Football Recruiting Reset: Defense

With fall camp about to start, we reset UCLA's defensive recruiting board, where there has been some reshuffling, new offers and unofficial visitors that have been by UCLA...

A lot has changed since the last reset.  A lot.

UCLA had two elite offensive linemen committed at one point, both from the JC ranks, and now, neither is headed to Westwood, both, in fact, flipping to the SEC.  Other prospects UCLA appeared to be heavily in the mix for, even some they were thought to have led for, have committed elsewhere or dropped UCLA altogether. And in one case, players UCLA wasn't even mentioned with, now are commits to the Bruins.

With fall camp set to start next week, recruiting will probably be taking a back seat for the next couple of weeks, at least until the team gets back to campus for fall practice, when recruits are more likely to make it to Westwood then to San Bernardino.

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.

As has been gone over numerous times, though, its not necessarily working out that great so far.  UCLA has had to regroup and reset their recruiting board numerous times, and right now, their only commits are at receiver.

DEFENSIVE ENDS

With the addition of Eddie Vanderdoes, and some guys on the roster possibly making the move to defensive end, UCLA should be in the market for one DE, possibly two.

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.  Thomas was stellar at The Opening and mentioned UCLA as a school he's still considering but he's nowhere near a decisioin.

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 and we've heard UCLA has backed off him quite a bit.

Qualen Cunningham 6-4, 225, Chandler (Ariz.) Hamilton
National Position Ranking: 17, 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 was supposed to camp with UCLA last month, but didn't end up making it to Westwood.

Malik Dorton 6'1.5, 220, Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco
National Position Ranking: 23, 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 and the Bruins have cooled on him.  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 and it's safe to say that the Trojans are the leader. 

Matt Dickerson, 6-5, 260, San Mateo (Calif.) Serra
National Position Ranking: 38, 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.  Dickerson also was set to visit UCLA this weekend and will visit Notre Dame next month and he said he'll begin to decide which school's he'll visit officially.  As his stock has soared, more schools have opened it up for him.

Connor Humphreys, 6-4, 262, Portland (Ore.) Central Catholic
National Position Ranking: 44, UCLA Offer
-- One of the top prospects in the Northwest, Humphreys has been high on UCLA for some time, and he visited unofficially earlier last month and raved about his trip, which was his second visit to Westwood.  Humphreys is in the middle of a three-school tour that will end this week, and he said he's hoping to make his decision in early to mid-August.

Uriah Leiataua, 6'4, 265, Compton (Calif.) Dominguez
National Position Ranking: 56
-- 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 was supposed to camp at UCLA this month but didn't make it.  He'll likely be a guy they'll watch this fall before making a decision one way or the other on.

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 came to both of UCLA's camps this summer in search of an offer, but UCLA is still going to watch him more in the fall.  Emesibe was one of the better defensive linemen at the Los Angeles NFTC and physically, reminds you of Datone Jones.

Others to Watch
Malik McDowell, 6-6, 300, Detroit (Mich.) Loyola
Jase Franke, 6-4, 260, Ventura (Calif.) St. Bonaventure

DEFENSIVE TACKLES

UCLA got not only Kenny Clark last year, but then Eddie Vanderdoes stated he would be a Bruin and is now on campus, enrolled in school.  While Vanderdoes is atill uncertain to play in 2013, he will definitely 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, 6'0 270, 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 always been on his short list.  His weight has fluctuated some and with his height, it's a bit of a concern.  We saw him twice in the last month, once at the PTP Kumite, where he was a monster in the 1on1s, and then at The Opening, where he was the DL 1on1 MVP.  And you can see that he's still definitely worth UCLA recruiting.  Ole Miss and Washington are the other schools still on his list.

Tashon Smallwood, 6'1, 285, Fresno (Calif.) Central East
National Position Ranking: 15, 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.  He named a top five last month, despite being committed to USC, that included UCLA so the Bruins are still making a push for him.

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

Others to Watch
Travonte Valentine, 6-4, 285, Palm Bay (Fla.) Bayside

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, and Bowens in 2013, so UCLA will need to take probably three LBs (inside and outside combined) for 2014.

