Football Recruiting Reset: Defense

UCLA has been selective in giving out scholarships offers and so far has just one commitment, but it's definitely pursuing some pretty big defensive fish...

UCLA football recruiting for 2015 is a bit different than it's been in Jim Mora's first three recruiting classes, because of a few factors. First, UCLA has limited scholarships for 2015, probably ultimately giving out 15-18, and the depth chart has some considerable young talent; combine that with a stronger interest in UCLA from recruits because of UCLA's success under Mora, and the staff is being far more selective – and specific. Not only are they pursuing fewer recruits, and a higher level of recruit, but they are targeting recruits more specifically for certain roles.

In the past under Mora, UCLA just needed talent. The theory was – get the most talented and plug them into a position later. Now, with UCLA having established some defined roles on both offense and defense, and its luxury of being able to be picky, it can target recruits for more specific needs. For instance, it's clear that UCLA is pursuing pass rushers, specifically five-technique types of rush defensive ends (think Cassius Marsh). It's also specifically targeting rush outside linebackers (of course, think Anthony Barr). On offense, it's looking for speed and elusiveness at wide receiver and in the slot.

Here's a more specific resetting of the recruiting table, given how UCLA's recruiting is different for 2015.

These lists aren't comprehensive, but are comprised of the prospects UCLA has offered that they have a legitimate chance to get, prospects UCLA is fairly close to offering, and those we feel have a good chance to garner a UCLA offer.

In analyzing UCLA's defensive recruiting needs for 2015, the recruiting efforts have gotten more specific at defensive line and linebacker but, interestingly, more general in the secondary. UCLA is targeting specific types of player in the front seven, but looking for the two best elite defensive backs who want to jump on board regardless of their specific positioning. Both of these developments come from UCLA having a good amount of talent on all the defensive units and how UCLA's defense defends against a spread. On the front seven, UCLA is looking to enhance various packages, mostly its pass-rush package. In the secondary, since it uses nickels and dimes and various other looks, UCLA wants versatile prospects who can do it all – be strong in coverage when they line up as a cornerback but also roam the field and move forward against the run as more of a safety type.

This is how it is when UCLA wins – it can be far more selective and pursue such a higher-caliber of prospect.


DEFENSIVE TACKLE

Needs at Position: 1

As we said, UCLA's recruiting needs have changed for 2015, and gotten more specific than in past years, which they can afford to do since they have a good deal of talent in the program. That impact might be the most felt in defensive line recruiting, where Defensive Line Coach Angus McClure has a strong depth chart and can almost pick and choose the types of DLs he needs to plug into his crew. Defensive tackle, or the nose guard spot in the 3-4, is always hard to find, so almost every year any program is in the market for one. There's also a decent chance that UCLA's current DTs are talented enough to jump early to the NFL, so getting one in 2015 is a priority. UCLA is being selective so far and has only a limited number of offers for DTs out.

Tim Settle, 6-3, 310, Manassas (Virg.) Jackson
Ranking: #15 Overall, #3 DT OFFERED

Settle is the #3 defensive tackle in the nation and has almost 40 scholarship offers, including those from the nation's elite programs. He'll be able to pick whatever program he wants, and we're hearing he's pretty open to leaving the east coast. The SEC is on him hard, naturally, but the word is also that Settle in pretty consistent contact with UCLA and plans to visit this spring/summer. At this point we have no idea if UCLA has a legit chance; if he does indeed visit we'd say UCLA does.

Tim Settle
Kahlil McKenzie, 6-4, 300, Concord (Calif.) De La Salle
Ranking: #34 Overall, #5 DT OFFERED

The #1 DT in the west, and has programs from across the country pursuing him. His father is Reggie McKenzie, ex-NFL Raider and current Raider general manager, so the word is that McKenzie has a bigger perspective than many prospects and isn't afraid to go away for school. We've heard that UCLA, USC, Oklahoma, Notre Dame, Florida, and Tennessee (his dad's alma mater) will more than likely be on his list in a few months. UCLA has a connection, with assistant coach Adrian Klemm having played for the senior McKenzie with the Green Bay Packers.

