Football Recruiting Reset: Defense

With the spring evaluation period over and the camp season about to start at UCLA, we take a look at the Bruins' 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.


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: 4, 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's one of UCLA's top targets on defense and one of the national guys they've really honed in on.  Still, with several national offers, they'll have to keep working on him.

Nifae Lealao, 6'5, 270, Sacramento (Calif.) Capital Christian
National Position Ranking: 6, UCLA Offer
--UCLA was one of Lealao's early offers, and the athlete is interested in also playing basketball in college. But he's a heavy, heavy lean to Stanford.

Rashaan Evans, 6-3, 215, Auburn (Ala.)
National Position Ranking: 13, UCLA Offer
--Evans will be tough to pull out of the South, especially with the hometown school, Auburn, and their rival, Alabama, both having offered.  Having said that, UCLA has been on his real short list for some time and he's planning to visit this summer unofficially.

Malik Dorton 6'1.5, 220, Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco
National Position Ranking: 25, 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. But how he fits in UCLA's defense is still the question.  UCLA was the heavy leader and he nearly committed in March, but since, USC has offered and Washington is also making a major push for him. 

Connor Humphreys, 6-4, 262, Portland (Ore.) Central Catholic
National Position Ranking: 47, UCLA Offer
-- One of the top prospects in the Northwest, Humphreys has been high on UCLA for some time, and he's actually planning to camp with the Bruins at their Elite Camp despite already having an offer.  He's also said that UCLA will certainly be in his top five when he narrows it down this summer.

Qualen Cunningham 6-4, 225, Chandler (Ariz.) Hamilton
National Position Ranking: 20, UCLA Offer
-- Cunningham is one of the best prospects in Arizona, has a good collection of early offers and he's very interested in UCLA.  There was some confusion for some time on if he had an offer from UCLA, but we've confirmed he does and the Bruins are on his short list with Texas A&M also a factor.   He also may camp with UCLA this month.

Matt Dickerson, 6-5, 260, San Mateo (Calif.) Serra
National Position Ranking: 64, UCLA Offer
-- Dickerson had no offers before the evaluation period before his recruitment exploded.  Now he has 16, with Oregon, USC and Notre Dame his last three offers.  UCLA, though, has a shot at him, with Angus McClure laying the ground work here.  Dickerson attended UCLA's Spring Game at the Rose Bowl and he said the highlight for him was meeting Datone Jones, who just two days before, was a first round pick in the NFL draft as a defensive end, so you can bet that has been hammered home to him.

Uriah Leiataua, 6'4, 265, Compton (Calif.) Dominguez
National Position Ranking: 38
-- Leiataua is a good student who grew up going to UCLA games; he's half-brothers with former UCLA linemen Shannon Tevaga and Sonny Tevaga.  He'll probably camp at UCLA this month and he's got the size that he could end up in contention for an offer.

Kennedy Emesibe, 6'3.5, 235, Oak Hills (Calif.)
National Position Ranking: 86
-- Emesibe is the younger brother of walk-on running back Kennedy Emesibe, and he camped with the Bruins last year, and actually did well, at their lineman camp.  He'll come to the Elite Camp later this month.  Emesibe was one of the better defensive linemen at the Los Angeles NFTC and physically, reminds you of Datone Jones.  With a good camp, he could end up with a UCLA offer.

Others to Watch
Malik McDowell, 6-6, 300, Detroit (Mich.) Loyola
Jase Franke, 6-4, 260, Ventura (Calif.) St. Bonaventure
Sumner Houston, 6'3, 240, Concord (Calif.) De La Salle


UCLA got not only Kenny Clark last year, but this week, it was announced that Eddie Vanderdoes would be a Bruin.  While Vanderdoes is uncertain to play in 2013, he will be in 2014, when this group of tackles are freshman. The need to get two isn't as great, but they would surely take a couple.

Ainuu Taua, 6'1, 270, Lompoc (Calif.)
National Position Ranking: 8, 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 always been on his short list.  His weight has fluctuated some and with his height, it's a bit of a concern.  We'll see him next month, in pads, at The Opening.

Bryan Mone, 6'4, 316, Salt Lake City (Utah) Highland
National Position Ranking: 6, UCLA Offer
--The big defensive tackle earned an offer from UCLA in the fall, but Mone's early leader had been Michigan, where he committed.  Then the coach recruiting him left Michigan for Oklahoma. While he's still committed to the Wolverines, we've heard he's definitely listening to other schools.

