Football Recruiting Reset: Defense

Here's a look at where UCLA stands in recruiting on defense during the dead period...

With the dead period, UCLA is hoping their efforts in December, with official visits and in-home visits, left a big impression leading into January.

The Bruins have a dozen commits, with five on offense, three at receiver, and seven on defense.

But there are several big fish still on the radar so the three weekends of visits in January, and the weeknights spent on in-homes will be crucial for the UCLA coaches to sign another top tier class.

UCLA has brought in some big classes in Jim Mora's first two recruiting classes, for 2012 and 2013. The 2014 class looked like it'd have about 18 scholarships to give, 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.***


UCLA doesn't yet have a defensive end commitment, and the pickings out West are somewhat slim. Three players that they were definitely in the mix for committed elsewhere and a fourth eliminated UCLA from consideration.  So UCLA has targeted a couple of national guys but do have their sights set on a couple of SoCal prospects.

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.  Thomas was stellar at The Opening and jumped into the top five nationally at his position and to a five-star.  He visited UCLA last weekend and he also named a top five this week, which includes UCLA.  He'll still visit Ohio State and Arkansas as well as Stanford, where he's awaiting word on his admission.  But UCLA has firmly put themselves into the mix.

Davon Godchaux, 6'4, 271, Plaquemine (La.)
National Position Ranking: 18, UCLA Offer
--Godchaux is a soft verbal to LSU, but he's still considering taking official visits in January, including one to UCLA.  He did visit unofficially back in the spring, so UCLA is a legitimate option for him.  He may firm things up at the U.S. Army Bowl, but UCLA is still trying to get him out for an official visit next month.

Jacob Tuioti-Mariner, 6'4, 265, Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco
National Position Ranking: 25, UCLA Offer
--No defensive prospect out West upped their stock this fall more than Tuioti-Mariner, who missed much of the spring because he was a starter on Bosco's volleyball team (which says something about his athleticism).  But this fall, Tuioti-Mariner has showed the talent on the field, going from an unheralded, lighty-recruited defensive end in the spring to a four-star prospect and arguably the top pass-rusher in Southern California.  UCLA offered him two weeks ago and the Bruins are his leader.

Uriah Leiataua, 6'4, 265, Compton (Calif.) Dominguez
National Position Ranking: 71, UCLA Offer
--The Bruins just offered Leiataua last month.  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 drivers seat for Leiataua.  USC also offered last month.  UCLA probably waited too long to offer Leiataua but they're trying to get back higher in the mix for him.

Harrison Phillips, 6'4, 240, Omaha (Neb.) Millard West
National Position Ranking: 87, UCLA Offer
--Phillips got an offer from UCLA in the spring, but then he committed to Stanford.  That said, UCLA is still recruiting him and did have an in-home visit with him earlier this month and he may take an official visit in January.  He's also still set to visit Stanford in January.  It's also unknown if he's been admitted to Stanford too.

Others to Watch
Austin Maloata, 6-3, 250, Corona (Calif.) Centennial
****There also could be a surprise recruit on the defensive line that UCLA is very heavily involved with.


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 and UCLA got Southern California's best in Taua.

Ainuu Taua, 6'0, 270, Lompoc (Calif.)
National Position Ranking: 9, COMMIT
--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 had 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.  He committed to UCLA earlier this month, a big pickup for the Bruins, after he visited officially.  He's one of three UCLA commits in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.

Trey Lealaimatafao, 6'1, 290, San Antonio (Texas) Warren
National Position Ranking: 36, UCLA Offer
--A commit to Texas, Lealaimatafao visited officially the weekend of the Arizona State game.  He then visited Arizona State the following weekend and now it looks like the Sun Devils may be leading.  UCLA would take his commitment, but they're not putting much time and effort into him.

Others to Watch
Marcus Griffin, 6-3, 292, Bellevue (Wash.)
Chris Manilla, 6-3, 300, Pago Pago (American Samoa) Marist


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 is the No. 1 outside linebacker in the country, in the South and with offers from everyone in the SEC.  And yet, here we are, six weeks away from Signing Day, and UCLA is still very much in contention to grab him.  He told Scout's John Garcia last week that UCLA has a slight edge.  While he wouldn't call them a leader, that's still significant, especially when you consider one former teammate is at Alabama (Reuben Foster) and the school in his backyard is playing for the national championship next month.  UCLA has already gotten a visit from Evans, so they don't have that in January where the other SEC schools do, but they're still in the ring and at this point, that's significant enough.