Jacob Daniel, 6-4, 300, Fresno (Calif.) Clovis North
Ranking: #39 Overall, #7 DT OFFERED

Daniel recently named his top 11: USC, UCLA, Ole Miss, Oregon, Arizona, Arizona State, Alabama, Notre Dame, Washington, Fresno State and California. He was a one-time commitment to the USC coaches when they were at Washington and the feeling is that USC is the leader here. There is some question whether Daniel really is a defensive tackle, or projects more as a offensive lineman on the next level.

Thomas Toki, 5-11, 290, Mountain View (Calif.) St. Francis
Ranking: #214 Overall, #16 DT OFFERED

Toki is only about 5-11, and that's his knock right now, but he looked good at the recent SoCal Nike Camp. He's verbally committed to Washington State, but has visited UCLA, Cal and other schools, so the WSU verbal is pretty shaky. He plans to re-visit UCLA again this spring. The thought is that UCLA could probably flip Toki, but we don't see it happening soon, with UCLA probably wanting to at least get through the spring evaluation period, spring unofficial visits, Junior Days and spring practice, to gauge all of its DT options.

Breiden Fehoko, 6-3, 280, Honolulu (Hawaii) Farrington
Ranking: #10 DT

UCLA has been in contact with Fehoko and will almost certainly see him during the spring evaluation period since the Bruin staff will be tripping to Hawaii to see DE Kaumatule. He boasts offers from Alabama, Oklahoma, Wisconsin and others, but we think UCLA just hasn't seen him enough at this point. We'd expect, though, that the Bruins will probably offer, and Fehoko plans a mainland trip this summer and more than likely will visit UCLA.

Vaimoe Sekona, 6-3, 280, Encino (Calif.) Crespi
Ranking: #32 DT

Sekona is a guy we could see UCLA getting on quite a bit more seriously by the end of spring. He looked good at the recent SoCal Nike Camp, he's in UCLA's backyard and other programs are getting on board, with a recent big offer from USC. UCLA is trying to get Sekona on campus and an unofficial visit will probably go a long ways to potentially getting him a Bruin offer.


DEFENSIVE END

Needs at Position: 1

UCLA is looking for Datone Jones/Cassius Marsh/Owamagbe Odighizuwa – a guy about 6-4 to 6-6, with a frame able to hold 260 to 280 pounds, and who can rush the quarterback.

Rasheem Green, 6-5, 275, Gardena (Calif.) Serra
Ranking: #18 Overall, #3 DE OFFERED

Rasheem is the Dream. He's the potential NFL prospects UCLA wants to keep plugging into its defensive line, and pretty much the perfect guy to step into that Cassius Marsh/Owa Odighizuwa role. He's strong and explosive and actually still pretty raw, with a huge upside. The common thought is that he's a USC lean, but his mother is a Bruin alum and he took a very long unofficial to UCLA's campus recently. UCLA might have a better chance than many think, but it's not just going to be about fighting off USC, but every major program in the country.

Canton Kaumatule, 6-6, 260, Honolulu (Hawaii) Punahou
Ranking: #24 Overall, #6 DE OFFERED

Kaumatule is on the same level of a prospect as Green, and is the type of pass rush defensive end UCLA is looking for in its 3-4. His brother goes to Stanford, but we're hearing that Kaumatule will more than likely not have the grades for Stanford, and next on the list is UCLA, but also USC. UCLA will be on a flight to Hawaii as soon as the evaluation period begins in mid-April. While UCLA needs only one defensive end, if it could get Green and Kaumatule it would take both.

Tyrone Wheatley
Tyrone Wheatley, 6-6, 240, Buffalo (New York) Canisius
Ranking: #92 Overall, #15 DE OFFERED

Wheatley has all the big-time offers, from Alabama, Michigan, Florida, Auburn, etc. We've heard that UCLA is recruiting him hard and Wheatley is showing a good amount of interest. Of course, we're skeptical that UCLA will ultimately have a legit chance with him, being from New York, but with every other out-of-state prospect we've discussed on these lists – if he visits this spring/summer, and Wheatley has indicated he will, UCLA has a chance.

