UCLA Football Recruiting Buzz

We have tidbits on the Louisiana Four, the quarterback visiting this weekend, the #1 outside linebacker in the country, and more...

-- UCLA quarterback recruiting for 2014 is getting interesting.

We've heard that the official visit this weekend by Aaron Sharp, the 6-3, 195-pounder from Houston (Tex.) Summer Creek, isn't just to keep Sharp on any kind of back-burner. If Sharp checks out in person, and we would suspect he would since he's a very athletic prospect who is a good student, UCLA is expected to offer Sharp on his visit. Sharp is currently verbally committed to Kansas State, but the word is that there's a very good chance that he'd flip to UCLA if the Bruins offered. Sharp, who is a very good running quarterback, apparently can project himself very easily into UCLA's offense after watching Brett Hundley this season. Washington is also hoping to get a visit from Sharp, with new coach Chris Petersen and the Huskies needing a quarterback as well.

-- The situation very well could push Brad Kaaya, the quarterback prospect from West Hills (Calif.) Chaminade, more into a final-decision mode. Kaaya is verbally committed to Miami, but at various times it's been thought he'd flip to hometown UCLA, but it's never come to fruition. UCLA getting serious with another quarterback prospect might do the trick. The problem, though, for Kaaya, is that UCLA isn't just blowing smoke over Sharp and will take his commitment if he commits. Kaaya is tenatively scheduled to officially visit UCLA on January 31st, UCLA's biggest recruiting weekend in which a heap of elite talent will officially and potentially unofficially visit UCLA, but that could be too late for Kaaya.

As we've said, UCLA also has other options at quarterback if both Sharp and Kaaya don't pan out.

-- The buzz we continue to hear about Rashaan Evans, the #1-ranked outside linebacker in the nation from Auburn (Ala.), is that it's an Auburn/UCLA race with Alabama running third. Yesterday, Evans announced he had dropped Ole Miss and Georgia, and UCLA, Auburn and Alabama were the finalists. He's already visited UCLA (Sept. 28th) but will still visit Alabama (Jan. 17th) and Auburn (Jan. 24th). Of course, those are going to be tought visits for UCLA to weather, but we've heard that Evans has never been that enamored of Alabama. Of course, it's Alabama, so an official visit there could turn around that sentiment. It's funny, too, because most SEC-area recruiting experts keep maintaining that Auburn and Alabama lead, and we know it's difficult to bet against the SEC, especially Alabama, with its recent success, and Auburn with its success this season. But everything we've heard gives UCLA a very good chance here -- especially the fact that many of those same SEC-area recruiting experts are actually conceding UCLA has a chance. The word is starting to get out that Evans, first, has a great relationship with UCLA Linebackers Coach Jeff Ulbrich, who is a dynamic recruiter and coach. Evans, too, has a bit of a flashy personality, and we've heard that he loves L.A. The word is that Evans very well could unofficially visit UCLA on January 31st, on UCLA's biggest recruiting weekend. Some of the recruits officially visiting -- like the Louisiana Four -- have been in contact with Evans to try to get him to unofficially visit. He had been scheduled to visit Mississippi that weekend previously, but dropping Ole Miss opens up that weekend.

Uriah Leiataua, the defensive end from Compton Dominguez, verbally committed to Stanford yesterday after getting the word that he had been admitted there this last weekend while on an official visit. Leiataua had been scheduled to visit UCLA this weekend but will cancel the visit. He is a solid prospect, but UCLA shouldn't be too depressed about it; UCLA has commitments from defensive ends Matt Dickerson and Jacob Tuioti-Mariner, who are both considered better prospects than Leiataua. Plus, Leiataua is going on his Mormon Mission right out of high school so, in two years when he returns, he'll be a recruitable athlete again. UCLA very well could have a second shot at him, if they want it.

Solomon Thomas.
Speaking of defensive end prospects, and recruits that were told they were admitted to Stanford on their visit there last weekend, there is Solomon Thomas, the five-star defensive end from Coppell (Tex.). But unlike Leiataua, Thomas hasn't verbally committed to Stanford as a result. It was thought Stanford was his leader, and that could still be true, but we've heard that UCLA is hanging in there with Thomas. His official visit to UCLA in early December had a big impact on him. He has official visits remaining to Arkansas (Jan. 17th) and Ohio State (Jan. 24th). He also has indicated that he'll take another look at hometown Texas, with the hiring of Charlie Strong as the Longhorns head coach. Thomas has an official visit left that he could use on Texas for that last weekend, the 31st. As of right now, the sentiment over Thomas right now is legitimately mixed, with some believing its inevitable he's going to Stanford, others believing UCLA has become the serious player and then some others thinking that Texas will make a big push at the end for him that could be tough for him to turn down. It's pretty significant that Thomas hasn't committed to Stanford after they admitted him, as many thought he'd do.

Heck, watch him go to Arkansas.

-- Another defensive end that UCLA had offered and brought in on a visit, Corona (Calif) Centennial's Austin Maloata, said he's still committed to USC, but he hasn't heard from them since the new staff was hired. Maloata told Scout that he's considering UCLA on his short list, but again, with Tuioti-Mariner and Dickerson in the fold, it's not likely UCLA will be pursuing him or would take his commitment.

