2014 Football Recruiting Reset: Defense

A look at UCLA's defensive recruiting down the stretch to Signing Day..

The dead period ended Wednesday and UCLA coaches were out on Thursday to make in-home visits, and then will be back home this weekend for the first of three big official visit weekends leading up to Signing Day.

UCLA has added five commitments during the dead period alone, four on defense and one on offense, while losing one defensive commit.

The Bruins have 16 commits, with six on offense, three at receiver, and ten 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.***

DEFENSIVE ENDS

UCLA went from no defensive end commitments last month to two Scout 300 defensive end commits.  One of them was a player we hinted at could be the surprise recruit too in last month's reset.

Jacob Tuioti-Mariner, 6'4, 265, Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco
National Position Ranking: 14, COMMIT
--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 during the fall, Tuioti-Mariner 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 last month and he committed to the Bruins last month.

Matt Dickerson, 6'5, 260, San Mateo (Calif.) Serra
National Position Ranking: 22, COMMIT
--We hinted last month that UCLA could be getting a commitment from an elite defensive end committed elsewhere, and Dickerson was the player we were alluding to.  Last week, Dickerson publicly committed to UCLA after being a commit to Notre Dame since the summer.  He missed most of his senior year with a back injury, but it's not considered serious.

Solomon Thomas, 6'3, 245, Coppell (Tex.)
National Position Ranking: 4, UCLA Offer
--Thomas visited UCLA officially in December, and the Bruins remain in the game, but Stanford is thought to be the prohibitive favorite and his admittance into Stanford only makes that sentiment stronger.  He'll still visit Ohio State and Arkansas officially and possibly Texas, but he's a long shot at best.

Davon Godchaux, 6'4, 271, Plaquemine (La.)
National Position Ranking: 21, UCLA Offer
--Godchaux had been scheduled to visit UCLA on Jan. 31st with the rest of the Louisiana group, but yesterday he tweeted that he had just a visit to Auburn remaining this month and that he was done after that. That Tweet has since been deleted. He tweeted earlier in the week that will "go ball out in college" with Kenny Young. This is all after a source in Louisiana had told us a few days ago that Godchaux was down to UCLA and Florida State. The source yesterday only could speculate, and thought that Godchaux was getting quite a bit of pressure from various sides and is probably uncertain as to what he'll do for official visits this month. We still have information that leads us to believe that Godchaux has interest in UCLA.

DEFENSIVE TACKLES

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.
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 last month, a big pickup for the Bruins, after he visited officially.  He had a very good week at the U.S. Army Bowl too.

Trey Lealaimatafao, 6'1, 290, San Antonio (Texas) Warren
National Position Ranking: 36, UCLA Offer
--A longtime commit to Texas, Lealaimatafao visited officially the weekend of the Arizona State game.  He then visited Arizona State the following weekend.  Last week, he decommitted from Texas, when their DL coach left to take the USC job (and then ultimately flipped to Alabama).  Lealaimatafao will visit Oregon this month before making his final decision.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS

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.

Dwight Williams, 6'1, 212, Gardena (Calif.) Serra
National Position Ranking: 36, COMMIT
--Williams is an interesting case.  He's been a UCLA lean, privately at least, for some time.  He visited last month officially.  But it looked like UCLA wouldn't be an option.  Then he committed to the Bruins during the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.  When motivated, Williams can be as good as any linebacker in the region.  Motivation, though, is and has been an issue.

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, three weeks away from Signing Day, and UCLA is still very much in contention to grab him.  In fact, Evans narrowed it down to three schools this week: Alabama, Auburn and UCLA.  So the Bruins, on the other side of the country, are in the final three against the hometown team, who just played in the BCS National Championship game and won it in 2010 and the other in-state team that won three of the five previous titles.  Evans is the No. 9 player in the country and would be the Bruins first top 10 land since....Eddie Vanderdoes in the 2013 class.  UCLA is hoping its two years in a row for No. 9.

INSIDE LINEBACKERS

Zach Whitley, 6-2, 220, Galena Park (Texas) North Shore
National Position Ranking: 6, COMMIT
--UCLA got a surprise official visit from Whitley last month.  A commit to Alabama, he's teammates with Najee Toran, who'd already signed his papers with UCLA.  Whitley visited Alabama last month and he said he was solid to the Tide, and even apologized to the coaches at Alabama for visiting UCLA.  But UCLA didn't stop and the night before the U.S. Army Bowl, Whitley announced he was committing to UCLA.  The Bruins still had to sweat the week after the Army Bowl, Alabama tried to get him back in the fold and Texas A&M tried to get him to stay close to home, but he flew out to Los Angeles on Sunday and started classes on Tuesday so he's locked in with the Bruins.  Getting a flip from Alabama, a player of the caliber that Whitley is, is a big coup for the Bruins.

Cameron Griffin, 6-3, 210, Los Angeles (Calif.) View Park
National Position Ranking: 33, COMMIT
--Griffin committed to UCLA in the fall 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 played in the Semper Fi Bowl.  He's the first player ever from his school to go to a FBS school for football.

Kenny Young, 6-2, 225, River Ridge (La.) John Curtis Christian
National Position Ranking: 7, UCLA Offer

Kenny Young.
--Young will visit UCLA the weekend before Signing Day with the other two JCC players he's tripped with before, Malachi Dupre and Mattrell McGraw.  UCLA is doing very well with Young and feels very good about their chances with him, and the visit the last weekend is huge.  The UCLA coaches will meet with him tonight at his home.

SAFETIES

UCLA has made safeties, and defensive backs for that matter, more of a priority, with two committed and another two 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 month, Wadood committed to the Bruins.  The U.S. Army All-American is a top 10 safety nationally and may be the best all-around football player in the class.

Ron Robinson, 6-2, 195, Corona (Calif.) Santiago
National Position Ranking: 69, 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 be participating in spring practice.

Juju Smith, 6-2, 195, Long Beach (Calif.) Poly
National Position Ranking: 2, UCLA Offer
--Smith is the No. 2 prospect in California and a lean to USC, but Kennedy Polamalu is trying as well as Demetrice Martin.  Also, with the rumors that his former Poly coach, Raul Lara could join the UCLA staff, there is still a glimmer of hope.  Smith could take an unofficial visit to UCLA before Signing Day, but an official trip is unlikely.

Mattrell McGraw, 6-0, 175, River Ridge (La.) John Curtis Christian
National Position Ranking: 40, 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.  Oregon, though, from what we hear, is the leader.

CORNERBACKS

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 two committed already.

Adarius Pickett, 5'11, 176, El Cerrito (Calif.)
National Position Ranking: 15, 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.  Pickett had a tremendous season and was named the Bay Area Player of the Year.  He was also a Semper Fidelis All-American.  Pickett has already signed with UCLA and will be on campus in time for spring practice.

Denzel Fisher, 6'2, 170, Compton (Calif.) Centennial
National Position Ranking: 39, 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.

Adoree Jackson, 5'10, 170, Gardena (Calif.) Serra
National Position Ranking: 1, UCLA Offer
--Another longshot for UCLA, the Bruin coaches are still trying with Jackson, the No. 1 player in the West.  Jackson said UCLA is still in the mix for him, though most feel that he's headed to the SEC.  But UCLA coaches haven't quit with him.

Marlon Humphrey, 6-0, 174, Hoover (Ala.)
National Position Ranking: 2, UCLA Offer
--Humphrey has talked about taking a visit to UCLA, but we're skeptical it will happen.  Still, until he officially says he's not visiting, you can't entirely eliminate him from discussion.


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