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.
#8) Impact Running Back
Why It Would be a Big Get: Yes, UCLA looks decently deep at running back for the near
future, but the elite programs just keep recruiting over the guys they currently have in the program.
The guy that would probably accomplish that this season is Joe Mixon, the nation's #5 running back
prospect from NorCal. UCLA was doing very well with him and then -- poof! -- that evaporated during
the Dark Time of 2014 UCLA recruiting (spring and summer). He has said UCLA was not in his list of 10.
But not so fast, my friend. We're hearing that UCLA still has a shot. In fact, Mixon said (in his most
recent interview) that he probably isn't going to visit one of his top five (Florida) and could use it on
another program. Hmm. We've heard that Mixon has been in increased contact with the UCLA staff, even Jim Mora. We've learned that UCLA Assistant Angus McClure will watch Mixon's game Friday night. If not Mixon, perhaps Tre Watson. UCLA has been recruiting him hard, and we've heard his verbal commitment to Cal is getting shakier every day.
Why Someone Could Come to UCLA: We think UCLA still has a legit shot at Mixon. word is that he likes how UCLA's playing, and if UCLA has a blow-up season, it could have an increased impact on him. We've heard he is envisioning himself in UCLA's offense, behind its offensive line, pretty vividly. Plus, the word is that Adrian Klemm will take a bigger hand in Mixon's recruitment. We think UCLA has a very legit shot at Watson, who would be a strong addition to the UCLA running back depth chart. If you're really fantasizing you could list Bo Scarborough, the 6-2, 235-pound beast that is verbally committed to Alabama that said he'll officially visit UCLA. Heck, there could be a chance UCLA gets both Mixon and Watson.
#7) Budda Baker, S/WR, 5-10, 175, Bellevue (Wash)
, National Ranking: #36
Why It Would be a Big Get: Baker is an electric player, who is capable of being a top-level
college player at either receiver or safety. UCLA went into the state of Washington, Bellevue High
School, in fact, and got Myles Jack in 2013. We know it's between UCLA, Washington and Oregon, and
while we've heard Oregon is strong with Quick there is still a sentiment around Seattle that the
Huskies will ultimately be the prime competition.
Why He Could Come to UCLA: Mora is close with Quick, having known him since he was little, and he's personally handling Quick's recruitment, like he handled Jack's. Baker, too, is close with Mora's daughter. Mora also has Jack, who is close with Baker, recruiting him to UCLA. Jack went home during the bye weekend and hung with Baker, in fact. You'd think Jack would have only great things to say about playing at UCLA.
#6) Pac-12 Level Quarterback
Why It Would be a Big Get: Getting a quarterback in 2014 is imperative. If you project out
UCLA's depth chart over the next couple of years, the quarterback spot is thin and, after Brett Hundley leaves, you only have one potential talent, Asiantii Woulard, who you could see capable of
being the starter, and there's never a guarantee of it. Alarms should be going off in the UCLA football
offices. Even if there isn't a potentially elite quarterback prospect left out there in 2014, UCLA just
plainly needs someone capable of playing in the Pac-12 for quarterback depth. West Hills
Chaminade's Brad Kaaya is the obvious choice, but his performance so far this season in four games has left some doubts. Last night, Jim Mora and quarterbacks coach Taylor Mazzone were at the Chaminade/Oaks Christian game. Here's the thing: What you look for first is size, build, throwing motion, and arm strength. While Kaaya has a ways to go to be a Pac-12 quarterback, clearly, he does have all of those attributes. And again, keep in mind -- UCLA needs a quarterback and there really isn't anyone else who would be
an obvious option. No one has emerged in the west so far in the high school season's few three weeks. We've heard that UCLA will look nationally to find a 2014 QB.
