Recruiting Buzz Word

NOV. 14 -- With the season in its last stretch, and many recruits done with their year, recruiting is heating up. Jim Mora was on the road last night, and UCLA is doiong well with many top prospects...

Since he took his official visit to UCLA in October, UCLA has been the silent leader for the #1 running back in the nation, Sotonye Jamabo, from Plano (Tex.) Plano West. Jamabo had taken an official visit to Notre Dame in September, and the word was that the Fighting Irish were the leaders as a result, but UCLA moved ahead after his visit to Westwood. This recruitment, however, is far from over. The in-state schools like Baylor and Texas A&M have been hitting him hard, and Oregon and ASU continue to recruit him, and he more than likely will take more visits. And, of course, Notre Dame has been a dogged adversary in recruiting recently so they’re going to go to the mattresses on this one. This could go all the way until Signing Day, but the Bruins will definitely be in it and have a very good chance of getting Jamabo. Jim Mora and UCLA Running Backs Coach Kennedy Polamalu were at AT&T Stadium last night to watch Jamabo. Scout.com’s Greg Powers was at the game and talked with Jamabo, and we’ll have that interview later today.

Ray-Ray McCloud, the receiver prospect from Tampa (Fla.) Sickles, who is committed to Clemson, will probably officially visit UCLA, most likely in December. McCloud verbally committed to Clemson in summer, and it was thought at that time that UCLA was right there for the speedy playmaker. Since then, the word is that McCloud wants to take some visits, and has made it clear UCLA is definitely one. Now, the UCLA official visit has become known among recruits as a great one to take, so there could be an element here that McCloud just wants to take the most enjoyable official visit other than the one to his committed school. But the feeling from sources close to McCloud is that his interest in UCLA is legitimate.

While we’re talking about that speedy receiver role, it was reported that UCLA has improved its chances with Christian Kirk, the five-star prospect from Scottsdale (Ariz.) Saguaro. His UCLA official visit really changed things for him, and now the Bruins are valid contenders. The word is that Texas A&M is out of it, and it’s between UCLA, USC and Arizona State. Josh Rosen, the #1 quarterback prospect in the nation and UCLA commit, apparently had a big impact on Kirk for his official visit. Kirk was impressed by Rosen, mostly by how intelligent Rosen is, and Kirk came away wanting to catch passes from him. The inside scoop is that Kirk, personally, wants to get out of Arizona for college, but his parents, naturally, want him to stay close to home. He has an official visit to ASU last weekend, and then a visit to USC December 5th. He has a plan to graduate in December and enroll early at the school of his choice, so it will be interesting if that pushes up his decision.  

Ryan Newsome, the receiver prospect from Aledo (Tex.) has been a tough one to read. Previously he was very talkative with the media, but after his official visit to UCLA for the Arizona game, he went into an uncharacteristic bunker for a few days and wouldn’t talk to the media. He has since visited Oklahoma, on the weekend that the Sooners suffered a big loss to Baylor. He previously visited Ole Miss and Tennessee, and will conclude his official visits with a trip to Texas in December or January. There’s also some talk that TCU might get back involved, since they’re having such a good year. The feeling was that UCLA was probably the leader before his official visit, but some sources close to him aren’t sure, and his reaction to the media after his official UCLA is a bit mysterious. Newsome definitely likes to keep everyone guessing, so you probably can’t read much from it.

UCLA is giving itself a chance with C.J. Sanders, the 5-9 speedster from Sherman Oaks Notre Dame, who is verbally committed to Notre Dame. We’ve heard that UCLA has been recruiting him, and that, along with other programs still staying on him, has led him to potentially take visits after his football season.

If you look at UCLA’s wide receiver depth, and its recruiting board for 2015, there is a clear need for a speedy receiver type, and it looks like the Bruins will have a chance with Kirk, Newsome, McCloud and Sanders down the stretch.

