Football Recruiting Reset: Defense

We provide a reset of where the UCLA football team stands in terms of 2014 defensive recruiting...

We're two weeks away from Signing Day and there are two weekends left of official visits, and less than two weeks of in-home visits and coaches being on the road.

UCLA has added two commitments this past week, both on offense, and that's seven in the month of January, four on defense and three on offense.  They did lose a verbal, but it wasn't one that broke their heart.

The Bruins have 17 commits, with seven on offense and ten on defense.

But there are several big fish still on the radar so the final two 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 in for 2012 and 2013. The 2014 class looked like it'd have about 18 scholarships to give initially, but could go 22 to 25. Having less than 25 will limit UCLA's rankings in the Scout.com Team Recruiting Rankings, but UCLA's per-player star average will very likely be among the top ten in the country.

DEFENSIVE ENDS

UCLA went from no defensive end commitments last month to two Scout 300 defensive end commits, with a couple more still in play. 

Jacob Tuioti-Mariner, 6'4, 265, Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco
National Position Ranking: 14, COMMIT
--No defensive prospect out West raised his 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 two weeks ago.  Tuioti-Mariner will visit UCLA officially this weekend.

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.  Two weeks ago, 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.  Dickerson will visit UCLA officially this weekend.

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 a week ago only makes that sentiment stronger.  Now, that said, there is talk that Thomas could be taking an unofficial visit to UCLA the weekend before Signing Day, and it's likely a positive for UCLA that Thomas hasn't committed to Stanford yet, despite being admitted.  If he ends up taking the vist to UCLA, that can only bode well for the Bruins.  UCLA coaches were in Texas this week to see Thomas.

Davon Godchaux, 6'4, 271, Plaquemine (La.)
National Position Ranking: 21, UCLA Offer
--It's been a crazy week or two in Godchaux's recruitment. Godchaux had been scheduled to visit UCLA on Jan. 31st with the rest of the Louisiana group, but then last week he tweeted that he had just a visit to Auburn remaining this month and that he was done after that. That tweet was then deleted. This is all after a source in Louisiana had told us a few days ago that Godchaux was down to UCLA and Florida State. He also tweeted that he and Kenny Young will "go ball out in college" together. Godchaux is now set to visit UCLA the weekend before Signing Day.

DEFENSIVE TACKLES

UCLA probably got its defensive tackle in this class already in Ainuu Taua, who is the best in Southern California. Still, the Bruins have some players left on the board.

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 he played this season at 280 or so.  He committed to UCLA last month after visiting officially, which was a huge pickup for the Bruins.  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, and actually decommitted from Texas two weeks ago when the Longhorns lost their defensive line coach. From what we've heard, though, it is unlikely that UCLA would take him at this point, with Taua, Dickerson, and Tuioti-Mariner already committed. The thinking is that Oregon has the inside track, at any rate.

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 lose Barr, Zumwalt, Bowens, and Mckay so UCLA will need to take at least three LBs (inside and outside combined) for 2014--and potentially more, if the right players want to come.

Dwight Williams, 6'1, 212, Gardena (Calif.) Serra
National Position Ranking: 36, COMMIT
--Williams's recruitment has seen plenty of twists and turns. A long-time UCLA lean, Williams had a poor senior season, which led many schools to cool on him, including UCLA. We heard, though, in the days leading up to the Army game, that UCLA would be willing to take his commitment. Naturally, with dwindling offers at that point, Williams committed at the Army game and has since been very vocal on Twitter about his love of UCLA. When motivated, Williams can be as good as any linebacker in the region.  Motivation, though, 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, two weeks away from Signing Day, and UCLA is still very much in contention to grab him. Some might even say, in fact, that UCLA is leading at the moment.  Evans narrowed it down to three schools last week: Alabama, Auburn and UCLA.  So the Bruins, on the other side of the country, are in the final three against the hometown team, which just played in the BCS National Championship game, and the other in-state team, which won three of the five previous titles.  Evans is the No. 9 player in the country and would be the Bruins first top 10 commit since....well, Eddie Vanderdoes in the 2013 class.  Evans visited Alabama last weekend and will visit Auburn this weekend and his father said that he will take an unofficial, by himself, to UCLA the weekend before Signing Day, which is likely a good sign for the Bruins.  Mora and Ulbrich spent a good deal of time on Tuesday at Evans' school and then at his house. The visit, according to sources, went really well.