Scott Patchan, 6-5, 235, Tampa (Fla.) Freedom
Ranking: #157 DE OFFERED

Given his offer sheet – and his highlight tape -- Patchan seems a bit under-rated at this point. He has offers from Florida State, Notre Dame, Ohio State and others, as well as UCLA. Again, we're hearing UCLA is definitely under consideration for Patchan early.

Joseph Wicker, 6-4, 255, Long Beach (Calif.) Poly
Ranking: #135 Overall, #19 DE OFFERED

Wicker was impressive at the SoCal Nike Camp, looking good physically, with long arms, and having a nice burst. UCLA has been in contact, and he's been to a UCLA basketball game this spring, but the Bruins haven't offered yet. UCLA will probably hold out for a while for the guys above Wicker on this list, but we could easily envision UCLA coming around to offering, potentially by fall.


RUSH LINEBACKER/DEFENSIVE END

Needs at Position: 1-2

With the departure of Anthony Barr, something missing in UCLA's projected depth chart is really that big-time pass-rushing linebacker. Perhaps some current players will step up into that role in the next couple of years, but UCLA wants to continue to stock up and even upgrade its pass-rushing, and it has the Anthony Barr position/role to sell. It's a case that if UCLA was able to get more than one elite prospect of this type it would definitely take them.

Keisean Lucier-South
Keisean Lucier-South, 6-5, 220, Orange (Calif.) Lutheran
Ranking: #19 Overall, #4 DE OFFERED

UCLA has used the prospect of being the next Anthony Barr on many recruits, and perhaps the #1 candidate to fill those shoes in the 2015 class is Lucier-South. He was a beast at the Nike Camp, just too quick and long for any OL to come close to containing him. He also, though, is so athletic and runs so well that he very well might be capable of dropping into coverage, too. He's a perfect fit for the Barr position in UCLA's 3-4, and it's a great place for Lucier-South to develop his linebacking skills, rather than being slotted as a pure DE in a 4-3. We've heard UCLA is doing very well with him and could be the leader but it's more than likely going to be a long-haul recruitment.

Ricky DeBerry, 6-2, 240, Richmond (Virg.) St. Christopher's
Ranking: #25 Overall, #3 OLB OFFERED

UCLA has definitely gone national looking for the next Anthony Barr. One guy in their sights is DeBerry, who is one of the best pass-rushing linebackers in the country. He has a huge offer sheet, as you'd expect, with a recent offer from Alabama. Some believe UCLA has a chance here, but we haven't heard too much to lead us to believe that it's real.

Jeff Holland, 6-3, 230, Jacksonville (Fla.) Trinity Christian
Ranking: #41 Overall, #4 OLB OFFERED

Holland is a pass rush with a great motor who loves to hit people. His offer sheet is ridiculous, being able to go anywhere in the country, with probably Alabama, Auburn, Ohio State, Florida State, Florida and UCLA leading the pack. His friend and high school teammate, Alexander, is committed to UCLA, so he'll help in Holland's recruitment, and Holland has said a couple of times he would like to leave Florida for college. He plans to visit UCLA with Alexander, and that will be a key trip in his recruitment.

Cassius Peat, 6-4, 235, Tempe (Ariz.) Corona Del Sol
Ranking: #194 Overall, #16 OLB OFFERED

Peat is similar to Barr in size and playing style, being more of a stand-up defensive end most of the time. He's one of the best pass rushers in the west, and has many programs pursuing him. He took an unofficial visit to UCLA in March and it reportedly went very well, to the point that UCLA is among his leaders, but it could be difficult to get him away from local ASU.

Christian Rector, 6-4, 225, Los Angeles (Calif.)Loyola
Ranking: NR OFFERED

Rector has come on from having virtually no offers to getting them from UCLA and USC and more. He has good height and has good athleticism, so college coaches are projecting him a couple of years in a college program, once he can get stronger. UCLA assistant Kennedy Polamalu coached at Loyola last season so he has an obvious connection, but we've heard Rector has deeper USC connections.

Adonis Thomas, 6-4, 210, Lawrenceville (Ga.) Central Gwinnett
Ranking: #244 Overall, #21 OLB OFFERED

Thomas is considered one of the best prospects in the state of Georgia for 2015, and one of the best pass rushers in the South. He recently trimmed his list to 10: Florida, UCLA, Alabama, Stanford, Texas A&M, Vanderbilt, Notre Dame, Georgia, Georgia Tech and Florida State. Florida is on him hard and he'll go through the entire process, but the word is that UCLA could get a visit out of him.