In regard to receivers, UCLA has been showing recent interest in some new WR/DB types, like Tony Brown, the 6-1 prospect from La Mirada; Octavius Spencer, the 6-1 prospect from Monrovia; Nathan Meadors, the 6-1 prospect from San Bernardino San Gorgonia, and Keon Stephens, the 6-2 prospect from Etiwanda. It’s unusual that UCLA would all of a sudden, in November, show interest in a good number of prospects, but it stems from a few things. First, the four of these guys have had pretty impressive senior seasons. Secondly, UCLA appears to have backed off Cordell Broadus and Equanimeous St. Brown a bit. They would probably still take a commitment from Broadus, but the Bruins have been looking elsewhere (obviously). They also have no chance at Trent Irwin, the Hart Newhall receiver, who is far down the road his recruitment with Stanford and ASU. So, it makes sense that UCLA would start to show interest in other receiver prospects and it coincided with these prospects emerging in their senior seasons. Brown has offers from Nebraska (visited Nov. 1), Texas Tech (Nov. 15), Utah, Colorado, Washington State and others. We’ve heard Brown could be the guy at the front of the line to get a UCLA offer, and we’re hearing from La Mirada sources that UCLA Wide Receiver Coach Eric Yarber will see Brown Friday, which could precipitate it. However, we’ve also heard Spencer has a good chance at an offer. Sources close to Spencer have told us that UCLA indicated that they like Spencer’s versatility, looking like he could play both receiver and defensive back, would bring him in as a Mossi Johnson-type athlete, and let UCLA Defensive Backs Coach Demetrice Martin and Receivers Coach Eric Yarber decide where he lines up. It’s not inconceivable that both could get UCLA offers.

This weekend, UCLA coaches will be out watching prospects. As we said Mora and Polamalu were in Texas last night to watch Jamabo, and we’ve heard from other sources in Texas that Houston (Tex.) Lamar is expecting Martin at their game this weekend to watch Holton Hill, the #14-ranked cornerback in the nation. Martin and UCLA have been on Hill hard for a couple of months, while most observers feel it’s too late for an elite prospect that has been recruited for a long time by the likes of Florida State, Baylor, Alabama, LSU, etc. But there are whispers that Hill likes UCLA and the Bruins might have an outside chance.

Martin is looking pretty good in his defensive back recruiting for 2015. We’ve heard that William Lockett, the defensive back from Texas who took an official visit to Oklahoma, is pretty solid in his UCLA verbal commitment (Martin will see Lockett to on his weekend Texas trip). It’s pretty accepted that UCLA-committed Stephen Johnson will have his first shot at cornerback (even though he might be an option at receiver). It’s also pretty well-accepted that UCLA is doing very well with Dechaun Holiday, the four-star defensive back from San Marcos (Calif.) – as in very well. So, Martin, at this point, has the luxury of perhaps being a little picky with how he proceeds with DB recruiting. Hill, the 6-3, athletic prospect, would be a fantastic addition.

Quarterbacks Coach Taylor Mazzone will be in Fresno to go by and see UCLA-committed running back Bolu Olorunfunmi, from Fresno Clovis North. Clovis North has a bye, so Mazzone will just go by the school to see Bolu today. Mazzone will also see five-star 2016 Clovis West's linebacker and UCLA-offeree Caleb Kelly, and 2016 running back Darian Owens, who is probably a lock for USC, play tonight. 

Noel Mazzone will be in Arizona to see Ryan Kelley, a 2017 quarterback prospect from Chandler Basha.  Basha plays Chandler High (alma mater of Brett Hundley and Paul Perkins), which features 2016 four-star running back Chase Lucas, who most of the Pac-12 has offered (but not UCLA); and N'Keal Harry, a 2016 receiver.

According to sources on the east coast, Thursday night Defensive Line Coach Angus McClure was in balmy Buffalo, New York, to see Tyrone Wheatley, the nation’s #16-ranked defensive end. UCLA has been on Wheatley a long time, and the word is that the Bruins are definitely in the running. Wheatley isn’t sure whether he wants to play defensive end or tight end in college, and that could make him a good option at tight end for UCLA if Alize Jones,, the prospect from Las Vegas Bishop Gorman, falls through. Jones has been verbally committed to UCLA since 2013, but Notre Dame has been hitting him hard, and there have been some other influences steering him to Notre Dame. If we had to handicap it, right now, we’d have to say UCLA loses Jones to Notre Dame, but the silver lining is that UCLA looks good for Wheatley, and he could then also have the option of playing tight end in college.

We've heard, too, that McClure, will be in NorCal to see Stephen Johnson at his high school, and other NorCal prospects.   He also could go by Sam Ramon Dougherty Valley to see offensive line prospect Kieffer Longson, who we've heard is almost locked up to UCLA.  Longson will go on his Mormon Mission, and a signed NLI for 2015 won't be binding in 2017, but the commitment also is pretty significant.

