Football Recruiting Reset: Defense

With the season set to start, we reset UCLA's defensive recruiting board, where there has been some new commitments since July and targets committing elsewhere...

A lot has changed since the last reset.  Again. 

Much like the post-summer camp reset looked different than the pre-summer one, the pre-season one looks much different than the post-summer one.

With the season starting this weekend and coaches able to call and get out to games starting next week, UCLA's recruiting list is looking much different, in terms of commits and targets.

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 or in the secondary.

DEFENSIVE ENDS

With the addition of Eddie Vanderdoes, UCLA should be in the market for one DE, possibly two.  Three players that they were definitely in the mix for committed elsewhere and a fourth eliminated UCLA from consideration.

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'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 decision.  He did tell Scout last week that the Bruins are still one of his favorites, but seven other schools are also on that list.

Nifae Lealao, 6'5, 270, Sacramento (Calif.) Capital Christian
National Position Ranking: 8, 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.

Davon Godchaux, 6'4, 271, Plaquemine (La.)
National Position Ranking: 17, UCLA Offer
--Godchaux was going to announce this month, but has since pushed his announcement date back to December.  He said that UCLA is still being considered along with Alabama, Florida, Florida State, LSU, Ole Miss and Texas A&M, and UCLA would love to get him in for an official visit.

Uriah Leiataua, 6'4, 265, Compton (Calif.) Dominguez
National Position Ranking: 70
-- 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 in June 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.  Wisconsin has been making a big push for him as has Washington State, and Utah and BYU are also on him.

Kennedy Emesibe, 6'3.5, 235, Oak Hills (Calif.)
National Position Ranking: 76
-- 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

DEFENSIVE TACKLES

UCLA got Kenny Clark last year, and he's impressed.  With the liklihood of him redshirting dwindling, UCLA still needs to fill some depth at the position.  It's not a great defensive tackle class, but there are still some guys in the mix.

Ainuu Taua, 6'0, 270, Lompoc (Calif.)
National Position Ranking: 9, 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 bounced up and down some earlier in the spring, and there were questions about if he'd be a defensive lineman or even a fullback, but when we saw him in July at The Opening, he was 270 and said he wants to play this season between 270-280.  In fact, we saw him twice in the summer, 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, but UCLA is definitely a school he's very serious about.

Tashon Smallwood, 6'1, 285, Fresno (Calif.) Central East
National Position Ranking: 18, 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 had said he was solid to USC, but has since cooled on them and vice versa and he said he's going to go through the process.  UCLA would still love to bring him in and when he named a top five, after being committed to USC, the Bruins were still on it.

Others to Watch
Jason Fao, 6-1, 250, Long Beach (Calif.) Poly

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 fall officially 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.  UCLA also has a commitment from his teammate Antreal Allen and Allen said he's recruiting Evans hard to come West with him.

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: 46, 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 was planning to visit unofficially this summer but the academics have been a hang-up for him and have cooled some teams on him.

Koa Farmer, 6-1, 195, Sherman Oaks (Calif.) Notre Dame
National Position Ranking: 32
--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 is likely a senior film guy too.  He is being recruited as a safety, but it's likely that he would plug in at the mini-backer role.

INSIDE LINEBACKERS

Kenny Young, 6-2, 225, River Ridge (La.) John Curtis Christian
National Position Ranking: 12, 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 was in a good position.  When he narrowed his list in early August to a top ten, UCLA was on it.  He's not mentioning them as prominently as others, but UCLA hasn't been eliminated for him yet and they're definitely still trying.

Michael Lazarus, 6-2, 215, Berkeley (Calif.)
National Position Ranking: 13
--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 this summer for the B2G Elite Camp and while he likes UCLA, he covets an offer from USC, where his good friend D.J. Calhoun is headed.  Still, UCLA will watch him this fall.

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. is. a. corner), UCLA will be selective, probably taking just one, or two if there are an elite two that want to come.

Jojo McIntosh, 6-1, 180, West Hills (Calif.) Chaminade
National Position Ranking: 33, COMMITTED
--A player who used the UCLA Elite Camp to his advantage, McIntosh showed well at the camp and a couple of days later, was offered by the Bruins.  UCLA and Boise State were his top two and he chose the Bruins in early August so he could get recruiting out of the way.  He also could be a crucial part of UCLA's quarterback recruiting.  If UCLA offers Brad Kaaya, a Miami commit, McIntosh is Kaaya's best friend and has told Scout he'll recruit him to UCLA.

Ron Robinson, 6-2, 195, Corona (Calif.) Santiago
National Position Ranking: 45, COMMITTED
--Robinson is another 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.  He had said he was going to hold off on a decision until he visited Northwestern, but at the end of July, a few days before McIntosh committed, Robinson became UCLA's first defensive verbal.

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: 4, 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 freshman 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 Arizona State, Texas A&M, Oregon and Washington.  Four of the five schools are recruiting him as an athlete, but UCLA is recruiting him specifically as a safety.

John Bonney, 6-2, 175, Houston (Texas) Lamar
National Position Ranking: 9, UCLA Offer
--Bonney got an offer from UCLA this spring, and while he's favoring Midlands schools, he's childhood best friends with John 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 and could get an official visit from him.

Glen Ihenacho, 5-11, 177, Gardena (Calif.) Serra
National Position Ranking: 33, 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 summer.  He was at UCLA's camp in June, 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 this summer that UCLA is recruiting him harder than any school.  Ihenacho is being recruited as the swing DB, able to play both safety or corner in college.

Mattrell McGraw, 6-0, 175, River Ridge (La.) John Curtis Christian
National Position Ranking: 34, 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 this summer 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.  Those three have remained a constant in his recruitment and he is hoping to visit officially this fall or after the season.

Others to Watch
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.

Antreal Allen, 5-10, 182, Auburn (Ala.)
National Position Ranking: 78, COMMITTED
--A relative unknown when UCLA got his commitment this month, Allen had a great offseason and moved from unranked to a top 100 corner and a three-star.  More importantly, he's teammates with one of UCLA's chief targets, Rashaan Evans, and Allen said when he committed he was going to work hard to recruit Allen.

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 in July and Florida had him for Friday Night Lights last month, 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 month 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. Watkins is also hoping to visit Oregon officially the weekend they host UCLA.

Adarius Pickett, 5'11, 176, El Cerrito (Calif.)
National Position Ranking: 19, 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.  Pickett is set to visit UCLA officially this weekend when they host Nevada, the first official visitor for the Bruins and obviously, his first trip.

John Plattenburg, 5-11, 185, Houston (Texas) Lamar
National Position Ranking: 23, 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.  He visited unofficially earlier this month on his own before moving back to Texas and UCLA made a big impression again.  Still, he's said a couple of times that even if he commits early, he's planning to take all five trips and being out of Southern California wouldn't make that easy.

Denzel Fisher, 6-2, 170, Compton (Calif.) Centennial
National Position Ranking: 40
--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 month that Demetrice Martin said he wanted to see his first few games and see him in pads before making a decision and Fisher said he's fine with that.

Others to Watch
Malik Cyphers, 5-10, 175, Westlake Village (Calif.) Oaks Christian


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