Christian Bell
Christian Bell, 6-4, 220, Hoover (Ala.)
Ranking: #42 DE OFFERED

More of a stand-up defensive end, Bell is a very good pass rusher, with an offer from Alabama, South Carolina and others. He and his family have a connection to UCLA, specifically DL coach McClure. Bell has been in consistent touch with UCLA, and recently spoke on the phone with Mora. He's planning a UCLA visit this spring.

Bo Wallace, 6-4, 210, River Ridge (La.) John Curtis Christian
Ranking: NR OLB OFFERED

Wallace is a bit of a sleeper, which is curious since he comes from such a high-profile high school and he has a great highlight reel. But programs are starting to offer like Notre Dame, Oklahoma and Tennessee – and UCLA. He's high school teammates and friends with UCLA-signee linebacker Kenny Young, so that will help, and definitely help to get Wallace out to see UCLA.

Russell Ude, 6-3, 225, Atlanta (Ga.) Westminster
Ranking: NR DE

Ude is an emerging prospect from Georgia, who is starting to garner some impressive offers, most recently from Oregon. UCLA Linebacker Coach Jeff Ulbrich has been on him, and he's an academic kid, and has family in SoCal, so there are some ties. He plans on visiting UCLA this summer.


LINEBACKER

Needs at Position: 2

In a 3-4 defense you need a good amount of linebackers, so UCLA will probably always be looking for at least 2 linebackers every year, other than the Anthony Barr-type pass-rushing linebacker. These are guys that could plug in 1) on the outside, in the Myles Jack role – the athletic guy who not only pass rushes but is capable of dropping into coverage, and 2) at the two inside spots.

Victor Alexander, 5-10, 220, Jacksonville (Fla.) Trinity Christian
Ranking: #20 MLB COMMITTED

Alexander might be under-sized, but that's probably good, because it's kept many programs from offering, and gave UCLA a chance to swoop in and get a commitment from him. Despite being 5-10, Alexander is a force, with a great instinct and hitting ability, and plays exactly like you'd want your inside linebacker to play. The issue will be UCLA having to hold on to him as the rest of the country catches on. Florida has now offered, and they could be a threat.

Osa Masina, 6-4, 210, Salt Lake City (Utah) Brighton
Ranking: #60 Overall, #7 OLB OFFERED

You hate to make the comparison, but he looked a bit like Myles Jack in the recent Pylon 7-on-7 in Las Vegas. For his size, and he's pretty big, he looked very impressive dropping and in coverage. He could probably play that Myles Jack outside linebacker spot or inside at UCLA. He visited UCLA's campus in early March and, from what we've heard, loved it, as did his mom. He plans on returning this spring, which supports the word we've heard that UCLA is in a good spot for Masina.

Roquan Smith
Roquan Smith, 6-1, 207, Montezuma (Ga.) Macon County
Ranking: #102 Overall, #3 MLBOFFERED

Smith really has exploded on the scene after a great junior season, and is a hard-hitting, athletic force inside. Picture a more athletic Eric Kendricks. The country is on him now, but the word is that UCLA is doing very well with him, constantly in contact with Mora and the UCLA staff. He plans to visit this spring/summer.

John Houston, 6-3, 200, Gardena (Calif.) Serra
Ranking: #17 Overall, #2 DE OFFERED

Houston is a combo of very good size and exceptional athleticism, so his physical and athletic upside are considerable. He'll have to continue to add good weight and learn to play with more of a mean streak, but he's a promising prospect. It's long been thought he's leaning to USC, but we know that Mora is after him.

Kyahva Tezino, 6-0.5, 200, Los Angeles (Calif.) Salesian
Ranking: #132 Overall, #12 OLB OFFERED

Tezino is interesting. He's undersized for a linebacker, but he's a guy who makes plays. He very well might end up a safety, being able to move very well, or a mini-linebacker type either outside or inside. UCLA has offered, and is in his top four, along with Arizona, Miami and Arizona State. He unofficially visited UCLA in March.

