Assessing UCLA Recruiting -- So Far

There have been some key commitments recently that have put UCLA football recruiting in a great spot to, perhaps, finish with a super-elite class for 2015. We break down unit by unit how UCLA is doing so far...

After the flurry of commitments in the last week, UCLA football recruiting has put itself in an incredible position for the 2015 class. It has a basis and foundation for a great class already, and then, with whom is left on its recruiting board, has a chance to finish it off with one of the most talented classes, on average, in recent college football history.

We’ve maintained for over a decade (that Dark Era) that, if you win at UCLA, the level of recruiting that the program is capable of would be astounding. UCLA has so many natural advantages that lend itself to it. But UCLA also has had some traditional disadvantages, too, that the administration, program and Jim Mora are working toward eliminating, like salaries for its assistants, facilities, more realistic academic standards, and even alternate uniforms.

It’s very possible that UCLA is on the cusp of a Golden Era in football – and in recruiting.

Right now, the 2015 class is averaging a 3.90 star average (national 2015 class rankings), which is #1 in the country. As we wrote in this recent piece, UCLA has a chance to bring in a class in 2015 that would be among the best in average star ranking – ever in the history of Scout.com’s rankings.

And even beyond the stars, UCLA recruiting for 2015 has set itself up really well in terms of its needs, how many scholarships it has to give per position, who it already has committed and who is left on its board. In our time doing this, we’ve never seen a UCLA recruiting class at this stage of the recruiting cycle set up so well to already have fulfilled so many needs at different positions while having a chance to really take the class to a completely other level.

So, here’s a rundown of the class unit by unit, where it stands currently and where it could go.


QUARTERBACK

Needs at Position: 1

Committed:

Josh Rosen, 6-4, 205, Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco
Ranking: #13 Overall, #1 QB

When you have the #1 quarterback sewed up in your recruiting class by April your quarterback recruiting is going to be looking excellent. UCLA quarterback recruiting, too, is in a place that it’s never been in over a decade, either. When Brett Hundley leaves, UCLA will have a competition for the spot in 2015 with some considerable talent between Asiantii Woulard, who will be a redshirt sophomore; Aaron Sharp, who will be a redshirt freshman that is currently getting some high praise in the summer workouts; Rosen, and then Jerry Neuheisel, a redshirt junior in 2015. Of course, Rosen makes or breaks that depth chart, and makes or breaks the 2015 recruiting class. With him as the headliner, UCLA has that chance to make the 2015 class one of the most memorable in UCLA history.


RUNNING BACK

Needs at Position: 2-3

Committed:

Bolu Olorunfunmi, 5-11, 210, Fresno (Calif.) Clovis North
Ranking: #44 RB
T.J. Simmons, 6-0, 205, Lakeland (Fla.) Lakeland Christian
Ranking: #61 RB

Simmons and Olorunfunmi with DeShaun Foster.
A few months ago, if you projected out the running back spot, you would have said UCLA definitely needed at least one impact prospect in 2015. In the 2015 season, it would have Paul Perkins and Steven Manfro as redshirt juniors – solid guys but not necessarily big-named stars. Then there is Craig Lee, who would be a redshirt sophomore, and despite some considerable talent is a bit of a question mark of whether he’ll develop. And then there is Nate Starks from the 2014 class, a redshirt freshman/sophomore for 2015, who is going to be a question mark until we see him in August (even though we’re hearing good reports about him now from the summer workouts).

So, UCLA went out and got an early commitment from another “solid” type in Olorunfunmi, which was good, to keep the position stocked. But then recently it got a commitment from Simmons, who falls into the category of potentially a big-named star. On top of that, UCLA is thought to currently be leading for the #2 running back in the class, Sotonye Jamabo, from Plano (Tex.) Plano West, another very elite type. If UCLA got Olonrunfunmi, Simmons and Jamabo it would be hailed as the #1 running backs class in the country for 2015. Even if they just get Olorunfunmi and one of Simmons or Jamabo (always difficult to hang on to out-of-state prospects), it could be the #1 running backs class. Then there are also Ray-Ray McCloud, from Tampa (Fla.) Sickles, Dominic Davis, from Mission Hills Alemany and Dedrick Young, from Peoria Centennial. McCloud and Davis could plug in at running back, slot receiver or defensive back – guys that are 5-9 to 5-11, built well with some considerable speed. Young is also a very good all-around athlete who could be a running back or linebacker. It’s obvious that new UCLA Running Backs Coach Kennedy Polamalu has clearly had an impact on recruiting.


