The trend yesterday was for recruits to cancel, or come close to canceling, their UCLA official visit for the weekend.
-- Damien Mama, the five-star offensive lineman from Bellflower St. John Bosco, was probably the headliner in terms of canceling. We've had the story told to us from someone close to the St. John Bosco program and here's their version: Mama, as we all know, is a USC lean. UCLA continued to recruit him, but the Bruins were pretty much resigned to Mama going to USC. If you remember, in Monday's Buzz Word I said that UCLA was done in its offensive line recruiting. On Tuesday, however, Mama told UCLA's Offensive Line Coach Adrian Klemm that he wanted to cancel his official visit to BYU for the weekend and visit UCLA. It's pretty well known out there in recruiting circles that what is planned for the UCLA recruiting visit weekend is going to be pretty big, so Mama, naturally wanted to come and experience it. What our source told us, however, was that Mama didn't necessarily want to spend the entire weekend, and discussed with UCLA potentially just unofficially visiting. UCLA, then, recognized that Mama wasn't serious about UCLA or the visit and just wanted to visit, really, one night, for the experience. At that point, UCLA decided to rescind the offer of the official visit, which makes complete sense.
-- On Wednesday, Jim Mora and Kennedy Polamalu spent some time on the campus of Long Beach Poly to visit Juju Smith, the five-star prospect. From what we've heard, Mora and Polamalu sat down with Smith for an extended time, and then Polamalu watched Smith's track practice for a while after that. The word is that UCLA has inched its way into a fighting chance with Smith, but the prevailing wisdom is that he's still a lean to USC. Two sentiments have been circulating around Poly, though: That the on-campus visit Smith took to UCLA with his family Sunday had a big impression on him, and that Oregon is a real threat to get him, too. The Oregon coaches were scheduled to be in Smith's home Sunday night. We'll still call it for USC at this point, though.
-- Michiah Quick, the four-star receiver from Fresno (Calif.) Central, said publicly that he might cancel his visit to UCLA this weekend. Tony Perry, the Central coach, told Greg Biggins as much, but that it was still a three-horse race between Oklahoma, UCLA and Notre Dame. We've continued to hear that Quick is almost just about completely sewn up for Oklahoma. UCLA Wide Receivers Coach Eric Yarber will probably go up to Fresno today to visit with Quick, and will try to compel him to take the visit this weekend. Even if he does, we still think he's a Sooner.
-- Even despite the unusual snow storm ripping through the South, UCLA coaches went down there for some in-home visits. UCLA Linebackers Coach Jeff Ulbrich was planned to see Rashaan Evans, the five-star Alabama linebacker prospect today. Ulbrich and Defensive Line Coach Angus McClure will also be in Texas as well to see five-star Texas defensive line prospect Solomon Thomas. Of course, both Evans and Thomas are hosting in-home visits with the coaches from their other respective finalists. Alabama and Auburn will have coaches in on Friday and Saturday to see Evans. In fact, Auburn's head coach Gus Malzahn is expected to be at Evan's grandfather's birthday Saturday. Coaches from Stanford and Arkansas are expected to see Thomas. There was also a plan for UCLA coaches to go to Louisiana Wednesday to check in on linebacker Kenny Young, defensive end Davon Godchaux and wide receiver Malachi Dupre but, as of now, it looks like those plans were completely scrapped because of the weather.
-- We're hearing more and more that Auburn is really turning up the pressure on Evans. His father, an Auburn alum, seems to be part of that, and that's a pretty compeling thing when you live in the town of the college, everyone either works there or is a fan of the program, and your father, an alum, wants you there. Can you imagine what it's like for Evans just to go to Auburn High School, and the pressure he must feel from classmates -- or everyone he sees on the street? From what we've heard, it's having a pretty significant effect on the prospect. The attraction for UCLA was Evans' relationship with Ulbrich, and to get out from under the microscope in his hometown and plugging into that Anthony Barr role in UCLA's defense, as opposed to the position in Auburn's offense that doesn't suit him as well. UCLA was the leader for Evans for the last few months, probably since his official visit in September, but the overwhelming crush of local Auburn factors could ultimately be too much to overcome.
-- The on-again-off-again official visit from Bryce Dixon, the tight end from Ventura St. Bonaventure, looks like it's off now. Dixon, who is verbally committed to USC, said Sunday, after his USC visit, he wouldn't visit UCLA. Then he said he would, and Mora had an in-school visit with him Monday, and Dixon agreed to visit But now Dixon appears to have gone public -- again -- and said he's not visiting UCLA officially and he's a Trojan. Mora had been dogged in his recruitment of Dixon, but we've heard the father is dead-set on his son going to USC, and that St. Bonaventure is a USC stronghold. We think this one could be over. But with Dixon you neve know; he could change his mind a couple more times before tomorrow.
-- For some good news: UCLA Defensive Backs Coach Demetrice Martin is expected to visit Budda Baker, the four-star prospect at Bellevue (Wash.), Friday. UCLA is leading for Baker, after a very strong official visit last weekend. USC tried to get him to visit this weekend, but he turned them down, and from what we hear hometown Washington is still trying, having coaches visit Baker this weekend. We feel, though, there is a decent chance that Martin could leave the state of Washington with a verball commitment from Baker tomorrow.
-- We're hearing interesting -- and somewhat conflicting information -- on Kalen Ballage, the Colorado running back who is officially visiting UCLA this weekend. On one hand, one source close to the recruitment feels pretty strongly that Ballage will stick with his commitment to ASU. Another source believes Ballage, with a good visit, is likely to flip to UCLA. We think that, with ASU having been on him for a long time and UCLA only a recent player in his recruitment, that Ballage is definitely on the fence at this point and that everything probably rides on the official visit this weekend.
-- Davon Godchaux, the Louisiana defensive end, is taking his official visit to UCLA weekend, and we continue to hear conflicting information on Godchaux. We do feel, though, that Godchaux is just not taking the visit for the experience, but that UCLA has a legitimate chance with him. From our math, Godchaux is the only recruit left on UCLA's board that Mora hasn't seen in person on an in-home or in-school visit. Mora was almost certainly planned to visit Godchaux earlier in the week, until the weather changed those plans. While you'd think that could hurt UCLA's chances there's the theory that, really, this weekend being the first time he spends time with Mora could have a pretty big impact.
So Mora is off the road, and gearing up for the official visit weekend.
We have heard, too, there could be some surprise unofficial visits this weekend. You were expecting that, right?
-- We've also heard that UCLA will have a secret weapon for its visitors this weekend that we can't reveal just yet.
-- Also, a recruiting-related nugget: We've heard that in Mora's quest to find a coach for the open position on his coaching staff that being an excellent recruiter is perhaps the top priority.
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