There is just a little over a week before National Signing Day, and we are down to just three Prediction Days before National Signing Day. The plan is to release today's predictions, and then one Friday and Tuesday before NSD on Feb. 5th.
Aaron Sharp, 6-3, 195, Houston (Tex.) Summer Creek
The Word: We were going to release these predictions the day before Sharp committed and look really smart. It's a great get for UCLA, definitely needing a quarterback in 2014, and Sharp fits the Brett Hundley model in UCLA's offense.
Nathan Starks, 6-0, 195, Englewood (Col.) Cherry Creek
The Word: Left on the board are Kalen Ballage, Darrel Williams, and an outside shot at Joe Mixon. Even though Jim Mora and Kennedy Polamalu are seriously recruiting Ballage, and he's visiting on the 31st, we think he sticks with his commitment to ASU. Williams is planning to visit on the 31st, but we think he sticks with his LSU commitment. We don't feel Mixon will come off his commitment to Oklahoma.
1/28 Update: A bit has changed here. Williams is no longer visiting this weekend; his family situation dicated that he stay close to home and remain committed to LSU. We're hearing there is perhaps a better chance at Ballage, and there is still a remote shot at Mixon. There are rumors circulating that Mixon might unofficially visit this weekend, but we don't put much stock in them. We might tip toward picking Ballage to flip from ASU after his visit this weekend, but we're not quite there yet.
Austin Roberts, 6-2, 221, Carmel (Ind.)
Alex Van Dyke, 6-4, 210, Elk Grove (Calif.) Cosumnes Oaks
Jordan Lasley, 6-1, 185, Gardena (Calif.) Serra
Malachi Dupre, 6-3, 195, River Ridge (Louisiana) Curtis
The Word: UCLA is still in play for Bryce Dixon, who unexpectedly picked USC over UCLA at the U.S. Army All-American Game. Dixon is supposed to visit UCLA on the 31st, and UCLA is still going after him aggressively. We, though, think he'll stick with his commitment to USC.
1/28 Update: Dixon visited USC last weekend and then said publicly Sunday night he's fully committed to the Trojans and won't be visiting UCLA this weekend. We know that Mora is supposed to visit him tonight for an in-home, and we'll see if that in-home doesn't get canceled, and if Mora then can convince Dixon to visit this weekend. Mora has really been dogged in his recruitment of Dixon. We're even more convinced that Dixon sticks with his commitment to USC, though.
Najee Toran, 6-3, 265, Galena Park (Tex.) North Shore
Kolton Miller, 6-8, 280, Rosemont (Calif.)
*Malcolm Bunche, 6-6, 330, University of Miami graduate transfer
The Word: Toran and Bunche are committed and Miller is looking like a pretty sure thing. While there is some talk that UCLA has a chance to pull off the upset with Damien Mama we're skeptical. Demetrius Knox, the lineman prospect from Texas, is the new name here (well, not new since UCLA recruited him heavily before he verbally committed to Ohio State in August). While there are some sources close to the recruitment that believe Knox will flip to UCLA, we think he'll ultimately stick with Ohio State. He had been scheduled to visit Texas this weekend, but has not backed out of that. We'll see if he actually does stick with his planned visit to UCLA on the 31st or whether OSU effectively puts on enough pressure to get him to not visit.
**Bunche, of course, is a counter in terms of the amount of players on scholarship for UCLA and how many UCLA can sign in one year, but he doesn't count in the Scout.com recruiting rankings.
1/28 Update: From what we've heard, Knox had pretty much committed to UCLA on the in-home visit, but family pressure got him to stick with Ohio State. That recruitment is done. We're hearing there's an improved chance with Mama, and, with Mama announcing that he'll officially visit UCLA rather than BYU next weekend, you have to think that the Bruins are a serious option for the guard. Still, we'll stick with our prediction that UCLA is more or less done on the offensive line for 2014.
Ainuu Taua, 6-0, 280, Lompoc (Calif.)
The Word: Taua is committed and a big get. UCLA would be completely happy with only Taua as their defensive tackle class. Trey Lealaimatafao is still a remote possibility, but we're skeptical UCLA would take him at this point and the word is that he's leaning to Oregon. So, it's just Taua, and we're good with that.
1/28 Update: UCLA had dropped Lealaimatafao and he committed to Oregon. Defensive tackle recruiting is done.
The Word: Dickerson and JTM are a great defensive end class. UCLA, though, is still pursuing five-star Solomon Thomas and four-star Davon Godchaux. There's plenty of room for Thomas and/or Godchaux, though, since they're very different players than Dickerson and JTM and would would fill different roles on UCLA's mix-and-match defensive line. Thomas could take an unofficial visit to UCLA for its big weekend on the 31st. If he does, we might change this prediction, but we still feel he'll opt for the Cardinal. Godchaux has changed his opinion on whether he would visit UCLA a couple of times and we're even skeptical if he makes it to L.A. on the 31st.