WIDE RECEIVER

Needs at Position: 3

Committed:

L.J. Reed, 6-3, 205, Elk Grove (Calif.) Cosumnes Oaks
Ranking: #133 Overall, #14 WR

If you’re more than a casual follower of UCLA football you know that there was a significant development at receiver in this last spring practice. UCLA found some slot-type guys on its own roster. Kenny Walker returned from injury and, after grayshirting, Mossi Johnson showed up, with a brace on his knee even, and was one of the surprises of the spring. UCLA had a high priority at finding speed and game-breaking ability at receiver – and it still needs it, definitely – but Walker and Johnson looking so good in spring removed some of the urgency. UCLA Wide Receiver Coach Eric Yarber has done a great job of stocking his wide receiver corps with some big-type of receivers. He has a good, and fairly young, stable of them right now, and, in fact, early reports from the 2014 class in the summer program – Alex Van Dyke and Austin Roberts – are very promising.

Ray-Ray McCloud
Yarber has a commitment in 2015 from Reed, who is another bigger type, and might even end up more of a Y. The word, too, is that UCLA is also leading for Cordell Broadus, the 6-3 prospect from Las Vegas (Nev.) Bishop Gorman. In fact, the feeling is that Broadus has indicated to UCLA that he’s coming. So, Yarber is set up pretty well with Reed and most likely Broadus to then finish off the 2015 receiver class with a smaller speed guy who would project in the slot. UCLA got a commitment from speedy Stephen Johnson, from San Leandro (Calif.), but the thought is that he could end up as a cornerback. Ray-Ray McCloud, who we mentioned in the running backs section, probably projects to a slot guy. He’s being hailed as the #1 playmaker in the state of Florida for 2015, so getting that kind of talent would be phenomenal. We just heard that UCLA is looking very good with him, that the McCloud family has contacted UCLA in the last couple of days with the intention of visiting one more time before McCloud makes his decision public July 28th. We’ve heard that UCLA is doing really well with Ryan Newsome, the playmaker from Aledo (Tex.), and will be in it with him to the end. Dominic Davis, at this time, is probably leaning to USC, but isn’t going to make a decision soon. So, it works out well: UCLA recruits all of them, waits to see if McCloud commits on the 28th, and continues to recruit Newsome and Davis (again, as insurance against the out-of-state phenomenon). But that scenario, that UCLA would have a commitment from McCloud while it still recruits Newsome and Davis (and would probably still take either) is an ideal one for the slot.

Then there is Christian Kirk, the prospect from Scottsdale (Ariz.) Saguaro, whom UCLA is still recruiting hard despite all indication Texas A&M is leading, and UCLA is probably running fourth. Even if UCLA got a commitment from McCloud, it likely would continue to recruit Kirk – just for a no-loss chance at some icing on the cake.

Then there is Equanimeous St. Brown from Anaheim (Calif.) Servite, one of the bigger type of receivers, who has looked very good all spring and summer. He apparently is leaning to Notre Dame and it might be too much to get St. Brown with Reed and Broadus. But we’ve heard that, if UCLA went after St. Brown really hard, they’d have a very good chance to get him.

The commitment of versatile Johnson really makes everything great for UCLA receiver recruiting. He was a bit of a pivotal recruit in how this all might work out. If they miss on all of the fast slot guys remaining on the board, Johnson very well could satisfy the need at slot. If they get one of McCloud, Newsome, Davis or Kirk, then they’re looking stocked and talented, and it enables any of those guys, along with Johnson, to perhaps move positions – and find the position best suited for them. If McCloud does announce for UCLA on the 28th, with UCLA getting perhaps the two best playmakers in the state of Florida for 2015 (McCloud and Simmons), it would be a monumental coup, and one that puts the UCLA recruiting class in a great position for receiver, and potentially defensive back.


