLA is definitely interested and is keeping an eye on him.

Others to Watch
Koa Farmer, 6-1, 195, Sherman Oaks (Calif.) Notre Dame
David Williams, 6'0.5, 175, Los Angeles (Calif.) Dorsey
Quentin Tartabull, 5-10, 185, Mission Hills (Calif.) Alemany
Devon Brewer, 6'0, 175, Fresno (Calif.) Central East
Glen Ihenacho, 5-11, 177, Gardena (Calif.) Serra
Adam Soesman, 6-2, 175, Clovis (Calif.) Buchanan

CORNERBACKS

You can never have enough cornerbacks since, like defensive tackles and quarterbacks, it's so difficult to find good ones. Expect UCLA to take two for 2014.

Adoree Jackson, 5'10, 170, Gardena (Calif.) Serra
National Position Ranking: 2, UCLA Offer
--Jackson, the top prospect in the West, has UCLA on his short list of about seven schools and UCLA is doing everything they can to land him.  He's one of their primary targets in this class and UCLA is doing well with him.

Tyler Whiley, 6-1, 190, Scottsdale (Ariz.) Chaparral
National Position Ranking: 12, UCLA Offer
--Whiley got an offer from UCLA last month after his stock rose after a great performance at the NLA Elite 7on7.  Whiley was offered as an athlete, and he's a very good receiver prospect.  UCLA would take him on either side of the ball.

Adarius Pickett, 5'11, 176, El Cerrito (Calif.)
National Position Ranking: 24, UCLA Offer
--Pickett got a pretty early offer from UCLA, and he's one of three prospects from El Cerrito with a Bruin offer.  He visited for Junior Day in February and plans to visit again this spring, but now USC and Stanford have offered to the competition is getting stiffer.

Jonathan Lockett, 5'11, 170, Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei
National Position Ranking: 25, UCLA Offer
--UCLA is one of the three schools recruiting Lockett the hardest and he's been on campus this spring already for a UCLA practice.  He said UCLA is definitely near the top of his leader board and his former teammate Thomas Duarte, is working on him for UCLA.

Denzel Fisher, 6-2, 170, Compton (Calif.) Centennial.
National Position Ranking: 46
-- Fisher has emerged this spring in various events and is probably among the handful of best corner prospects in the west. He's a legit 6-2, long and athletic, and it's just a matter of time before he garners some BCS-level offers. He's a longtime UCLA fan, so once he camps at UCLA in June we think there's a very good chance UCLA offers him, and a good chance he ends up a Bruin.

Others to Watch
Naijiel Hale, 5-11, 170, Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco
Jaleel Wadood, 5-11, 160, Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco
Malik Cyphers, 5-10, 175, Westlake Village (Calif.) Oaks Christian
Rodney Carr, 5'11.5, 183, Los Angeles (Calif.) Salesian


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