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 late last year, and the thinking was that he was considering flipping to the Bruins. He then visited Alabama last month and said he was solid to the Tide, even going so far as to apologize to the coaches at Alabama for visiting UCLA.  But UCLA coaches didn't stop recruiting him and the night before the U.S. Army Bowl, Whitley announced he was committing to UCLA.  Even though Whitley was planning to enroll for winter quarter, the Bruins still had to sweat for the the week after the Army Bowl, with Alabama trying to get him back in the fold and Texas A&M trying to get him to stay close to home. In the end, though, he flew out to Los Angeles early last week and started classes last Tuesday, locking him in with the Bruins.  Getting a flip from Alabama, particularly for a player of Whitley's caliber, 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 soon 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 six months, but when the hometown school offered, Griffin didn't hesitate to flip.  He's an upside guy- he's dominating at the lowest level of City Section football, but looks good on film with very good athleticism.  Griffin helped his team win its 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. Griffin visited UCLA officially last weekend and said it just confirmed to him that UCLA was the spot for him.

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 fellow JCC player Malachi Dupre, who's visited UCLA with him before.  UCLA is doing very well with Young and feels very good about its chances with him, and the visit the last weekend will be huge in sealing the commitment.  The UCLA coaches met with him last week on their swing through Louisiana.  Young is visiting Arkansas this week, LSU during the early part of next week and then UCLA to close it out.

SAFETIES

UCLA has made safeties 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 was 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 Cal's disaster of a season, UCLA's continued, dogged pursuit got the Bruins a visit from Wadood for the Arizona State game.  Wadood was also getting a lot of attention from USC at the time, 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.  Wadood is solid, even tweeting yesterday that he's not visiting anyone else.  Wadood may actually be in Westwood unofficially this weekend to visit.

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 and Demetrice Martin are trying.  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 next weekend, but an official trip isn't possible because he's taking his final one this weekend to USC.

Budda Baker, 5-10, 177, Bellevue (Wash.)
National Position Ranking: 5, UCLA Offer
--Baker committed to Oregon last month after having UCLA in his final three. The thinking at the time was that the commitment of Wadood to UCLA pushed Baker to Oregon. Then, last week, Baker decommitted from Oregon and announced a final two of Washington and UCLA. We've heard that Baker is actually leaning toward the Bruins at this point, particularly thanks to his relationship with Jim Mora, who he's known since he was a kid, and Myles Jack, his former teammate. Baker is officially visiting UCLA this weekend.

CORNERBACKS

You can never have too many cornerbacks since, like defensive tackles and quarterbacks, it's so difficult to find good ones. UCLA has 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. He then 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 through the summer, but was told by the UCLA coaches to wait it out until the season started for a UCLA offer.  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. Fisher took his official visit to UCLA last weekend and said afterward he was solid to the Bruins and has shut his recruitment down.

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.  He will announce very soon where his last official visit will be and it's likely between Florida, USC and UCLA.

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. We do think, though, that even if he ends up visiting, it's simply a situation where he wants a trip out to Los Angeles.

RELATED BRO STORIES --

2014 Football Recruiting Reset: Offense - We reset the board with the new official visitors coming in on the 31st...

Recruiting in the Jim Mora Era - In just two years, Jim Mora has completely changed UCLA recruiting...

Why UCLA Could Make the Playoffs in 2014 - The Bruins have the talent, experience, and schedule to make a deep run...


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