Rashaan Evans, 6-3, 215, Auburn (Ala.)
National Position Ranking: 3, 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.  Yet, Georgia is actually the leader for him.  Having said that, UCLA has been on his real short list for some time and he's planning to visit this summer unofficially and he said the Bruins are #2 on his list behind Georgia.  He was one of the best players at The Opening, working as an outside linebacker and that's where UCLA wants him to play.

Dwight Williams, 6'1, 212, Gardena (Calif.) Serra
National Position Ranking: 9, UCLA Offer
--Williams has been one of the most recruited linebackers in the country in 2014, 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 well with him and they're on his list of 16 schools (from his 30+ offers), that he's considering.  UCLA would also like to build a Serra pipeline, and with one commit already from Serra, they want to add more.  Still, Williams enjoys the recruiting process and doesn't appear to be in any rush to make a decision.  At The Opening, he said he's probably just going to be taking unofficial visits to UCLA this fall and winter and not using an official visit.

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 USC, Michigan and Florida, but we've heard there are some academic concerns that could limit how much UCLA is able to really recruit him.  He's planning to visit unofficially this summer but the academics have been a hang-up for him.

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

INSIDE LINEBACKERS

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.  He was supposed to camp at the B2G Elite Camp last month, but stayed home.

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.  He was on campus last month for the B2G Elite Camp and while he likes UCLA, he covets an offer from USC.

Others to Watch
Nyles Morgan, 6-3, 220, Crete (Ill.) Crete-Monee
Raekwon McMillan, 6-2, 230, Hinesville (Ga.) Liberty County
Chandler Leniu, 6'1, 225, Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco

SAFETIES

After doing so well at safety, getting two and possibly three (though Priest Willis will start out at cornerback), 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.  You could make a case that the Bruins are behind schools like USC, Alabama, Ohio State and Michigan.  But they won't stop recruiting him.  He's said he may want to play receiver and UCLA has wisely told him that would be an option for him.

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 Washington is coming after him hard, and Oregon is also making a big push, UCLA has a decent chance with Baker.  He's got a top five that also includes Notre Dame and Arizona State, which he said at The Opening, but everything we're hearing is that it's Oregon/UCLA/Washington for him.  Baker is an elite athlete who could play cornerback, safety or receiver in college.

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.  He was on campus last month for the B2G Elite Camp and talked with UCLA coaches (some over phone), and trimmed his list right after to a top three that stood as Florida State, Oregon and UCLA.

John Bonney, 6-2, 175, Houston (Texas) Lamar
National Position Ranking: 18, UCLA Offer
--Bonney got an offer from UCLA this spring, and while he's favoring Midlands schools, he's childhood best friends with Plattenburg and the two have talked about playing together. UCLA is one of the schools to offer both.  Bonney was at UCLA for the B2G Elite Camp and was then at The Opening, and looked great at both, then following it up with another terrific performance at the Texas State 7on7.  UCLA is very much in the mix for him.

Glen Ihenacho, 5-11, 177, Gardena (Calif.) Serra
National Position Ranking: 35, 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 earlier this month.  He was at UCLA's camp last month, though he didn't work out, but was spending a lot of time with the coaches.  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.  UCLA is doing pretty well with him.  Ihenacho told us last week that UCLA is recruiting him harder than any school.

Jojo McIntosh, 6-1, 180, West Hills (Calif.) Chaminade
National Position Ranking: 44, UCLA Offer
--Another player who used the camp to his advantage, McIntosh showed well at the UCLA Elite Camp and a couple of days later, was offered by the Bruins.  UCLA and Boise State are his top two, and even though Washington State offered, it's pretty much a Bronco-Bruin battle.  He had initially said that he would be deciding in the first week of the season, but now said he will be deciding at the end of this week.

