With the dominating win over Nebraska, it's fun to speculate about what kind of impact a very successful 2013 season would have on recruiting and those final 15 rides.
Before the season, we did a story on what we called "Measuring Stick Recruits." These were the prospects in the 2014 class that we believed, if UCLA got them, would indicate that the UCLA program had clearly arrived.
We've changed it a bit and have renamed it The Dream 15. It's our realistic Top 15 Dream Team. It's realistic, meaning, we don't have Leonard Fournette (Scout.com's #1-ranked player for 2014) on this list; it includes prospects that UCLA has a very legit chance of getting right now, and could have a vastly improved chance with if they had the kind of season most UCLA followers are now envisioning. So, the possibility of the scenarios described below are completely plausible.
Greg Biggins said Tuesday on the BRO Premium Football Board: "It should be an interesting next few months as I've never seen more players out west all open to multiple schools, and how the season plays out on the field will factor huge on where these guys end up."
Also, keep in mind: If UCLA does have a big season, there will be elite prospects that UCLA isn't even involved with yet that will show interest in UCLA.
This is Part 1: #15 through #9.
#15) Solomon Thomas, DE, 6-3, 256, Copppell (Tex.)
, National Ranking: #22
Why It Would be a Big Get: Thomas is the #5-ranked defensive end in the nation. He's big,
quick and explosive, and would be perhaps the biggest coup for UCLA of any propect in 2014.
Why He Could Come to UCLA: Right now, he has Alabama, Arkansas, Notre Dame, Ohio State and Stanford as his top five, so UCLA getting an official visit is a long shot. We know that UCLA is still recruiting him, and if the Bruins have a huge season, in which they get a great amount of national attention, it isn't out of the realm of possibility that he opts for an official visit. And once an out-of- state prospect actually comes on an official visit to UCLA, when the Bruins are, say, among the top ten programs in the country, it could be pretty compelling. But we'll admit, this one borders on a pipe dream. He's at #15 because, even if this is the Dream 15, we have a foot in reality.
#14) D.J. Calhoun, LB, 6-0, 205, El Cerrito (Calif.)
, National Ranking: #139
Why It Would be a Big Get: Calhoun's talented, with good quickness and instincts. The
perceived limitation is his size, since he's barely touching 6-0 and weighs 205 while being pretty
built-out already. UCLA might only take two linebackers in the 2014 class, and there might be better
prospects than Calhoun UCLA has a chance to get, but we like Calhoun because of the talent,
willingness to play hard and work ethic. He sneaks into the #14 slot on this list because it's always
great to steal a commitment from USC.
Why He Could Come to UCLA: The situation is pretty well-documented. Calhoun is close with UCLA-committed cornerback Adarius Pickett and running back Joe Mixon. When Pickett committed to UCLA, Calhoun tweeted some pretty interesting stuff -- like he was re-thinking his USC commitment. We actually think this could be a situation where Calhoun does, in fact, decide he wants to flip to UCLA, and it's a matter if UCLA has the room. Calhoun told us yesterday that he intends to take all five visits, and we're pretty certain one of those will be to UCLA.
#13) Bryce Dixon, TE, 6-4, 230, Ventura (Calif.) St. Bonaventure
, National Ranking: #157
Why It Would be a Big Get: Dixon is the #3-ranked tight end in the nation for a reason: He's
very talented. He has very good size, and nimble feet, looking like a dancing bear after the catch. And
he has a very advanced pass-catching ability. UCLA appears like it's going more toward a bigger
receiver for its Y position, but that's only because it has more of those on the roster. There is a huge
opportunity for a true tight end-type in UCLA's offense, as we saw with Joe Fauria. Plus, it's always
good to beat out USC for the local recruits.
Why He Could Come to UCLA: It's a UCLA/USC battle and, from what we know, the kid wants to come to UCLA, while there are influences that want him at USC. If USC implodes this year, and UCLA has a great season, our read on Dixon's situation is that, even with USC hiring a new coach, the uncertainty then attached to USC and the known factor of UCLA, and the Fauria example, will make him be a Bruin.
