Football Recruiting Reset: Defense

Here's a look at where UCLA stands in recruiting on defense in mid-November, with the football season nearly over...

UCLA is now into its most critical stretch of the season, having played Arizona last week, and now facing Washington, Arizona State and USC. You can make a very good case that, aside from Stanford, UCLA's biggest recruiting rivals, at least for this class, are their next three opponents.

Much has been made about UCLA's class so far, and it's fair, given the magnitude of many of their commits, or lack there of.

But the stretch run of the season will dictate UCLA's record, and of course, it's the same old axiom: if you win, they'll come. So the next three (and potentially four) games before the bowl could be huge for UCLA's recruiting efforts in the 2014 class.

In terms of numbers, UCLA has brought in some big classes in Jim Mora's first two recruiting classes, for 2012 and 2013. The 2014 class has that potential. It originally looked like it'd have about 18 scholarships available, but with transfer and attrition already, it's pretty easy to project it to be in the 22-25 range.

***As we've said on the message board in the past, with UCLA looking like it's a program on the rise, there have been prospects from around the country that are starting to show interest in UCLA. Some we can't share here, since they are committed elsewhere and it could disrupt their recruiting, and UCLA's chances with them. If UCLA continues to have a successful season there will undoubtedly be more viable prospects that show interest in UCLA.***


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.  And the pickings are pretty slim out West now.

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 months that the Bruins are still one of his favorites, but seven other schools are also on that list.  Angus McClure and Lou Spanos were in Texas in September to watch him.

Davon Godchaux, 6'4, 271, Plaquemine (La.)
National Position Ranking: 17, UCLA Offer
--Godchaux was going to announce last 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 and Godchaux told Scout earlier this Fall that UCLA will definitely get a visit from him.  He injured his knee early this season and is out for the year.

Uriah Leiataua, 6'4, 265, Compton (Calif.) Dominguez
National Position Ranking: 77, UCLA Offer
--The Bruins just offered Leiataua earlier this week.  He grew up with Shannon Tevaga and Sonny Tevaga in their home and went to UCLA games to watch his two cousins play for several years so the Bruins have that connection.  But Stanford has also offered and looks to be in the driver's seat for Leiataua.  USC also offered this week.  Frankly, UCLA probably waited too long to offer Leiataua and now will have to make up ground with Stanford.

Others to Watch
Kennedy Emesibe, 6'3.5, 235, Oak Hills (Calif.)
Malik McDowell, 6-6, 300, Detroit (Mich.) Loyola


UCLA 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: 10, 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.  Washington State, Oklahoma and Ole Miss are also on his short list, but UCLA still has the best shot to land him.  Angus McClure went and saw Taua play earlier this month too.

Tashon Smallwood, 6'1, 285, Fresno (Calif.) Central East
National Position Ranking: 18, UCLA Offer
--A longtime 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 then decommitted and really isn't considering the Trojans anymore.  UCLA is still recruiting Smallwood, who's also looking pretty closely at Arizona State and Cal, but the Bruins' aren't as aggressive with him as they were in the spring and the Sun Devils are probably the favorites for him.

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


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: 1, 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. Georgia has also been a consistent presence in his recruitment.  Having said that, UCLA has been on his real short list for some time and he visited in September, with UCLA doing the rare thing of bringing in a visitor without a game being played that weekend so they can put the full court press on him.  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: 12, 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.  He's also pretty much gone underground and stopped talking to the media during the process.

Koa Farmer, 6-1, 195, Sherman Oaks (Calif.) Notre Dame
National Position Ranking: 42
--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 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.  USC is also getting involved with Farmer since the firing of Lane Kiffin, but they have yet to offer.

Ismael Murphy-Richardson, 6-4, 215, Goodyear (Ariz.) Desert Edge
National Position Ranking: 60, 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.  UCLA though is still keeping an eye on him.


Kenny Young, 6-2, 225, River Ridge (La.) John Curtis Christian
National Position Ranking: 11, 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.  Jeff Ulbrich and Eric Yarber went and saw him play in September.  Mike Coppage also reported this week that there may be some serious cooling off between Young and LSU that could help UCLA's position for him.

Cameron Griffin, 6-3, 210, Los Angeles (Calif.) View Park
National Position Ranking: 32, COMMIT
--Griffin committed to UCLA last week after getting an official offer from the Bruins, just a few days after the UCLA coaches went to watch him.  He was originally committed to San Diego State, for the past six months, but when the hometown school offered, Griffin didn't hesitate to flip to them.  He's an upside guy- he's dominating at the lowest level of City Section football, but looks good on film and his best football is ahead of him.

Others to Watch
Manoah Pearson, 6-1, 225, Carson (Calif.)


UCLA has made safeties, and defensive backs for that matter, more of a priority, with two committed and a few more targeted.