Ron Robinson, 6-2, 195, Corona (Calif.) Santiago
National Position Ranking: 53, UCLA Offer
--Robinson is one who used both of the UCLA camps to make a case for an offer.  He was at the skills camp in mid-June and was invited back for the UCLA Elite Camp, and after he showed well there, earned himself an offer.  Northwestern is the other major offer and he'll visit Northwestern unofficially next week and plans to have a decision made after that, but UCLA is in a good position for him and could be considered the heavy favorite.

Jamal Scott, 6-2, 195, Anaheim (Calif.) Magnolia
National Position Ranking: 31
--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 he came to the camp and moved between safety and linebacker and UCLA may give him a longer look as a linebacker, a mini-backer to be specific, but he'll likely be a senior film guy.

Koa Farmer, 6-1, 195, Sherman Oaks (Calif.) Notre Dame
National Position Ranking: 317
--Farmer had a good performance at the UCLA Elite Camp, and while he's still committed to Cal and doesn't have an offer from UCLA, an offer could shake things up a bit.  It's likely UCLA will wait to see how a couple of other targets decide before making a move on Farmer though and he may be a senior film guy too.

Quincy Wilson, 6-2, 195, Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) University
National Position Ranking: 41
--Wilson got an offer from UCLA in March and he was on campus last month for the B2G Elite Camp.  He wants to play cornerback in college but he projects best to safety at the next level.  The Southern schools are in a good spot for him, but UCLA is definitely in the mix.

Others to Watch
Nick Glass, 6'1, 202, Suwanee (Ga.) Peachtree
Adam Soesman, 6-2, 175, Clovis (Calif.) Buchanan
David Williams, 6'0.5, 175, Los Angeles (Calif.) Dorsey

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: 3, UCLA Offer
--Jackson named a top ten list earlier this summer that featured two West Coast schools, UCLA and USC but expanded it to include Oklahoma and Oregon.  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 really cannot count out USC for him.  He visited Tennessee two weeks ago and Florida had him for Friday Night Lights last weekend, and the Gators could be considered the toughest competition for him, especially given their track record of football/track two-sport athletes.

Nick Watkins, 6'1, 180, Dallas (Texas) Bishop Dunne
National Position Ranking: 9, UCLA Offer
--Watkins has a top 12, but he said last week that he's certain of the five schools he'll visit and that includes UCLA, followed by Alabama, Notre Dame, Ole Miss and Oregon.  Watkins doesn't have any plans to decide soon, likely waiting until the end of January, right around his birthday.

John Plattenburg, 5-11, 185, Houston (Texas) Lamar
National Position Ranking: 19, UCLA Offer
--Another guy who used the evaluation period to his advantage, Plattenburg was lightly recruited but now has nearly 20 offers.  After spending his first year of high school in Texas, he played last season at Corona (Calif.) Centennial but he moved back to Texas this summer for a family job relocation.  He was arguably the top performer at the Oakland NFTC, earning MVP honors and an invite to The Opening, where he also had a great showing.  UCLA offered him a couple of days after the NFTC and Plattenburg took an unofficial visit to UCLA and glowed about it.  Cal has been a longtime favorite and UCLA is doing well with Plattenburg, but he also camped at Washington and the Huskies are making a big surge as is Oregon.  Baylor is also on the short list for Plattenburg, and the more he's in Texas, the better the Bears' chances for him become.  He and Bonney are best friends and the two have talked about playing together, and UCLA is one of the few schools to have offered them both.

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 D.J. Calhoun, so that can't hurt USC, as well as Joe Mixon and Michael Lazarus, and the four have talked about playing together in college.  Calhoun's decision at The Opening could have some affect on Pickett, so that is one to watch.

Denzel Fisher, 6-2, 170, Compton (Calif.) Centennial
National Position Ranking: 49
--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 came to the Elite Camp, where he did well in the 7on7, so he's on UCLA's short list, but like Farmer, he may be a guy that has to wait to see how some other guys shake out.  UCLA is still talking with him and he said last week that Demetrice Martin said he wanted to see his first few games and see him in pads before making a decision.

Others to Watch
Chandler Hawkins, 5-10, 170, Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco
Malik Cyphers, 5-10, 175, Westlake Village (Calif.) Oaks Christian


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