Ben Humphreys, 6-3, 195, Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei
Ranking: #264 Overall, #24 OLB

Humphreys was the linebacker MVP of the SoCal Nike Camp, looking very good in his mobility, coverage and pursuit. He has good height, and is still skinny; you could easily see him get to 225+ after a couple of years in a college weight room. He visited UCLA unofficially after, and the UCLA coaches invited him to their camp in June and asked him to work out with the defensive ends – that if he can show pass-rush ability they'll take him as an outside linebacker. He has offers from some of the Pac-12 and is an academic kid, so is getting Ivy League looks.

Arthur McGinnis, 6-3, 215, New Orleans (La.) Warren Easton
Ranking: #37 OLB OFFERED

McGinnis is a bit under the radar, but is getting interest and has offers from UCLA, Texas A&M, Tennessee and Georgia. He's a very good athlete, recording a top-ten SPARQ rating at the recent combine in New Orleans. He's a strong student, so academics will play a part. There's a plan for him to visit UCLA this summer.


DEFENSIVE BACKS

Needs at Position: 2-3

Other programs have used UCLA's young and talented depth chart against them in recruiting 2015 defensive backs. UCLA does look pretty good in terms of the future of its secondary, and it doesn't have a great many spots for 2015 DBs. There are two clear spots open and, as we said, UCLA's Defensive Backs Coach Demetrice Martin is looking for the best guys available, regardless of their position – and looking for versatile guys who can fulfill different roles. If UCLA had a chance to get more than three it's safe to assume that it wouldn't turn down an elite prospect.

Dechaun Holiday
Dechaun Holiday, 6-2, 190, San Marcos (Calif.) Mission Hills
Ranking: #81 Overall, #14 CB OFFERED

Holiday is big enough where you could see him almost grow into a linebacker, but he's shown this spring some exceptional coverage skills. He's the type of versatile guy that UCLA is looking for, someone who could, despite how big he is, be a cornerback but certainly play safety, nickel and mini-linebacker. UCLA was the first to offer and we know the early favorite but now the country is getting involved, with offerws from Notree Dame, Oklahoma, USC, Texas A&M, Oregon and more.

Stanley Norman, 5-10, 170, Gardena (Calif.) Serra
Ranking: #50 Overall, #7 CB OFFERED

Norman is another versatile guy, with very good cover skills (in fact, he might be the best cover guy in the west), but with the ability to play safety – and even wide receiver. UCLA was the early favorite and we had heard he considered an early verbal, but now the word is that Norman wants to wait until Signing Day. UCLA very well could have its spots filled by then.

Marvell Tell, 6-2, 180, Encino (Calif.) Crespi
Ranking: #46 Overall, #3 S OFFERED

Tell is a talented prospect, with very good size but with the agility and quickness to perhaps play other spots than safety. UCLA was his early leader, but now the sentiment is that USC has drawn even, mostly because of the perception that there is more earlier playing time available at USC. First, it has to be said: How times have changed. Secondly, USC had a pretty good haul of defensive backs in 2014 itself. Tell is going to be a recruiting battle, and just not between UCLA and USC, but with the likes of Oklahoma, Washington and even Washington State, who Tell visited in March.

Iman Marshall, 6-1, 190, Long Beach (Calif.) Poly
Ranking: #9 Overall, #3 CB OFFERED

Marshall is also a versatile prospect. He sees himself as a cornerback, and he has decent cover skills, but we think he projects as a safety, and a very good one. USC has been thought to be his leader, but he's recently spent some time on UCLA's campus and his father was seen in Bruin gear, but that could just be a smokescreen.

Kendall Sheffield, 6-0, 180, Missouri City (Tex.) Marshall
Ranking: #6 Overall, #2 CB OFFERED

UCLA is using its Texas connections to get in on Sheffield, a top-ten national prospect. Sheffield is an elite talent, with great speed and quickness. He literally is hearing from every program in the country, and it will be a tough recruitment for UCLA. Like with many, if Sheffield visits UCLA unofficially this spring/summer that would be a sign that they have a chance.

