Calhoun Commitment Reverberations

We usually do a "Commitment Analysis" story on a prospect when he verbally commits to UCLA, but the commitment of D.J. Calhoun to USC has so many potential reverberations that could affect UCLA we had to do one...

Tuesday D.J. Calhoun, the linebacker from El Cerrito, picked USC over UCLA.

We usually do a "Commitment Analysis" for a player who actually commits to UCLA, but there were so many interesting implications as a result of Calhoun's commitment to USC, we thought it'd be good to do one regardless.

The Bad:

Of course, any four-star-or-better prospect committing elsewhere isn't good for the program, especially if it's to USC since, of course, UCLA will have to face the prospect on the field. The worst potential fallout from Calhoun committing to USC is the impact it might have on his friends, cornerback Adarius Pickett, running back Joe Mixon and linebacker Michael Lazarus. The four have said repeatedly they really wanted to play together in college. Yes, we know package deals seldom work out, but they still have to be considered a factor, in the off-chance they do influence decisions and do, in fact, work out. Lazarus and Calhoun are the closest among the four friends, and even though Lazarus doesn't have a USC offer, he likes the Trojans and there is a thought that he and Calhoun very well might have talked about potentially going to USC together. We know that, behind the scenes, UCLA was leading for Calhoun as recently as last week, so something at the last minute made him tip back over to USC. UCLA hasn't offered Lazarus, and might not get to the point it does. The question is: Will Calhoun influence the bigger fish – Mixon and Pickett? Calhoun said in his post-commitment interview he'll be recruiting them, and you'd have to expect he'll come hard after his friends. We think it could have more impact on Mixon than Pickett, however. And you could make an argument that, for UCLA, needing cornerbacks more than running backs, Pickett might be more important to UCLA than Mixon. Pickett is a very good student, who wants to graduate early and enroll in college early, and UCLA being on a quarter system makes it easier for him to do that – as opposed to USC or Stanford. We have heard, too, that Pickett is the least enamored with USC among the four. On the other hand, and you can't deny it, even if Calhoun's commitment doesn't necessarily push Pickett and Mixon to USC, the bigger impact could be that it, now, definitely doesn't push the group to UCLA.

The Not-So-Bad:

Calhoun is a good prospect who has enough talent to play at UCLA. There is a question, however, about his size. He measured 5-11.5 and weighed 200 pounds at The Opening. There isn't a great deal of upside physically with Calhoun. His family has some size, so there is some genetic potential that he could get taller, but he hasn't continued to grow and been about the same height for a while. He's also fairly filled out. Given the size, where would he fit among UCLA's linebackers? In UCLA's 3-4 alignment, he doesn't have a natural position, at least physically. UCLA wants its outside linebackers to be long, say 6-3+, so they have the length to match up with offensive tackles and pass rush with range. Picture Anthony Barr or Myles Jack. The inside spots are ideally suited for bigger, bulkier players than Calhoun, in the 6-1 to 6-3 range, and being able to carry 230+ pounds to be physically durable. Picture Isaac Savaiinaea, at about 6-3 and 235 as an incoming freshman. The other option is at mini-linebacker, the situational position where a safety-size linebacker plugs in at one of the middle linebacker spots. That role, however, is more suited for a converted-safety type, because it needs to be able to drop into coverage as a first priority. Calhoun has good quickness for a linebacker, but he probably doesn't have safety-equivalent quickness and coverage abilities. Picture Stan McKay. So, positionally and role-wise, Calhoun isn't a great fit for UCLA's defense.

Secondly, UCLA is probably only going to take two linebackers in the 2014 class, and three if three elite prospects definitely want to come. Among those two, UCLA probably needs prospects who can play inside, with room for probably one who projects to playing both inside and outside. UCLA is doing very well with Louisiana prospect Kenny Young, who projects to being an inside linebacker. UCLA is also doing well with Dwight Williams, the linebacker prospect from Gardena (Calif.) Serra. And there is the possibility of UCLA having a decent chance with big-time national prospects like Christian Miller from South Carolina or Rashaan Evans from Alabama. We're skeptical UCLA will ultimately get either Miller or Evans, but we probably shouldn't under-estimate the recruiting ability of UCLA linebacker coach Jeff Ulbrich. But let's just say UCLA gets Young and Williams, perhaps, which has a good chance of happening. Young is the inside prospect UCLA would need. Williams, then, is more of an outside linebacker, and would be the prospect that UCLA might have been giving up to take Calhoun. At The Opening, he measured at 6-1 and weighed 201, and still looks like he has room to fill out, especially in his lower body. He definitely looks like he's gotten taller, too. We could see Williams, after a couple of years in college, being in the 6-1 to 6-2 range, and 230ish. That size potential gives Williams an advantage over Calhoun, with some potential to play inside. He also is at least as athletic, if not moreso, than Calhoun. He actually tested better than Calhoun in the 40, the shuttle and the vertical, despite measuring an inch-and-a-half taller. Then, if you want to talk about what kind of "package" element might be associated with Williams, he could help with all of his Serra teammates, including Adoree Jackson and the younger, elite prospects at the high school. You certainly wouldn't want to turn down Williams, and risk it hurting your chances with Jackson or any other Serra prospect. Anything that helps a potential long-term pipeline to Serra is just as valuable as a one-off deal in 2014 to get a package of NorCal prospects, or possibly more.

Now, if it had gotten a commitment from Calhoun, UCLA probably wouldn't have given up Williams. It probably would have taken both. But getting both, when both have some questions as to their size and physical upside, might have been tough for UCLA when it has such limited linebacker rides available.

Also, if, say, UCLA doesn't get Young, it's not as if getting Calhoun would make a difference. Calhoun almost certainly can't fulfill the role that Young can playing inside. If UCLA got Calhoun and then misses on Young it would still have to pursue an inside-linebacker type. Williams, too, might have the potential to grow into being an inside linebacker, while it's far more unlikely for Calhoun.

Bottom Line:

Like we said, it's never a good thing when the #10-ranked outside linebacker in the country picks USC over UCLA. But there are some factors here that soften the blow. It's not as if UCLA either needs the exact type of player that Calhoun is, or it has a need to sign many linebackers. And, if it really did come down to choosing between Calhoun and Williams, weighing Calhoun and all of the advantages he brings off the field, and Williams with his aspects on and off the field, Williams is probably the better get.

It does, now, put a bit of pressure on UCLA to get Williams. Missing on Calhoun makes potentially missing on Williams a big thing. If that were to happen, that they missed on both, and then missed on the national guys (including, in a worst-case scenario, missing on Young), it could leave UCLA scrambling at linebacker. If they do that late in the recruiting game, many of their second-tier targets could be already committed elsewhere and difficult to pry away. So, missing Calhoun makes Williams an even bigger priority.

All in all, losing Calhoun was, well, a loss, but after looking at it from UCLA's specific situation, it's not as bad as it initially appears. Plus, there are some elements to it – like not having to be put in a position where you'd have to turn down Williams (which could resonate and hurt your future Serra recruiting) – that, in fact, could put UCLA in a better position with better options in some aspects of its recruiting.


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