UCLA's football recruiting has taken steps forward under Jim Mora and his staff, clearly. He signed the #12 national class in 2012, and then the #5 class in 2013. How does the program top that? By taking recruiting to even another level.
That would be done by getting more of the elite types that they have to compete with USC, Notre Dame, Oregon, Oklahoma, Alabama, etc. to get. These are franchise-type recruits, players who can literally change a program with their sheer talent.
To do it, UCLA will have to keep recruiting as effectively as it's been, but also have a clearly successful season in 2013. It would be tough to have an elite class without either.
We have recognized that there are some measuring-stick type recruits in the 2014 class. These are the guys that, if UCLA gets them, it will signify the program has indeed turned the corner. It will show that UCLA's football program can now compete with anyone in recruiting.
We probably shouldn't raise expectations for the program, but this is the way we see it.
Here are the top 15 Measuring-Stick Recruits for 2014 as of right now and, in our opinion, why they're critical:
1) Kyle Allen, #1 Quarterback -- Obviously he's a big get, and would put UCLA's QB position in very good hands for the foreseeable future. It would make everyone nationally – coaches, recruits, fans – really notice UCLA to get a commitment from the #1 QB in the nation. It would show that Noel Mazzone, Taylor Mazzone and their offense are indeed huge draws for the program. Allen is also key to the class; where he goes will influence many Arizona recruits. We're still hearing it's mostly between UCLA and ASU. The Mazzone's went to see Allen last week.
2A) Juju Smith, #1 Safety
2B) Adoree Jackson, #2 CB -- There are, really, two game-changing L.A.-area recruits for 2014 – Smith and Jackson. They are both top 10 national prospects, the type UCLA hasn't gotten in a long while. Let's be blunt: UCLA has lost out on these types to USC for over a decade, and this would truly indicate that the monopoly in L.A. area recruiting is over if UCLA could get both Smith and Jackson. It would be pretty significant if it could just get one of the two. As of right now, we're hearing UCLA is in a great spot with Jackson, and solid with Smith.
4) Solomon Thomas, #4 DE – He's the #27-ranked player in the nation, and a big position of need for UCLA. If the Bruins could steal this franchise-type out of the state of Texas, it'd be absolutely huge.
5) Michiah Quick, #1 WR – With UCLA now having a high-powered offense and recruiting well the last two years, you'd think it'd be able to get an elite-level receiver, but it hasn't yet. Quick would be the guy. UCLA isn't in as good of shape with Quick as they are with the top four recruits on this list, so that makes it even more challenging.
6) Malachi Dupre, #8 WR – Again, UCLA needs a big-time, impact receiver in 2014, and Dupre would be it. If UCLA could take him away from LSU that would be another big indication that UCLA recruiting has arrived. UCLA has a very good chance of pulling it off.
7) Ainuu Taua, #8 DT. A key to a program is getting the elite big men in the trenches, and Taua is the #1 DT in California. Taua has had UCLA as his #1 program for a while.
8A) Demetrius Knox, #6 Offensive Guard
8B) Natrell Curtis, #7 Offensive Guard – To keep the success in offensive line recruiting going, offensive line coach Adrian Klemm has set his sights on these two offensive guard prospects. Knox, a de-commit from Texas, would be a clear sign that Klemm and UCLA can go anywhere in the country and compete in recruiting. Curtis is the #1 guard prospect in the west. We've heard Klemm and the Bruins could be leading for both.
10) Dwight Williams, #6 Outside Linebacker. Williams is among the top three 2014 prospects from L.A., along with Smith and Jackson, and it'd be a huge coup if UCLA got all three. It would then be clear that #WOTT does indeed mean We Own This Town. The Bruins are in very good shape with Williams.
11) Kenny Young, #9 Middle Linebacker. If linebacker were more of a need, Young would be higher on this list. But it would still be a considerable coup to take LSU's #1 linebacker target from them. We're hearing UCLA's doing well with him.
12) Joe Mixon, #5 Running Back. Mixon would be higher on this list if UCLA's projected depth at running back didn't suddenly look so healthy. Mixon is, though, the #1 RB in the west and a difference-maker, and it would not only be huge to beat out the elite programs that want him, but to also get him when UCLA has all of that depth at running back is the type of thing that big-boy programs do.
13) Budda Baker, #5 Safety. UCLA went into Washington and took the #1 prospect in the state for 2013 – Myles Jack. It would pretty much be hitting UDub in the nose with a rolled-up newspaper if UCLA did it again in 2014 with Baker.
14) Jermaine Eluemunor, JC OL – This one would almost be laughable if Klemm could pull it off. Eluemunor might be the #1 ready-to-play JC OL in the country, and the likes of Alabama, Florida, Florida State, Ohio State, Wisconsin and Texas A&M want him. As of right now, we're hearing UCLA has a very good chance.
15) Jalen Brown, #7 Wide Receiver. Brown would be big for all of the same reasons that Quick and Dupre are, and it would be great to take away the #1 QB and #1 WR from Arizona and ASU in what is perhaps the state of Arizona's most talented year for recruits in a long time.