Tashon Smallwood, 6'1, 285, Fresno (Calif.) Central East
National Position Ranking: 12, UCLA Offer
--A commit to USC, Smallwood visited UCLA unofficially during the spring and then also returned to the Rose Bowl for the Spring Game.  He said he's solid to USC, but he's also said he's going to take all five official visits and UCLA would love to bring him in on a trip.

Armon Watts, 6-5, 273, St. Louis (Mo.) Christian Brothers
National Position Ranking: 57, UCLA Offer
--Watts has a lot of offers from the Midwest but said during the spring he was really interested in UCLA, growing up a fan of the Bruins, and wanted to come West.  A couple weeks later, UCLA went by the school and saw him during spring ball and offered.  He'll likely visit officially in the fall

Sharif Williams, 6-3, 320, Fresno (Calif.) Central
National Position Ranking: 3-stars
--The taller of he and Smallwood, he's not as good technique-wise as Smallwood, or as quick, but he's much bigger.  Williams was an offensive lineman and some schools like him a guard still, but we think defensive tackle will be where he plays.  He's planning to camp with the Bruins later this month and he'll need to have a good showing after battling injuries this spring that kept him out of practices that UCLA visited.

Others to Watch
Travonte Valentine, 6-4, 285, Palm Bay (Fla.) Bayside
Tyrone Fa'anono, 6'2, 250, Westlake (Calif.) Oaks Christian
Greg Gaines, 6'1, 273, La Habra, (Calif.)


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: 7, UCLA Offer
--Williams figures to be one of the most recruited linebackers in the country next year, with a huge offer sheet already. He has excellent physical tools, with good agility and athleticism. We've heard he's very high on the Bruins, and UCLA is doing very well with him.  They're on his list of 16 schools (from his 30+ offers), that he's considering.

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. Now, he's at 20+ offers, with Miami and USC also offering, the Canes his childhood favorite and USC where his sister plays basketball.  Still, Calhoun said that UCLA is very much at the top of his list, and the Trojans are right there, so this will be a L.A. battle.  Calhoun is being recruited as a mini-linebacker at UCLA.

Marquis Ware, 6'2, 210, Los Angeles (Calif.) Salesian
National Position Ranking: 14, UCLA Offer
--UCLA is one of Ware's early standouts, 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.  And while he's been hurt for much of spring, UCLA hasn't spent much time recruiting him.

Ismael Murphy-Richardson, 6-4, 215, Goodyear (Ariz.) Desert Edge
National Position Ranking: 58, UCLA Offer
--Murphy-Richardson is one of the top defensive prospects in Arizona, at 6-4, 215, he's in the same mold as Anthony Barr at the same stage, and he's well thought of as an athlete.  UCLA is on his short list with the two in-state schools as well as Michigan and Florida.

Others to Watch
Curtis Bolton, 6-2, 215, Murrieta (Calif.) Vista Murrieta
Ricky Liuchan, 6-2, 200, San Marcos (Calif.) Mission Hills
Tyler Cook, 6'3, 204, Murrieta (Calif.) Vista Murrieta


Kenny Young, 6-2, 225, River Ridge (La.) John Curtis Christian
National Position Ranking: 8, UCLA Offer
--Young came out for UCLA's mini-Junior Day in February and then returned for the Spring Game at the Rose Bowl, and left both trips raving about his time in Los Angeles.  UCLA feels good about where they stand with Young, but they will always have to contend with in-state LSU and the rest of the SEC.  But they're certainly in the ring.

Jamardre Cobb, 6'2, 215, Los Angeles (Calif.) Salesian
--National Position Ranking: 12, UCLA Offer
--Cobb is likely to camp with UCLA this month, and he'll need a good showing there to get an offer.  He has quite a few offers, though, as a middle linebacker, and some schools have offered him as a short yardage back.

Michael Lazarus, 6-2, 215, Berkeley (Calif.)
National Position Ranking: 12
--Physically, Lazarus is a pretty impressive player, and he's looked good on the 7on7 circuit and at the Oakland NFTC, but offers haven't piled up for him.  Part of that is he missed much of his junior year with an injury.  So he may be a guy that needs a couple more games this fall to grab a UCLA offer.

