Football Recruiting Reset: Defense

We take a look at UCLA's offensive recruiting with one week until Signing Day...

We're just one week from Signing Day and there is one last weekend left for official visits, and just a couple more days of in-home visits and coaches being on the road.

UCLA added two commitments last 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 weekend 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.***


UCLA went from no defensive end commitments last month to two Scout 300 defensive end commits. 

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 and he committed 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.  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 visited UCLA officially last weekend and said he was never more sure about his decision to switch to UCLA than during his visit.

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. UCLA coaches are having an in-home visit with Thomas today.

Davon Godchaux, 6'4, 271, Plaquemine (La.)
National Position Ranking: 21, UCLA Offer
--Godchaux verbally committed to LSU, but is scheduled to visit UCLA this weekend, and it's really completely unknown how UCLA is doing with him. He's the one recruit that Jim Mora has not met in person, so that could have big impact on Godchaux this weekend.


UCLA needs to fill some depth at the position.  It's not a great defensive tackle class, but UCLA got 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.  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.


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, and Bowens, 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, two 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 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, 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, the No. 9 player in the country, visited Alabama two weekends ago and last weekend visited Auburn. He was supposed to visit UCLA unofficially this weekend, but has since decided not to take it.  We've heard it's between Auburn and UCLA, with UCLA still a legitimate threat for him, despite a lot of pull to stay in the Southeast. UCLA coaches will have an in-home visit with him tonight.


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's already enrolled in classes at UCLA.   Getting a flip from Alabama, a player of the caliber that Whitley, 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. 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 this weekend with two other Louisiana natives in Godchaux and Malachi Dupre.  UCLA is doing very well with Young and feels very good about their chances with him, and the visit this weekend is huge.  The UCLA coaches met with him two weeks ago and were back down there last week. Young visited Arkansas last weekend, Ole Miss during the early part of this week and then will UCLA this weekend to close it out.


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.  Wadood even tweeted today that he's not visiting anyone else, that he's a UCLA Bruin.  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 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 took an unofficial visit to UCLA earlier this week and then had UCLA coaches coming to see him this week, since he's done with official visits.  Oregon may be a school to watch for him too, as the Ducks seem to be gaining some momentum. There's a chance he could unofficially visit UCLA this weekend, but he's considered a heavy lean 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, two weeks ago, 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. Mora and a host of assistant coaches went and visited him the Monday after his Washington visit and then had him on campus for an official visit last weekend.  Tonight, he'll meet with Washington coach Chris Petersen and assistants, then Demetrice Martin will be having one more in-home visit with him.


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.  But Fisher took his official visit to UCLA last weekend and said after he was solid to the Bruins and has shut his recruitment down.

Adoree Jackson, 5'10, 170, Gardena (Calif.) Serra
National Position Ranking: 3, 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.  Jim Mora met with him at his school this week and he was very receptive to Mora.  He will announce very soon where his last official visit will be and it's likely between Florida, USC and UCLA.  He named a top four this week that included those three as well as LSU.


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