-- Joe Mixon, RB, Oakley (Calif.) Freedom -- It's clearly between UCLA and Oklahoma. A week ago we said it was UCLA but at this point, truly, everyone is guessing. The buzz in the last couple of days has been all Oklahoma, and UCLA has definitely shown interest in other 2014 running backs as of late (see below), which is a sign, at the very least, they're not completely confident about Mixon and are making back-up plans. In the last several hours (Friday morning), however, we've heard that UCLA is looking very good for Mixon.
-- Bryce Dixon, TE/Y, Ventura (Calif.) St. Bonaventure. It's been a UCLA/USC battle. He has told both schools at different times he was leaning their way, but the predominant leaning has been to UCLA for most of the last month. USC surged a bit when they hired Steve Sarkisian, but UCLA re-affirmed its place with Dixon since. Dixon likes how he'd be used at the Y in UCLA's offense, and doesn't believe he'd fit in at USC's traditional tight end role. It'd be a complete shock if he didn't announce for UCLA Saturday.
Staying with the news coming out of San Antonio for the U.S. Army All-American Game, UCLA-committed wide receiver Austin Roberts, from Carmel (Ind.), has been very impressive, and thought to be among the handful of best receivers in the game.
UCLA-committed defensive lineman Ainuu Taua from Lompoc (Calif.) has consistently been considered among the best defensive linemen in practice.
UCLA-committed defensive back Jaleel Wadood from Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco has been used at both cornerback and safety and has proven he is completely in his element playing with the best prospects in the country.
Defensive end Davon Godchaux, from Plaquemine (Louisiana), is verbally committed to LSU but has strong plans to officially visit UCLA on the last weekend of the month, along with the other UCLA targets in Louisiana, WR Malachi Dupre, LB Kenny Young and DB Mattrell McGraw.
It's funny about the Lousiana prospects. All of the recruiting experts -- from any network -- kind of scoff when it's brought up that they'll spurn LSU for UCLA. We can understand because there is a huge amount of precedent supporting the fact that recruits in the SEC region almost always stay within the SEC. But we said about a month ago that Kenny Young, from River Ridge John Curtis Christian, was a silent commitment to UCLA and, even if there is a huge push for him to end up at LSU, the common thought now among SEC-area reporters is that UCLA definitely has a legitimate chance for Young. Even though the sentiment is that Malachi Dupre is sewn up for LSU, from what we've heard, we're pretty confident UCLA has a definite chance with him, too, especially having him visit with the Louisiana contingent on January 31st, the last official visit weekend.
It's still believed that Stanford leads for Solomon Thomas, the five-star defensive end from Coppell (Tex.). He has visited UCLA, but has visits arranged for Stanford, Arkansas and Ohio State. His Stanford trip is planned for January 12th, which is during the Dead Period. Stanford, apparently, was trying to appeal to allow visits that weekend, but it's still unresolved at this point. The buzz from the Army practices was that, if he's admitted into Stanford, that's where he'll go.
The buzz about Zach Whitley, the linebacker from Galena (Tex.) North Shore, still strongly considering UCLA won't go away. Whitley is verbally committed to Alabama, and even re-pledged to them on his recent official visit. He, though, intends to enroll early (within a week), and hasn't signed his early enrollment papers, so the talk around the Army practices was that UCLA had a good chance to steal him. We know Whitley had a great official visit to UCLA, and he's very close with his teammate, OL Najee Toran, who is verbally committed to UCLA. Things are going to have to happen soon if Whitley is, indeed, going to enroll early -- either at Alabama or UCLA.
Trey Lealaimatafao, the defensive tackle from San Antonio (Tex.) Warren, who is currently a Texas commit, said he has a final three of Texas, Oregon and UCLA and will announce his decision January 28. He's already officially visited UCLA and Texas, and plans to likely visit Oregon on the 17th or 24th before making his decision. It was always thought that, coming from a high-profile high school in Texas with a connection to the Texas program, he'd end up at Texas, but there was some talk around the Army practices that UCLA could steal him.
On Sunday, at the Semper Fidelis All-Ameican Bowl, Pomona (Calif.) Diamond Ranch OL Kammy Delp will pick among hats from UCLA, ASU, Washington and Washington State, but it's pretty well-accepted that he'll pick up the Bruin hat. This is one we do know about; Delp has been silently committed to UCLA for a while so unless he completely defies that (and it's been done in the past), he'll be a Bruin on Sunday.
There was some buzz that Kolton Miller, the OL from Roseville (Calif.), would be visiting Cal January 17th. A few days ago, however, his dad said he has no idea where that came from. He's visiting UCLA on the 17th and will likely announce shortly thereafter. Oregon State and Wisconsin are the other two schools involved, but it doesn't appear Wisconsin is really in it right now. The thought is that if likes UCLA he'll commit on or shortly after the trip.
Brad Kaaya, the West Hills Chaminade quarterback, remains UCLA's #1 QB target. Recently he attended Miami's bowl game, and the thought is that he's leaning more toward sticking with his commitment to Miami. We've heard though, that UCLA has indicated to Kaaya that he's a top priority for them, specifically for Jim Mora. Apparently Mora and Kaaya have become close and I've heard that Mora has told Kaaya that he's his guy and is going to continue to go hard to get him. So, Kaaya is the #1 QB target, but we've heard that UCLA has some back-up options if Kaaya doesn't happen.
Given his performances so far at the Semper Fi All-American practices, Nick Gates is someone UCLA will start recruiting. Gates, the 6-5, 280-pound offensive tackle prospect from Las Vegas Bishop Gorman, has been one of the best OL prospect at Semper Fi so far. He's a late bloomer and has really come on in his senior season. He has taken official visits to Nebraska, Oregon and Texas A&M, and will visit Arizona January 17th. It will be interesting to see if, in fact, it's too late for UCLA to get involved. Gates said in this update -- Semper Fi Recruiting Notebook -- that those are his final four and he's not looking at any other schools. He does have one official visit left, however.
UCLA just offered 2014 four-star Durham (N.C.) Hillside Donte Thomas-Williams, the 6-1, 215-pound running back. The Bruins are really getting in late in the game, with Thomas-Williams already pretty far down the line in his recruitment with Florida State (visited Nov. 23rd), North Carolina State (Dec. 6th), and has plans to visit West Virginia (Jan. 24th). The Bruin staff has a connection to Thomas-Williams, which prompted the offer. It's also a sign, like we said above, that UCLA isn't feeling completely confident about its chances with Mixon.
In fact, we've already heard that UCLA has reached out to Nathan Starks, the 6-0, 190-pound running back from Englewood (Col.) Cherry Creek. Starks, the #20-ranked running back in the nation, had a fantastic showing at the U.S. Army practices; in fact, Scout.com experts named him the top running back in the west (over Mixon). Starks, at the practices, said he was very interested in UCLA, Oklahoma and Florida State. Starks has a bit of a back-story, however. He was asked to leave Las Vegas (Nev.) Bishop Gorman for an undisclosed incident, but most people close to Starks say he's a very respectable kid. He's also friends with UCLA-commited 2015 tight end Alize Jones, which has helped propagate the interest in UCLA -- while UCLA hadn't been recruiting him. UCLA, now, has indicated to Starks that he could visit in January and if UCLA misses on Mixon, and everything goes well on Starks' visit, the odds would be in favor of UCLA with Starks. It's interesting because if Oklahoma gets Mixon, UCLA very well could get Starks. If UCLA gets Mixon, Oklahoma will put the fast break on Starks.