Why Why Someone Would Come to UCLA: If UCLA offered and got serious in their recruitment of Kaaya, they'd have a very good chance of getting him. His family would prefer he stay close to home. He'd have to look at UCLA's projected quarterback depth chart and know he has a real chance to play. We could see this going either of two ways: Kaaya has a great remaining senior season, UCLA offers and recruits him, and the Bruins have a huge year on the field and Kaaya decides to be a Bruin -- or Kaaya doesn't necessarily kill it the rest of the way and UCLA never offers. There is still a chance someone else emerges for 2014, but it looks unlikely. But heck, since this is the "Dream" 15, we know that Noel Mazzone is continuing to recruit the Kyle Allen, the #1 QB prospect in the nation committed to Texas A&M.
#5) Michiah Quick, 5-11, 185, Fresno (Calif.) Central
, National Ranking: #29
Why It Would be a Big Get:UCLA needs big-time playmakers at wide receiver if it wants to
have an elite offense, and Quick could be one of those. It would also be a considerable coup to get the
#1 wide receiver in the west.
Why He Could Come to UCLA: As of now, he'll visit Oklahoma, Notre Dame, Alabama, and UCLA, he's always maintained that he'll visit UCLA last, and has been consistent in saying that UCLA is recruiting him hard. We believe right now it's betwen UCLA and Oklahoma, and Quick likes L.A. and, while he wouldn't think twice about going out of the area for college, if there was an elite national program in California it'd be pretty compelling for him. A big UCLA season in 2013 could do the trick.
#4) Malachi Dupre, WR, 6-3, 195, River Ridge (Louisiana) John Curtis Christian
, National Ranking: #23
Why It Would be a Big Get: Dupre is a game-breaking, game-changing wide receiver talent --
that's why he's ranked the #1 receiver prospect in the nation. He has great size, but great speed and
quickness. He would be the guy that UCLA doesn't have right now at wide receiver -- the big play
maker. He recently said that UCLA is among his top four -- along with LSU, Alabama and Florida State -- some pretty stiff competition.
Why He Could Come to UCLA: He's spent time in L.A. and loves it, and really has a bond with the UCLA staff. Of course, hometown LSU is going to be tough to beat, and many think he's leaning to the Tigers. But there is another opinion -- and that's that UCLA is doing better with Dupre than most think. He's close with his high school teammate Kenny Young, and from what we know, UCLA is doing very well with Young, and probably leading. Combine this with a break-out season for the Bruins and it at least gives UCLA a legitimate chance to pull him away from LSU.
#3) Damien Mama, OL, 6-4, 370, Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco
, National Ranking: #21
Why It Would be a Big Get: UCLA got a bit of a late start on Mama, but has made up
considerable ground and he is probably their #1 OL target for 2014. After a big OL class in 2013,
Klemm can be selective, and Mama, the #1 OG in the nation, fills the bill. He spent a good deal of time
on UCLA's campus this summer, and has gotten close with Klemm. Klemm, in his first chance of
being out to watch prospects a couple of weeks ago, went to see Mama. It's going to be tough, with
Mama having visits set up to Alabama, Notre Dame and Wisconsin, along with interest from many
other elite programs.
Why He Could Come to UCLA: We wouldn't bet against Klemm getting Mama even with just a solid UCLA season, but if the Bruins blow up the rest of the way, Klemm will have so much more to sell. Mama is very close to his family, and we think, if he had the opportunity to stay local and play for a national-championship-contending program -- and play for a coach like Klemm -- that would be pretty compelling for him and his family. He's also close to Kammy Delp, and the word on Delp is that he'll be a Bruin.
#2 ) Adoree Jackson, WR/CB, 5-11, 185, Gardena (Calif.) Serra
, National Ranking: #5
Why It Would be a Big Get: Jackson is a vastly talented prospect, who in college would be
able to play receiver or cornerback and probably have an impact at either spot immediately. He
hasn't looked world-beating so far this season, unable to consistently break out offensively. But for
UCLA to get him, beng who he is, it would signify that UCLA is now the dominant force in college
football in L.A.
