The 2014 recruiting class is all but wrapped, and we thought we'd take a moment to give our instant reaction to the class, what we think about the potential impact of specific players in it, and whether it really addressed UCLA's needs.
First, overall, we'd probably rate the class about a B or a B-, given the players UCLA was in the running for at various points, the season that the Bruins had, and how the program closed down the stretch. It addressed some needs, but missed on a few others.
Probably the most glaring miss for the class was not getting an impact, game-breaking wide receiver. Even with how disappointing Signing Day ended up being, the day likely could have been salvaged if UCLA had been able to steal a commitment from Adoree Jackson, simply because he would have significantly changed UCLA's offense for the better, almost immediately. Missing, for the second year in a row, on one of those electric-type playmakers is a disappointment.
That said, there are plenty of areas where UCLA addressed real needs and, in fact, greatly improved depth. We've heard from those within the program that Zach Whitley, the middle linebacker that UCLA flipped from Alabama in January, is an athletic stud, already wowing many observers in the weight room and throughout the offseason workouts. Many within the program are already comparing him, athletically, to how Myles Jack looked when he first came on campus. Between he, Kenny Young, Dwight Williams, and Cameron Griffin, UCLA greatly improved a linebacker corps that was already a very strong unit.
The defensive line also gained a great deal of talent, with top 300 players Matt Dickerson, Ainuu Taua, and Jacob Tuioti-Mariner all coming aboard. Each of the three could impact immediately, breaking into the 8 man rotation that Angus McClure likes to us.
As we've talked about previously, the defensive back class is very good, with Adarius Pickett, Jaleel Wadood, and Denzel Fisher all having the ability to make an immediate impact.
We'd say, though, that UCLA did miss in a few areas offensively. We'd have liked to have seen UCLA pick up a quarterback who could compete for the job starting next spring, and we're not sure if Aaron Sharp is far enough along in his development to make that a realistic expectation. We'd have liked to have seen UCLA pick up a real gamebreaker on offense, like Michiah Quick, Adoree Jackson, or Joe Mixon, and the Bruins came up empty in that department. It's also hard to judge the offensive line, because it's pretty loaded and deep, but we'd say it's probably a small disappointment that UCLA didn't end up with a little bit more talent along the front.
UCLA obviously didn't close well on Signing Day, missing on each of the five stars remaining on the board. You can point to various factors—distance for some, overcoming a large lead on others, inattention early on—but some of those issues have already been addressed, particularly with Jim Mora replacing Steve Broussard with Kennedy Polamalu.
Was it realistic to expect that they'd be able to pull out Rashaan Evans, Malachi Dupre, Davon Godchaux, Solomon Thomas, and Kenny Young, all from the south? Likely not, and it'll be interesting to see, going forward, if the strategy for national recruits changes.
We'll do a longer, in-depth analysis of the impact of the class tomorrow, as well as a longer analysis of what changes we think UCLA could make in terms of recruiting going forward.
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