Flying Under the Radar

UCLA's staff has done a very good job recruiting this cycle, particularly with hammering their priorities and keeping backup options warm, but there are a few other prospects out there we think UCLA could prioritize a bit more...

Many have asked on the message board how we feel UCLA has recruited so far in the 2015 cycle. While it's never easy to ascertain a full picture of an entire staff's recruiting efforts, by and large we'd say that UCLA has done a very good job recruiting this class, and with the years of experience Jim Mora has now in recruiting high school athletes, you can see an even greater amount of organization and savvy in UCLA's recruiting efforts. Generally speaking, UCLA has done a good job of recruiting its top targets at most positions while setting up backup plans in case the top prospects fall through.

But it wouldn't be BRO if we didn't point out a few nits worth picking, now would it? While, again, UCLA has, in our opinion, done a very good job of recruiting the right guys and holding off on others, there are a few prospects we think the Bruins might consider prioritizing to a greater extent going forward (either due to their own play, or the perceived likelihood of UCLA snaring other prospects at their position).

Lavan Alston.
Lavan Alston, WR, Ventura (Calif.) St. Bonaventure

Alston has been one of the most impressive receivers on the 7on7 circuit this spring, showing off the kind of speed that UCLA is looking for from a slot-type receiver. He actually compares favorably with Christian Kirk in terms of his ability to get off the line and create deep separation. It's been said that his hands weren't spectacular, but from what we've seen this spring, he's either worked on them considerably, or they were never a particularly big problem to begin with. He has good size, too, maybe just under 6'0", with a fairly filled-out body (as befits a sprinter).

He hasn't received offers from either of the Los Angeles schools yet, but USC is on him fairly hard, and he could earn an offer at their camp in June. UCLA hasn't been in contact much, but based off the need for a speedy receiver, it'd make sense to start recruiting Alston. From what we know, Christian Kirk is looking like a less likely option, with Texas A&M having a fairly substantial lead at this point. Ryan Newsome is decidedly more likely, but pulling a high-profile receiver from Texas, who is earning national attention, could be difficult. Paul Lucas, the option from Arizona, may not have the grades to be admitted. Alston, being local, could be a more realistic option.

St. Bonaventure has long been thought to be a USC stronghold, with UCLA having a tough time making inroads into the program. That said, Alston is not a southern California native, likely did not grow up a USC fan, and would probably be intrigued by whichever L.A. school offered him first.

Vaimoe Sekona.
Vaimoe Sekona, DT, Encino (Calif.) Crespi

To this point, UCLA has held off on offering Sekona, with prospects like Kahlil McKenzie, Tim Settle, and others left on the board who are still considering UCLA. While we think UCLA still has a shot with McKenzie, who left the door open to the Bruins when he named a top five that did not include UCLA, it could be time to turn to other options, which could mean Sekona. From what we've heard, the coaching staff wants to get Sekona on campus for an unofficial visit, which could go a long way toward him getting an offer. USC has already offered the 6'3, 280-pound prospect, who showed well at the Nike camp earlier this spring.

With this class, UCLA would love to get one nose tackle, and, while all bets are off if UCLA has a great season with 10 or 11 regular season, you'd have to suspect that the Bruins are not in a favorable position to land guys like Settle or McKenzie. Thomas Toki, another option, is still committed to Washington State, so it's impossible to know whether he'll jump ship, and we're not even sure that Toki is better than Sekona. Sekona may be the best realistic option at this time.

Kyahva Tezino.
Kyahva Tezino, LB, Los Angeles (Calif.) Salesian
Ben Humphreys, LB, Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei
Khaylan Thomas, LB, Etiwanda (Calif.)

UCLA is already recruiting Thomas and Tezino, and is in the top five for both, so this is a bit of a cheat, but we'd say it's pretty imperative that UCLA nail down one linebacker from this group. For UCLA's purposes, we actually like Tezino quite a bit. He has some safety to his game, and has that kind of tweener size that UCLA has shown a talent for utilizing. We've heard him compared to Jayon Brown somewhat, which we can see, and Brown has become an integral part of UCLA's defense this spring. Thomas is also an excellent athlete, and is bigger than Tezino, but doesn't have quite as much versatility. We've heard grades could be an issue there, though. UCLA hasn't offered Humphreys, but the Bruins are recruiting him. He could play inside or outside for the Bruins, and can cover or rush the passer.

UCLA has many irons in the fire on a national level. The Bruins have a commitment from Victor Alexander, and they've shown a great deal of interest in Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith, Florida linebacker Jeffery Holland, and others, like New Orleans linebacker Arthur McGinnis. Although we've heard UCLA is doing well with many of those national prospects, particularly with Smith, it's always difficult to pry players out of the South. Even Alexander, who committed to UCLA when he had very few offers, has since been offered by Miami and Florida, which could give him pause. With national recruiting sometimes being a crapshoot, it might make sense to try to lock in with one of these three local linebackers who have shown considerable UCLA interest, even with Keisean Lucier-South looking like a UCLA lean at this time.

Joseph Wicker.
Joseph Wicker, DE, Long Beach (Calif.) Poly

Wicker was one of our favorite prospects at the SoCal Nike Camp in March, looking long and athletic, with the kind of body Angus McClure has shown a preference for in his defensive ends since taking over as the defensive line coach. UCLA has started to recruit Wicker, and has even hosted him on campus for a basketball game. If he camps with the Bruins, we could see UCLA offering him next month, or at least by the fall.

Looking at the guys higher on UCLA's list, again, there aren't many slam dunks. We've heard UCLA could have a real chance with Rasheem Green, particularly with the mom being a UCLA grad, but the Bruins will face heavy competition from USC and Stanford. Canton Kaumatule would likely go to Stanford if he gets admitted. Tyrone Wheatley can't be considered a tremendously realistic option, given that he is from New York. Takkarist McKinley, a junior college player, is interested, but we're always a bit skeptical of JC kids getting admitted to UCLA. Benning Potoae possibly has UCLA leading, so that's one, but Wicker could be a good fit for the other defensive end UCLA wants to bring in.

Stephen Johnson.
Stephen Johnson, WR/CB, San Leandro (Calif.)

Take everything we said about Alston and apply it here as well, with the added bonus that he has versatility, with the athleticism to play corner at a high level too. UCLA is on him, and could offer by the fall, but from what we've seen, he could be a guy that UCLA wants to offer earlier. Again, one of the major priorities this cycle is to get speed at the receiver positions, and setting up backup options should Kirk and Newsome both fall through would be a good idea. It's also not as if you wouldn't want to take Johnson or Alston with one of Kirk or Newsome — more speed is not a bad thing. A receiver class with one of the big-type receivers (L.J. Reed) and two of the speedy-type receivers (any combo of Kirk, Newsome, Alston, or Johnson) would come close to the ideal mix.

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