We’ve heard from Oklahoma sources that UCLA Offensive Line Coach Adrian Klemm might make it out to watch Josh Wariboko, the prospect from Oklahoma City Casady, this weekend. Wariboko is taking his official visit to UCLA the next weekend – for the USC game – and it will be a strong one-two punch with Klemm at his game the week before.

There is an interesting factor in regard to the official visits expected for the USC game. Since the following week UCLA plays Stanford on Friday the program has to start preparing for that game a day early – on Sunday. So, a conventional official visit, if it were taken from Friday to Sunday, wouldn’t be ideal, with the coaches unable to spend that much time with the prospect on Sunday. So, most of the prospects coming in for the USC weekend will visit Thursday through Saturday. That way, too, the prospects can spend more time in meetings in game preparation with the team and experience more rivalry hype leading up to the USC game.

There is a big contingent expected to visit for USC weekend from Jacksonville (Fla.) Trinity Christian: UCLA-committed linebacker Victor Alexander, linebacker Jeff Holland, and safeties Ben Edwards and Kevin Toliver. Defensive lineman Kendrick Norton is rumored to also be visiting but that's uncertain at this time. From what we’ve heard, if Trinity Christian loses their playoff game this weekend, the group will visit UCLA; if they win, they more than likely will reschedule their official visits for December.  

We've heard two reports on where Defensive Coordinator Jeff Ulbrich will be this weekend. One source told us he will be in Florida to check out the Trinity Christian guys. Another indicated he will go to see UCLA-committed linebacker Josh Woods, from Upland, along with Upland defensive lineman Gary Baker, who UCLA is watching closely, along with 2017 running back Nathan Tilford, an early UCLA offeree.

We’re hearing that Alexander, who has been taking visits to Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech, is still pretty solid with UCLA. The feeling, too, is that UCLA has a realistic chance with Holland and Edwards, and probably no chance with Toliver, who is verbally committed to LSU. In this case, we don’t think LSU is going to send an assistant coach on the plane to sit next to Toliver.

Benning Potoae the four-star defensive end from Lakewood (Wash.) Lakes, will take his official visit next weekend, Thursday through Saturday. It’s his first official visit, and the feeling is that it’s still a UCLA/Washington battle. There is a feeling that he wants to go away for college, but Washington is really playing up the stay-home-and-play-in-front-of-family pitch.

It’s natural to be skeptical that UCLA would have a chance with Roquan Smith, the #2-ranked middle linebacker in the nation, from Montezuma (Ga.) Macon County. But we’ve heard from sources in the South that UCLA has a real shot, and that it “wouldn’t be surprising” if he left the South. We still think he’ll end up at Georgia. 

We heard some news out of Utah that Osa Masina (pictured above), the five-star linebacker from Salt Lake City Brighton, is giving indications that UCLA is his leader. It’s between UCLA, ASU and USC; he’s visited UCLA and ASU, and has a visit to USC arranged for Nov. 28th, so there is still a ways to go, and a USC visit to withstand. 

While it’s pretty well-accepted that Ykili Ross, the defensive back from Riverside Poly, and Iman Marshall, the defensive back from Long Beach Poly, are destined for USC, UCLA is looking very good for a number of prospects, even other than the ones we’ve mentioned above. Right now, the word is also that UCLA is leading for Semisi Uluave, the four-star OL from Honolulu (Hawaii) Punahou, even despite taking an official visit to Oregon; Joseph Wicker, the four-star defensive lineman from Long Beach Poly; Zach Bateman, the JC offensive line prospect from Orange Coast College, and Keisean Lucier-South, the five-star defensive end/linebacker from Orange Lutheran. It was previously thought that Stanford was leading for Cameron Scarlett, the west’s best running back prospect from Portland (Ore.) Central Catholic, but recently we’ve heard UCLA might have moved ahead. There is, though, a matter that UCLA already has two commitments from running backs and is, as we said, leading for the nation’s #1 running back, Jamabo. We already mentioned Masina, Holiday, and Wariboko. Add all these names to UCLA’s current commit list and it’s a very strong class, especially if they do in fact get Jamabo, Masina and Lucier-South – and hold onto Jones. To top off the class might then come down to UCLA getting an elite speedy receiver from among Kirk, McCloud, or Newsome.

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