#12) Viane Talamaivao, OL, 6-3, 285, Corona (Calif.) Centennial
, National Ranking: #145
Why It Would be a Big Get: We've always liked Talamaivao. He doesn't have a great body,
with sloping shoulders, but he certainly has great, quick feet and good balance. He's the #9-ranked
offensive guard in the nation, and committed to Alabama. It'd be a pretty big get, to take an Alabama
commitment and then to get two of the top three OLs in the west (we're including Mama).
Why He Could Come to UCLA: While he insists he's completely committed to Alabama and won't take any other visits, we just don't believe it. UCLA's Klemm is recruiting him, he's close with Kammy Delp (who is a UCLA lean) and Damien Mama (who is also on the Dream 15 list). Alabama has commitments from some elite OLs, and JC OLs. We've heard his family would prefer he stay close to home. If UCLA's season goes big, it's easy to see him turning to UCLA.
#11) Ainuu Taua, DL, 6-1, 280, Lompoc (Calif.)
, National Ranking: #116
Why It Would be a Big Get: UCLA is stockpiling DL talent, and it will need at least one DT-
type and a DE-type for 2014. Taua is the #9-ranked DT in the nation and, while he might be a bit
undersized, he makes up for it with quickness and aggressiveness. If there's a player who could be the
next Will Sutton it's Taua. Getting elite DL talent is always huge.
Why He Could Come to UCLA: He's a long-time lean to UCLA, and UCLA defensive line coach Angus McClure has been recruiting Taua hard since spring. Washington could be tough competition here, but we think if UCLA has a top-ten kind of season the deal would be done.
#10) Kenny Young, LB, 6-2, 225, River Ridge (Louisiana) John Curtis Christian
, National Ranking, #290
Why It Would be a Big Get: While, of course, we haven't seen all 289 prospects ahead of
Young, we think he's vastly under-rated at #290 nationally, and even as the #11 inside linebacker. As
it is with Evans (described below) being an ideal linebacker prospect, Young is right there with him.
Not only is he physically impressive, we've heard he has a great mental make-up and approach,
always wanting to work and get better. Last year, UCLA beat out LSU for Priest Willis, but if UCLA
could be out LSU on a local Lousiana prospect that they covet that would really send a message
Why He Could Come to UCLA: Because we've heard UCLA is doing really well with him. UCLA linebacker coach Jeff Ulbrich has been laser-focused on Young, and the two have built a relationship. Young has been to L.A. and loves it, and we think the official visit, during a big UCLA season, has the chance to do the trick.
#9) Rashaan Evans, LB, 6-3, 220, Auburn (Ala.) , National Ranking: #48
Why It Would be a Big Get: Being the #3-ranked outside linebacker in the nation, Evans is
right on the cusp of being a five-star and could make it by the end of the season. He has very good size
and then great quickness and speed, running a 4.51 at The Opening. He has a good body, already
muscular, but with the frame that could easily put on 20 more pounds of muscle. He could end up
inside or outside. In other words, he's just about the perfect linebacker prospect.
Why He Could Come to UCLA: He's narrowed his list to Alabama, Auburn, Georgia and UCLA. Yes, that sounds like a tough battle, to take an SEC-area kid away from those four programs. But we've heard that Coach Ulbrich has a chance to pull it off. The word is that Evans would prefer not to stay in-state and go to Auburn or Alabama, and that Georgia might be UCLA's competition. Evans is officially visiting UCLA Sept. 28th-29th, and his entire family is coming with him, which is significant. It's a bye weekend, so Ulbrich and the staff will be able to concentrate on Evans and give him their full attention. We think if the trip goes well it could put UCLA in the lead for Evans, and if they enhance that with a big season, Ulbrich and the Bruins have a very good chance with him.
Up next: #8 through #1