1/28 Update: It's looking like Godchaux will in fact visit UCLA this weekend. There hasn't been any rumbling in the last few days at all about that falling through. If he does get to his visit to UCLA, with his fellow prospects from Louisiana and on such a huge recruiting weekend, we could be compelled to make the call that Godchaux flips from LSU to UCLA. There is plenty of rumbling that UCLA is doing well with Thomas, but we still believe the sources that say he's going to sign with Stanford.
Zach Whitley, 6-2, 220, Galena Park (Tex.) North Shore
Cameron Griffin, 6-3, 210, L.A. View Park
Dwight Williams, 6-1, 212, Gardena (Calif.) Serra
Kenny Young, 6-2, 225, River Ridge (Louisiana) Curtis
Rashaan Evans, 6-3, 218, Auburn (Ala.)
The Word: We don't feel this is going that much out on a limb. We've said UCLA was the leader for Young for sometime and nothing we've heard has changed that opinion. And we think with Evans, like with Dupre, UCLA pulls off the major coup. There is just so much evidence that Evans is going to UCLA, up against the traditional reasoning that an SEC-area kid ultimately opts for an SEC program. We aren't homers, and we'd usually go with conventional wisdom, but we know enough to predict – at this time—that Evans will be a Bruin. If he takes the unofficial visit to UCLA on Jan. 31st, on his own dime, that's a pretty strong indication. We'll go out on a limb, though, and predict UCLA gets Whitley.
If UCLA does, indeed, get these guys this is easily the #1 linebacker recruiting class in the nation, and perhaps one of the best ever in recent memory. Linebacker U Anyone?
1/28: Quite a bit has happened since Friday with linebacker recruiting. Evans took an official visit to Auburn, his hometown school, and he then subsequently canceled his unofficial visit this weekend to UCLA. While that might not on the surface bode well for UCLA, we've heard it really isn't an indication of anything changing toward UCLA, just that Evans knows where he wants to go and is pretty tired with the recruiting process. We reported yesterday it was down to two schools, and we can report today that it's UCLA and Auburn. Despite all the pressure he's getting to stay home, we feel that there are still too many indications that Evans wants to leave, start anew, and likes the way UCLA would use him like Anthony Barr instead of how Auburn would use him as a practical hybrid safety/linebacker. We'll stick with the prediction for UCLA with Evans -- for now.
We've heard even more information that Young is coming to UCLA, so we're confident on that call, too.
The Word: Everything now points to UCLA getting Baker. He will come in as a defensive back, receiver and kick returner. We don't feel UCLA will ultimately get five-star Juju Smith.
1/28 Update: While there have been developments since Friday, like Baker taking his official visit and Smith planning to come to campus Monday night, we still won't change our prediction. After all we've heard about Baker's visit last weekend we are still confident he'll be a Bruin. While UCLA's chances are improving with Smith we still don't have enough info to believe he's close to changing his leaning from USC to UCLA.
The Word: Both Pickett and Fisher are committed, and we don't see anything new happening here that could change this. Fisher had flirted with other programs but after his official visit last weekend we think that's over.
Perhaps one of the strangest recruitments in recent memory has been that of Adoree Jackson, the five-star athlete from Gardena Serra. Literally no one really has an idea as to what Jackson is thinking at this point. We don't feel, however, that UCLA has made any kind of in-roads with him. If they can get him on campus for a visit we might re-assess.
1/28 Update: Mora and the entire staff had an in-school visit with Jackson Monday, and when Mora gave Jackson the option to drop UCLA, Jackson insisted he was still considering UCLA. It's between LSU, Florida, USC and UCLA. We think it's 50-50 he goes away to school or stays home, and, if he stays home, we think it's 60-40 USC. So that essentially gives UCLA a 20% chance.
Where Would the Class Rank?
It would be a class of 22 incoming players, but Bunche doesn't count in the Scout.com class rankings, so for those purposes it'd be a class of 21. Scout.com rewards points on recruits up to 25 recruits, so being four short would, of course, hurt UCLA's rankings.
If we project the class above, and the points for the class, comparing it to the class recruiting rankings from 2013, it would put UCLA at 11th in the country. Add one more recruit to get to 22 and it would be 10th. Add three more – to get to 25 – and it's close to 8th. If it had a completely ridiculous NSD and a number of the elite recruits not currently leaning to UCLA did, in fact, jump in the boat and UCLA went over 25, the way the Scout.com rankings work is that it takes the points from the top 25 players in the class. In that case, UCLA would potentially finish in the top five in the nation (again, based on the 2014 recruiting rankings).
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