Why He Could Come to UCLA: We've heard he loves L.A. and ideally doesn't want to go away. The most recent word is that Florida is doing well with him and, right now, looks like the biggest threat to take him out of the Southland. UCLA Offensive Line Coach Adrian Klemm, who is a great recruiter, has been assigned the Gardena Serra prospects, so that and remaining in L.A. is a pretty powerful combo. The only thing missing would be for Jackson to play for a national- championship-contending team, and if UCLA can supply that it could possibly be too much for other schools to overcome.
#1) Juju Smith, WR/CB, 6-1, 190, Long Beach (Calif.) Poly
, National Ranking: #6
Why It Would be a Big Get: JuJu is probably our favorite prospect for 2014 in the west. He
is vastly talented, and could play on either side of the ball at wide receiver or safety, and he's an all-
business kid that hasn't let the hype go to head but continues to work to get better. Last summer at
various camps, instead of big-timing it like many of the elite west coast guys did, Smith was in on
every rep working hard. He would, too, be a huge impact for UCLA's program -- getting such a high-
profile, SoCal kid. It would send a message that UCLA is the place to be. Recruiting-wise, Smith has
said he intends to take all five visits, to Oregon, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Alabama and Michigan, and
only unofficially visit UCLA and USC. We've heard for a while that USC was his dream school growing
up. So, that's a pretty daunting proposition for UCLA, to overcome those elite schools and his local
favorite dream school.
Why He Could Come to UCLA: We've heard that a big factor for Smith is to play for a national-champion-contending program, as you can see by his visit list. It's why he has always liked USC -- because of the possibility of playing for a national championship while staying home. Well, it looks like the local program that gives him that best chance now would be UCLA. Some close to the situation think who USC hires as its next head coach will have a big impact, but those same sources think if UCLA has a big year in 2013 Smith's outlook could shift about which is the more desireable program in L.A.
-- Matt Dickerson, 6-5, 260, San Mateo (Calif.) Serra.
UCLA needs a defensive end, and good ones are hard to find. There were many that thought UCLA was leading for Dickerson and that it was surprising he committed to Notre Dame. UCLA has continued to recruit him and we think, if UCLA has a big season, he could start to reconsider the Notre Dame commitment.
-- Austin Maloata, DE, 6-3, 248, Corona (Calif.) Centennial.
Again, you always need DEs who can play, UCLA needs one in 2013, and the list of available defensive ends has dried up some in the west. Maloata is a USC commitment, but if the USC programs melts down this year it would be a good opportunity for UCLA to move in.
Dwight Williams, LB, 6-1, 212, Gardena (Calif.) Serra.
He was on the "Measuring-Stick" list before the season, but isn't in the top 15 here. It's mostly because his performance and effort level is questionable so far this season for Serra. He's an athletic kid, but needs to find a better mental approach. He was a possibility for the list based on the potential he gets more focused, and the impact his commitment could have.
Alex Van Dyke, WR, 6-4, 210, Elk Grove (Calif.) Cosumnes Oaks.
Van Dyke is a big, formidable pass-catcher, who might end up 6-4 and 235, and would be a very tough match-up in UCLA's offense at the Y.
Ismael Murphy-Richardson, LB, 6-4, 215, Goodyear (Ariz.) Desert Edge
He could be one of the most under-rated recruits in the west. He's a legit 6-4, has a frame that could add good weight and is very athletic. He's not Anthony Barr, of course, but he's in that mold. It had been thought that academics could preclude UCLA from recruiting him but we're hearing different now.
Tyler Whiley, 6-1, 190, Scottsdale (Ariz.) Chaparral.
We feel Whiley is one of the best all-around athletes in the west. He could excel at either receiver or corner, and you can't have too many of those types. He had been leaning to UCLA -- until the spring and summer -- but if UCLA has a big year we've heard Whiley could re-think the ASU commitment.
Mattrell McGraw, S, 5-11, 175,
McGraw has the versatility UCLA likes to play either corner or safety. He was a possibility for this list mostly because, being teammates and friends with Dupre and Young, his potential influence. We're hearing Oregon leads.
***Again, keep in mind, if UCLA has a huge year, there will be prospects from around the country that will then have interest in UCLA, so this list could very well dramatically change.***