Top Five Needs in 2015

With a smaller class in 2015, and depth already built in the program, UCLA can hone in on some specific needs in the next recruiting cycle...

In Jim Mora's first two classes at UCLA, and even a little bit in the third class, the main goal was to build the team from the ground up—knowing that UCLA didn't have the talent necessary to compete at the level of a Pac-12 contending team, Mora and company needed to rebuild the roster at virtually every position. Now that UCLA's talent level is fairly high, and probably near top 10 level nationally, the goal is more to fill needs. In 2015, in particular, UCLA has few scholarships to give, so it's more important to hone in on a few very specific needs.

Elite Quarterback

Josh Rosen
Why it is a need:
After this year, UCLA will have just three scholarship quarterbacks on roster: Redshirt sophomore Asiantii Woulard, who is a potentially elite talent, redshirt junior Jerry Neuheisel, who's likely a career backup, and, if he doesn't play this year or switch positions, redshirt freshman Aaron Sharp, who is, at best, an unknown quantity at quarterback. The point is that UCLA needs someone who has the ability to compete with Woulard for the starting job in 2015. Right now, we know that Neuheisel isn't that guy, and we have our doubts that Sharp is capable of being that guy that early in his career. This is, by far, the biggest need for UCLA in the 2015 class.

Who are the candidates:
Josh Rosen, , No. 2 QB, Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco, 6'4, 200
Travis Waller, , No. 24 QB, Anaheim (Calif.) Servite, 6'4.5, 185
Brian Lewerke, , Phoenix (Ariz.) Pinnacle, 6'3, 180

Rosen is obviously the key here, and the expectation is that he'll commit during the spring. His combination of size, throwing ability, and athleticism is the closest thing UCLA will find to a sure thing in this class. If he should falter, for whatever reason, and look around at other schools, Waller could be an intriguing option, with good size and athleticism, along with a strong arm. Lewerke, to our eyes, is a bit more of a project and doesn't give UCLA a good candidate for competing with Woulard as a true freshman.

Fast, Elusive Big Play Receiver

Christian Kirk
Why it is a need:
The one big thing missing from UCLA's offense during the Mora era is that elusive, big play receiver that can turn a short hitch into an 80 yard touchdown. UCLA has plenty of big possession receivers with decent speed who can run away from the occasional defensive back, but they don't have that guy who can break a few ankles from a standstill. After missing on Adoree Jackson, Michiah Quick, Budda Baker and others of this type in the 2014 class, it becomes even more of a need in 2015. This kind of player would make Noel Mazzone's offense even more deadly, with those swing passes having some real teeth when an elusive player is catching them.

Who are the candidates:
Christian Kirk, , No. 4 WR, Scottsdale (Ariz.) Saguaro, 5'10, 195
Isaiah Langley, , No. 8 WR, Pleasanton (Calif.) Foothill, 6'0, 165
Malik Lovette, , No. 26 WR, Redlands (Calif.) East Valley, 5'11, 175
Desean Holmes, , No. 7 WR, Mission Hills (Calif.) Bishop Alemany, 5'11, 170

Kirk and Langley are our two favorites among this group, with Kirk having the explosive top end speed while Langley might have a bit more wiggle and shake to his running style. Kirk, though, has history as a running back, which could make him the perfect iteration of the F receiver in Mazzone's offense—speed, shake, and the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield on swing passes. Lovette is probably a run below Langley and Kirk, but he'd still provide a good amount of quickness. Holmes would also provide some big play potential, but he may be a USC lean.

Pass Rusher

Keisean Lucier-South
Why it is a need:
If you're looking at the linebacker corps, the one area where you'd say it's lacking is in the pass rush. Myles Jack, for all of his many other elite qualities, is not yet a good pass rusher. Kenny Orjioke, who you might project as the most likely candidate to take over for Anthony Barr, is still raw, and learning how to play the position. Aaron Wallace hasn't shown yet that he's a good pass rusher. Deon Hollins hasn't shown that he's even an every down player. The point is that there is no one on the roster who's a known quantity who can provide even a remote facsimile of Barr; at this point, UCLA has to hope someone develops. Adding another guy who projects as a good pass rusher should be a major key in this class