Others to Watch
Raekwon McMillan, 6-2, 230, Hinesville (Ga.) Liberty County
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


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
--The nation's top safety is also heavily coveted by several programs nationally, but UCLA was his first offer and he's said they're one of the schools recruiting him the hardest.  The Bruins would love to grab another guy from Long Beach Poly, but Juju will be a guy they have to work like crazy to get.

Budda Baker, 5'10, 175, Bellevue (Wash.)
National Position Ranking: 5, UCLA Offer
--UCLA has been on Baker for a couple of years, going back to when Rick Neuheisel was the coach.  And when Jim Mora took over, UCLA reiterated the offer. Baker is close with incoming UCLA linebacker Myles Jack and, although it's expected that Washington will come after him hard, and Oregon is also making a big push, UCLA has a decent chance.  He said he may camp with the Bruins this month.

Mattrell McGraw, 6-0, 175, River Ridge (La.) John Curtis Christian
National Position Ranking: 29, UCLA Offer
--The third prospect from JCC that UCLA has offered, McGraw came out to the UCLA Spring Game after coming out for the mini-Junior Day in February.  He's got an impressive offer sheet and recently trimmed his list to nine schools, with UCLA on there.  UCLA would love to land the JCC trio.

Glen Ihenacho, 5-11, 177, Gardena (Calif.) Serra
National Position Ranking: 47, UCLA Offer
--Ihenacho has been somewhat overshadowed by Williams and Jackson at Serra, but he's a pretty highly touted prospect in his own right and has 15+ offers, including one he got from UCLA on Thursday morning.  He was planning to camp with the Bruins to get an offer, and even though he's now got the offer, he still will be coming to the camp.  Both of his brothers were late bloomers who starred at San Jose State and both are in the NFL, so he's got good bloodlines.

Jamal Scott, 6-2, 195, Anaheim (Calif.) Magnolia
National Position Ranking: 42
--Scott is an interesting story. Before Memorial Day, he had zero offers and zero traction in his recruitment.  The day after Memorial Day, his film was done and he had three offers that day.  He now has seven offers and UCLA invited him to the Elite Camp, after visiting him the last days of the eval period, and a good showing at the UCLA camp could get him an offer.

Others to Watch
Quincy Wilson, 6-2, 195, Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) University
Nick Glass, 6'1, 202, Suwanee (Ga.) Peachtree
Jeff Farrar, 6-1, 193, Upland (Calif.)
Adam Soesman, 6-2, 175, Clovis (Calif.) Buchanan
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


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 named a top ten list earlier this week that featured two West Coast schools, UCLA and USC.  UCLA is doing well with him, and he's gotten plenty of attention from several national programs, including Florida and Michigan, but despite what some reports might be, you absolutely cannot count out USC for him.

John Plattenburg, 5-11, 185, Corona (Calif.) Centennial
National Position Ranking: 21, UCLA Offer
--Another guy who's used the evaluation period to his advantage, Plattenburg was lightly recruited but now has nearly 20 offers.  He was arguably the top performer at the Oakland NFTC, earning MVP honors and an invite to The Opening.  UCLA offered him a couple of days later and Plattenburg took an unofficial visit earlier this week to UCLA and glowed about it.  Cal has been a longtime favorite and is very much in the mix but UCLA is doing well with Plattenburg.

Tyler Whiley, 6-1, 190, Scottsdale (Ariz.) Chaparral
National Position Ranking: 12, UCLA Offer
---Whiley got an offer from UCLA earlier this spring 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.  He visited for the UCLA Spring Game and raved about his trip.

Adarius Pickett, 5'11, 176, El Cerrito (Calif.)
National Position Ranking: 24, UCLA Offer
--Pickett visited for UCLA's mini-Junior Day and then returned for the Spring Game at the Rose Bowl, and the Bruins have been on his very short list for some time.  USC and Stanford are also making a push for him and Cal would love to keep him home.  He's close with Calhoun as well as Joe Mixon and Michael Lazarus, and the four have talked about playing together in college. 

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 and then was at the Rose Bowl for the Spring Game. 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: 48
--Fisher was an under-the-radar guy before he won DB MVP honors at the Los Angeles NFTC.   He's gotten a handful of offers, but covets one from the Bruins, and he's been invited to the Elite Camp, which he's said he'll attend, to grab an offer.

Others to Watch
Naijiel Hale, 5-11, 170, Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco
Chandler Hawkins, 5-10, 170, 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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