Isaiah Langley
Isaiah Langley, 6-0, 175, Pleasanton (Calif.) Foothill
Ranking: #80 Overall, #13 OFFERED

A great body for a cornerback – rangy with long arms and a smooth running ability. Langley has all the markings of a great cornerback, but the talent to play just about anywhere. In fact, he looks like a weapon as a wide receiver. UCLA is on him pretty hard, and he visited UCLA in February. He says he'll trim down his list, which includes 30 offers, in June.

Taeon Mason, 6-0, 170, Pasadena (Calif.) Muir
Ranking: #283 Overall, #29 WR OFFERED

Mason is committed to USC, but UCLA has been picking up its recruitment of him in March. It's uncertain where he would project in college, being raw on both sides of the ball, but Mason has exceptional speed. UCLA assistant coach Martin is from Pasadena Muir so he has some connections into Mason.

James Locke, 5-11, 180, Beaumont (Tex.) Central
Ranking: #41 CB OFFERED

Those Texas are working for UCLA on Locke, who is one of the best DBs in the state for 2015. He was fairly unknown in February and now his recruitment has exploded, with 20+ offers. He's pretty enthusiastic about UCLA recruiting him (we have a story coming on him soon), and he plans to visit. Interestingly, he's never been out of the Beaumont area so a visit to UCLA could make a pretty big impression.

Jihree Stewart, 6-0, 175, Corona (Calif.) Centennial
Ranking: #52 CB

Stewart is emerging as a potentially elite prospect this spring, and UCLA is on him. He's pretty quick but strong, especially in coverage. UCLA has been in regular contact in March and could be offering soon.

Frank Buncom, 6-1, 180, San Diego (Calif.) St. Augustine
Ranking: #147 Overall, #8 SOFFERED

Buncom has good size and instincts, and look good at the recent Nike Camp. He's a good student and has interest (offer) from Stanford. We've heard UCLA is doing well with him.


ATHLETES

These are the guys that UCLA is showing serious interest in, but it would really be a reach to put them into any positional category at this point.

Jaason Lewis, 6-3, 230, Virginia Beach (Virg.) Ocean Lakes
Ranking: #181 Overall, #23 WR COMMITTED

Lewis is a big athlete, who was recruited by and committed to UCLA as a running back. He's ranked in Scout as a wide receiver, and there are those that think he ends up a linebacker. He visited UCLA In February, was wowed by the place and committed soon after.

Ykili Ross
Ykili Ross, 6-1, 195, Riverside (Calif.) Poly
Ranking: #206 Overall, #26 CB OFFERED

Ross might be the best two-way prospect in the west. We've seen him a couple of times this spring and he's been very impressive. He's all of 6-1 and a very solid 195, if possibly even bigger. He is smooth as a defensive back and has done well in coverage in 7on7, but he's looked like a potential impact guy as a wide receiver, with some considerable shake for a guy his size, as well as quickness to get behind a defender. UCLA was one of the first to offer and now the rest of the west coast is clueing in. We've heard UCLA is in a good spot with him.

Malik Lovette, 5-11, 185, Redlands (Calif.) East Valley
Ranking: #197 Overall, #26 RB OFFERED

A good-looking prospect who looks and plays like a running back, even though he's played mostly wide receiver in high school. It makes for a good skill set – a guy with some shifty moves that can catch the ball, but with some lower body power to run between the tackles. UCLA has offered Lovette as an athlete, and he's a guy you take and then figure out his position later.

Stephen Johnson, 5-11, 185, San Leandro (Calif.)
Ranking: #42 CB

Johnson might be one of the hottest prospects in the west right now, having just recently gotten an Oregon offer. He clocked a 4.37 40 at the U.S. Army Combine and that got him a great deal of new attention, including from UCLA. UCLA wide receiver coach Eric Yarber is now on him and we've heard that UCLA could be close to offering Johnson.

Kirk Johnson, 5-11, 190, San Jose (Calif.) Valley Christian
Ranking: #56 CB

Another Johnson whose recruiting is starting to surge. He's being recruited primarily as a running back, and that very well could be his spot on the college level. He's well-built and runs with power. He's visiting both UCLA and USC this weekend, and USC could be on the verge of offering.


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