TIGHT END/Y

Needs at Position: 1

Committed:

Alize Jones, 6-5, 220, Las Vegas (Nev.) Bishop Gorman
Ranking: #29 Overall, #2 TE

Like with quarterback recruiting, what else could you want at a position when a five-star prospect commits to you early, is clearly going to stick with his commitment, and your recruiting at the position is over except for maintenance of your commitment? What was really great, too, about Alize Jones was that we were pretty certain he was the elite athlete we had seen last summer – the one that got him initially ranked the #1 tight end in the country. But having not seen him in any camp or 7-on-7 environment since then, it was then reassuring to see him just the first day of the Opening, and remind us of exactly what kind of elite athlete he is. He measured 6-5 and weighed 220, ran a very impressive 4.67 40 and an even more impressive 4.03 shuttle. He was perhaps one of the best, if not the best, athletes at the event over 6-4. Jones epitomizes what looks to be so exciting about UCLA’s 2015 recruiting class – that it’s bringing in many prospects that are such great athletes you could easily seen them excel at different positions. If Jones wasn’t such a great pass-catcher, he’d be a beast at defensive end.


OFFENSIVE LINE

Needs at Position: 4+

Committed:

Tevita Halalilo, 6-5, 325, Moreno Valley (Calif.) Rancho Verde
Ranking: #170 Overall, #12 OG
Andre James, 6-5, 275, Herriman (Utah)
Ranking: #166 Overall, #13 OT
Fred Ulu-Perry, 6-2.5, 305, Honolulu (Hawaii) St. Louis,
Ranking: #263 Overall, #2 C

With the recent commitments of James and Ulu-Perry, UCLA is perhaps in its best position ever for UCLA offensive line recruiting at this time of year. It’d be tough to remember a time when, in July, UCLA had commitments from a nationally top 12 offensive guard, top 13 offensive tackle and top 2 center.

That would practically right there be enough to make the 2015 OL recruiting class. But UCLA Offensive Line Coach Adrian Klemm might only be half over.

Josh Wariboko
We’re hearing that Dru Samia, from Danville (Calif.) Ramon, who might be under-rated as the #24 offensive tackle in the nation, will commit soon. There is a tentative plan for him and his family to unofficially visit this week, and it could happen then.

UCLA, then, is the flat-out leader for three other guys it’d be very happy to have – Josh Wariboko, the #11-ranked offensive guard from Oklahoma City (Okla.) Casady School; Semisi Uluave, the #17-ranked offensive guard from Honolulu (Hawaii) Punahou; and Connor Williams, the Coppell (Tex.) prospect who has been one of the hottest OL recruits in the country after he switched to the position from tight end.

How many OLs does Klemm take? It’s been much discussed on the BRO Premium Football Message Board. The answer is probably: Up to 6. The theory is that you can never have too many OLs. The percentage of OL prospects that turn out to be starter-level is lower than at other positions (because there is more physical development required), and you need quite a few of them. So the mentality is that, when you can get a prospect who you feel definitely has starter-level capability you take him no matter what.

Klemm, with three commitments already and four more on the hook, has set up his OL recruiting particularly well – perhaps the best of any position (besides quarterback) in the program. He could take three more commitments and insure against one de-committing – or ultimately take six.

And it’s just not numbers, but it’s the type of OL the prospects project to be: James looks to be a left tackle, Halalilo a guard and Ulu-Perry a center. Samia is the prototypical right tackle. Wariboko and Uluave are guards. Williams, then, having just switched from tight end, projects as a tackle, but one that probably needs more development time, which is what you want at tackle, more guys who can play the position developing in your program. They all fit together like a puzzle. You have a guy at each OL position and one extra OT, which would be pretty much perfect.

There’s also some more flexibility. When Ulu-Perry participated in UCLA’s camp in June the defensive coaches loved him as a potential nose guard on defense. That fits into UCLA’s plans well, for many reasons, and is a great potential option for Ulu-Perry. They don’t desperately need Ulu-Perry to be a center, and wouldn’t limit him to staying there if, perhaps, nose tackle was the best spot – and best NFL position -- for him. If he did move it would satisfy perhaps the one position where UCLA’s recruiting looks a little uncertain – defensive tackle. But if not, and Ulu-Perry is clearly better at offensive line, great.

You can’t see too many scenarios where UCLA offensive line recruiting for 2015 doesn’t finish off in February with one of the best classes in the country. Klemm has done some excellent recruiting work in the first three years at UCLA, but this class is poised to perhaps be his crowning achievement – at least so far.

It’s amazing the impact that winning, good recruiting and depth can have on a program.

Next Up: A breakdown of the recruiting on the defensive side of the ball unit by unit…


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