Who are the candidates:
Keisean Lucier-South, , No. 3 DE, Orange (Calif.) Lutheran, 6'4, 220
Osa Masina, , No. 7 OLB, Salt Lake City (Utah) Brighton, 6'4, 205
Jeffery Holland, , No. 4 OLB, Jacksonville (Fla.) Trinity Christian, 6'2, 230
John Houston, , No. 2 OLB, Gardena (Calif.) Serra, 6'3, 197

Lucier-South is probably the closest thing to Barr from this group, and, also, is likely the most attainable from this group for UCLA, given that we've already heard he's a UCLA lean. He is already well built, with good strength, but also possesses good athleticism, with the ability to bend and dip around the shoulders of offensive tackles. Masina is also intriguing, not yet as built as Lucier-South but a very good athlete in his own right, with a frame that can add more weight. Holland is a bit of a longshot, but is teammates with UCLA commit Victor Alexander, so UCLA has an in there. Houston is also a longshot, already a strong USC lean.

Big Play Running Back

Jaason Lewis
Why it is a need:
Simply put, UCLA hasn't recruited an elite running back under Jim Mora. Craig Lee is good. Nathan Starks is good. But UCLA hasn't been able to recruit that top level back who can break a game open even when there aren't any holes to be opened. Actually, scratch that—UCLA may have recruited that guy, but he's currently playing linebacker for the Bruins (Myles Jack). With UCLA's propensity for offensive line injuries, recruiting a back who can legitimately create openings when there are none is a big key going forward. Right now, the depth chart for 2015 shouldn't scare off any elite backs.

Who are the candidates:
Jaason Lewis, , No. 22 WR, Virginia Beach (Virg.) Ocean Lakes, 6'3, 234
Chris Warren, , No. 12 RB, Rockwall (Tex.), 6'2, 220
Malik Roberson, , No. 35 RB, Gardena (Calif.) Serra, 5'6, 170
Alvin Kamara,, No. 12 RB (2013), Transfer from Alabama, 5'10, 191

UCLA already has a commitment from Lewis, who could project as that big, push the pile running back that UCLA has been lacking. It's difficult to project him, though, because we haven't seen that on film, but that's because he's played so many positions for his high school team. Still, we're not sure he's that elite level back. Other options include Chris Warren, the running back from Texas who is connected to Mora through Warren's father, who was an NFL running back. Roberson, to our eyes, could be a big play option, but we don't think he'll project as an every down back in college. With the running back class down in the west, a combination of a guy like Roberson and Lewis might actually be the solution, because both together could satisfy UCLA's needs out of the backfield. We could also see a scenario where UCLA takes Alvin Kamara as a transfer and then stands pat on 2015 running back recruiting with just Lewis.

Athletic, Impact Offensive Lineman With the Ability to Play Guard

Matthew Burrell
Why it is a need:
Over the last two years, when we've thought about UCLA's offensive line, it's always been in the context of Xavier Su'a-Filo, as in: hey, as long as UCLA has Su'a-Filo, the line is going to be OK. His ability to play both tackle and guard at a high level, and his ability to pull on outside runs, is something that set UCLA's offense apart, and, particularly in 2012, made it function at a very high level. With him gone, UCLA has a variety of solid parts on the offensive line, and a few potential elite players (see: Poasi Moala), but bringing in an offensive linemen or two who have elite level athleticism, with the ability to get downfield on running plays, will be a big key in this class.

Who are the candidates:
Keenan Walker, , No. 10 OT, Scottsdale (Ariz.) Chaparral, 6'6, 260
Andre James, , No. 19 OT, Herriman (Utah), 6'5, 265
Matthew Burrell, , No. 6 OT, Woodbridge (Virg.) C.D. Hylton, 6'6, 285
Darrin Paulo, Sacramento (Calif.) Grant Union, 6'6, 320

The offensive line class in the West isn't particularly strong in 2015, although some players have emerged in the last year, including Walker and James. Adrian Klemm's philosophy with offensive line recruiting boils down to recruiting guys with tackle ability—long and athletic—and then fitting them in where necessary. Su'a-Filo, if you'll remember, was a tackle when he first arrived at UCLA. You could project that Walker, James, and Burrell all have the ability to play both guard and tackle at the next level, while Paulo, the recent offeree, is a big tackle who is an intriguing option.

Bruin Report Online Top Stories