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.  UCLA has offered 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.  UCLA continues to make a push for Smith, and he could even be considered their top target on defense.  He's said he may want to play receiver and UCLA has wisely told him that would be an option for him.  Juju has been to a few of UCLA's home games so far.  Still, USC will be one to watch for Smith, being his lifelong favorite, especially with a new coach coming in.  At the same time, Oregon, Alabama and Notre Dame have all had him in for official visits and the Irish and Ducks especially made a huge impact on 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 three of Oregon, UCLA and Washington.  Oregon and Washington are recruiting him as an athlete, but UCLA is recruiting him specifically as a safety.  Baker said he plans to visit UCLA officially after the season.  We've heard for a long time UCLA and Oregon were the favorites, but recently, we've heard Washington is right back heavily in the mix.

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.  Ihenacho is being recruited as the swing DB, able to play both safety or corner in college.  Colorado is actually doing well with Ihenacho with his brother playing for the Broncos and the Colorado coaching staff being his brother's coach at San Jose State.

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.  UCLA coaches saw him play in September.  McGraw said he won't be making an announcement until National Signing Day.

Others to Watch
Dante Pettis, 6-0, 170, San Juan Capistrano (Calif.) JSerra
David Williams, 6'0.5, 175, Los Angeles (Calif.) Dorsey


You can never have enough cornerbacks since, like defensive tackles and quarterbacks, it's so difficult to find good ones. Expect UCLA to take a few of them for 2014, with three actually already committed.

Adarius Pickett, 5'11, 176, El Cerrito (Calif.)
National Position Ranking: 18, COMMITTED
--Pickett visited for UCLA's mini-Junior Day and then returned for the Spring Game at the Rose Bowl, and the Bruins had been on his very short list for some time.  When D.J. Calhoun committed to USC at The Opening, there was thought he could be leaning towards USC.  But he visited UCLA for the Nevada game and committed a couple of days later.  And Pickett has been very vocal about his commitment to the Bruins and he's also recruiting several players from NorCal, including Joe Mixon.  You can make a case that he's their top commit at this point.

Denzel Fisher, 6-2, 170, Compton (Calif.) Centennial
National Position Ranking: 40, COMMITTED
--Fisher was an under-the-radar guy before he won DB MVP honors at the Los Angeles NFTC.   He'd gotten a handful of offers, but coveted one from the Bruins, and he came to the Elite Camp, where he did well in the 7on7, to get UCLA's short list, but was told to wait it out until the season started.  The day of his first game, with scrimmage film given to UCLA, Fisher got the offer from the Bruins.  Four days later, Fisher committed to the hometown school, just a couple of hours after Pickett did.  Since then, though, USC has offered and Fisher is open to the Trojans, though he insists he's still solid to UCLA.  He's also visited Utah and will visit Washington State later this month.

Antreal Allen, 5-10, 182, Auburn (Ala.)
National Position Ranking: 84, COMMITTED
--A relative unknown when UCLA got his commitment this summer, 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.  While Evans visited in September, Allen has yet to visit officially.

Adoree Jackson, 5'10, 170, Gardena (Calif.) Serra
National Position Ranking: 3, UCLA Offer
--Jackson named a top ten list early in the summer that featured two West Coast schools, UCLA and USC but expanded it to include Oklahoma and Oregon.  At one point, UCLA could have been considered the favorite, then Florida was, but now we're hearing it's LSU.  He's visited Oklahoma, LSU, Tennessee and Florida State and is likely to visit Oregon officially too.  Who USC hires could also play a role in his recruitment.

Jaleel Wadood, 5-11, 185, Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco
National Position Ranking: 20, UCLA Offer
--At one point a commit to Arizona State and then a commit to Cal since July, UCLA hasn't given up hope of flipping Wadood one more time.  USC also heavily covets him and with a big push at St. John Bosco, are certainly in the mix.  We've heard that he's likely to end up at one of the Southern Calfornia schools, so it will be a matter of which one gets him and if they give him a chance at safety, which is what got Cal into the driver's seat to begin with.

John Plattenburg, 5-11, 185, Houston (Texas) Lamar
National Position Ranking: 23, UCLA Offer
--Plattenburg blew up in the spring when he was still at Corona Centennial, but he's since moved to Texas for his senior year.  He's visited Oregon and Wisconsin already and will visit Oklahoma this weekend, and Baylor is still very much in play, but UCLA remains in the game and his mom highly values the UCLA education which is keeping the Bruins in contention.  He's made several visits to UCLA unofficially and still may take an official visit this fall.

Marlon Humphrey, 6'0, 174, Hoover (Ala.)
National Position Ranking: 4, UCLA Offer
--The son of former Alabama running back Bobby Humphrey, the younger one is a five-star prospect and one of the best cover corners in the country.  Humphrey has said he wants to visit either UCLA or Oregon when he makes a Pac-12 swing, but all the usual Southern suspects, including his father's alma mater, are on him.

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

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