Dwight Williams, 6'1, 212, Gardena (Calif.) Serra
National Position Ranking: 32, UCLA Offer?
--Williams is an interesting case.  He's been a UCLA lean, privately at least, for some time.  He visited last weekend officially.  But he was just a guy this year for Serra and we're not sure just how hard UCLA is even recruiting him.  His stock plunged this season so it will be interesting to see if UCLA still pursues him.

Others to Watch
Bryson Allen-Williams, 6-2, 220, Ellenwood (Ga.) Cedar Grove
Olajuwon Tucker, 6-3, 230, Gardena (Calif.) Serra
Koa Farmer, 6-1, 195, Sherman Oaks (Calif.) Notre Dame


Cameron Griffin, 6-3, 210, Los Angeles (Calif.) View Park
National Position Ranking: 32, COMMIT
--Griffin committed to UCLA last month 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.  Griffin helped his team win their first ever City Section championship and he'll be playing in the Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl, one of two Bruin commits in the game.

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.  He's set to visit UCLA officially the weekend before Signing Day and the Bruins have that last weekend to wow him, after he's visited Texas A&M and Miami prior to the visit.

Zach Whitley, 6-2, 220, Galena Park (Texas) North Shore
National Position Ranking: 6, UCLA Offer
--UCLA got a surprise official visit from Whitley earlier this month.  A commit to Alabama, he's teammates with Najee Toran, who's already signed his papers with UCLA.  Whitley visited Alabama last weekend and he said he's solid to the Tide, but Toran is still working on him to flip his commitment to the Bruins.

Others to Watch
Petera Wilson, 6-2, 220, Memphis (Tenn.) White Station


UCLA has made safeties, and defensive backs for that matter, more of a priority, with two committed and another one targeted.  UCLA's best defensive recruiter, Demetrice Martin, continues to make waves in the secondary.

Jaleel Wadood, 5-11, 185, Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco
National Position Ranking: 9, COMMIT
--In contention for California's Mr. Football, Wadood has been a star this season for Bosco, on both sides of the ball, and may be the best pure football player in the Southland.  A commit to Arizona State early in his junior year, Wadood then decommitted and committed to Cal at The Opening.  But after their disaster of the season, and UCLA's continued, dogged pursuit got them a visit for the Arizona State game.  Wadood was also getting a lot of attention from USC, but last week, Wadood committed to the Bruins.  The U.S. Army All-American is a top 10 safety nationally and right now is the crown jewel in the Bruins' class.

Ron Robinson, 6-2, 195, Corona (Calif.) Santiago
National Position Ranking: 70, COMMIT
--Robinson 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, Robinson became UCLA's first defensive verbal.  He also has already signed his papers with UCLA and will enroll next month.

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 visiting UCLA the weekend before Signing Day.  He'll also be in the Southland next month for the Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl.

Others to Watch
Juju Smith, 6-1, 185, Long Beach (Calif.) Poly


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 four committed already.

Adarius Pickett, 5'11, 176, El Cerrito (Calif.)
National Position Ranking: 17, COMMIT
--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.  Pickett will enroll in April in time for spring practice too.

John Plattenburg, 5-11, 185, Houston (Texas) Lamar
National Position Ranking: 21, COMMIT
--Plattenburg blew up in the spring when he was still at Corona Centennial, but he's since moved to Texas for his senior year.  UCLA was in his top ten, and in danger of not making his top five.  In fact, during the summer, it looked like he was going to commit to Washington a number of times, but he never did.  That allowed Martin and UCLA to get back in it.  And they ended up getting a commitment from him next month.  He's not visited officially yet, but will in January.  That said, one of the reasons he liked Washington was because of DB coach Keith Heyward, and with Heyward now at USC, Plattenburg's mother's alma mater, the Trojans could pick things up with him.

Denzel Fisher, 6-2, 170, Compton (Calif.) Centennial
National Position Ranking: 40, COMMIT
--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 Washington State.  UCLA will try to hold on to him though because he oozes upside.

Antreal Allen, 5-10, 182, Auburn (Ala.)
National Position Ranking: 84, COMMIT?
--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.  That said, with five defensive backs also committed besides Allen, he may be looking elsewhere because of the log jam in the secondary.  He's already said he's exploring his options and it's pretty unlikely he ends up signing with UCLA.

Others to Watch
Adoree Jackson, 5'10, 170, Gardena (Calif.) Serra

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