-- It's believed that UCLA will have a very good chance of getting a commitment from Kolton Miller, the 6-8, 280-pound offensive tackle from Roseville (Calif.), who will take his official visit to Westwood this weekend. Miller, in his senior season, showed that he can really move his feet for a guy his size, and a bit of a nasty streak, and that garnered offers from UCLA, Oregon and others. He's visited Wisconsin and Oregon State, bu the word is that UCLA is in the driver's seat at this point.

-- We've heard that UCLA continues to recruit Joe Mixon, the five-star running back from Oakley (Calif.) Freedom, despite his verbal commitment to Oklahoma. Mixon, too, has reached out to UCLA since his commitment. We've been told that it's completely uncertain what Mixon could decide to do, that he's all over the board on his recruitment and it could come down to whichever NLI he actually signs on Feb. 5th.

-- The other prospect that pulled a bit of a surprise at the U.S. Army Bowl was Ventura St. Bonaventure tight end Bryce Dixon. It was pretty well-accepted that Dixon would verbally commit to UCLA, until the morning of the game when it came out he had changed his mind and was committing to USC. Dixon actually had brought UCLA shoes with him to wear at the game. We had said that Dixon's recruitment wouldn't be over and that's proven to be the case, with Dixon arranging for an official visit to UCLA on Jan. 31st. According to Greg Biggins, the biggest hurdle to overcome now is his best friend, Davonte Nunnery, a cornerback prospect from St. Bonaventure, was offered a preferred walk-on spot by USC. That was the primary reason, we now have learned, that Dixon flipped from a heavy UCLA lean to USC at the Army Game. It's pretty certain that UCLA now too will offer Nunnery a preferred walk-on opportunity. Nunnery's preference for schools, though, will have a big impact on Dixon.

Malachi Dupre.
-- The January 31st recruiting weekend is shaping up to be a massive one in terms of talent visiting and importance. The Louisiana Four will visit en masse -- which includes receiver Malachi Dupre, lineacker Kenny Young, defensive back Mattrell McGraw and defensive end Davon Godchaux. Five-star cornerback prospect Marlon Humphrey from Hoover (Ala.) will also officially visit, and we've heard he's been in contact with L4. Michiah Quick, the best receiver prospect in the west, will visit; Quick had been leaning to UCLA but when his buddy Mixon committed to Oklahoma Quick shifted toward Norman. We've heard, though, that there could be some shift back toward UCLA. Quick has already visited Oklahoma, and he could visit USC this weekend. Denzel Ward, the offensive line prospect from Chicago Simeon, will visit, after he visits Syracuse (Jan. 17th) and Nebraska (Jan. 24th) after previously visiting South Florida. The plan, still, is for running back Tre Watson to officially visit. As we've said, Kaaya could officially visit also. And then there is the possibility of unofficial visits from Evans, like we said, but also Juju Smith, the five-star athlete from Long Beach Poly, and Adoree Jackson, the five-star athlete from Gardena Serra. Jackson has one more official visit at his disposal (he's visited LSU, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Florida State, and Florida is also considered a player). We've also heard that UCLA could possibly have some more surprise unofficial visitors that weekend. It could end up being one of UCLA's biggest recruiting weekends in recent history.

-- The thought is that UCLA has a very real chance to get L4. We've maintained for a while that UCLA leads and has received a silent verbal commitment from Young. Young did just announce he'll also officially visit Texas A&M, Arkansas, Oklahoma State, and LSU, all before Signing Day. Godchaux just said on Twitter that he and Young will play together in college, and we had heard that Godchaux was down to UCLA and Florida State after de-committing from LSU. Young hasn't really had serious interest in FSU to this point, so do the math. The word continues to be that UCLA has a very good chance of shocking all of those faithful LSU fans with Dupre, too. McGraw, at this point, we've heard is leaning to UCLA over Oregon. Of course, this is college football recruiting so this could all easily change by NSD, but at this point UCLA looks really good for L4.

-- It was uncertain where Damien Mama, the #1 offensive guard prospect in the country, from Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco, would take his last visit -- UCLA or USC, but it now appears he'll visit USC on Jan. 24th. He has one visit available, having visited Wisconsin, Notre Dame and Alabama, and BYU scheduled on Jan. 31st. It's been thought he was a USC lean, and nothing has developed to lead us to believe otherwise.

-- UCLA sweated out the recruitment of Zach Whitley, the Texas linebacker who flipped from Alabama to UCLA. He is an early enrollee, so UCLA fans were monitoring his whereabouts all weekend, after there was talk that Texas A&M was making a late push. But as our spies confirmed, Jim Mora picked up Whitley at LAX Sunday, he settled into his dorm (which was confirmed by a BRO poster), and he'll be in his first UCLA class today.

-- As we've reported, 2015 quarterback prospect Josh Rosen from Bellflower St. John Bosco, will visit UCLA unofficially Jan. 26th. UCLA is the heavy leader for Rosen, who will very likely be moved from the #2 ranked QB in the nation for 2015 to #1, and it's believed he could verbally commit to Mora on his unofficial visit. The thought is that he could still take some visits, unofficial and official, and Rosen wasn't sure if he wanted to do that while he was committed to UCLA. But it's better to have him visit other schools while verbally committed than visiting other schools when he isn't.


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