Could UCLA Finish With the No. 1 Class?

Dec. 12 -- With the way UCLA's 2015 recruiting class is shaping up, there's reason to believe the Bruins will finish with their second top-five class in three years...

UCLA’s 2015 class is shaping up to be a potentially elite one in terms of both the overall team rankings and the average star rating of the players in the class.

As it stands right now, UCLA has commitments from 17 players: 3 five-stars, 10 four-stars, and 4 three-stars, which is good for 3356 points in the team rankings database, putting the Bruins currently 7th in the overall rankings, behind Georgia, Alabama, Florida State, Texas A&M, Ohio State, and Tennessee. Interestingly, each of those schools already has at least 21 commitments. In terms of average star rating, UCLA currently leads the country at 3.94, just ahead of Alabama, which sits at 3.90.

Think about that alone, for a second. With three consecutive 9-3 years to sell (which, in the grand scheme of things, isn’t all that much), UCLA is either right there with or out-recruiting virtually every other program in the country — at least according to the numbers. By signing day, there’s actually reason to believe this class should compare pretty well to the 2013 class that has fueled UCLA the last two years.

First, by the numbers, this class is already better than last year’s. Last year’s class had 18 total commitments, with 8 four-stars and 10 three-stars, for 2921 points. Right now, if you threw UCLA’s current class into last year’s rankings, the Bruins would have had the No. 13 class in the country (rather than the No. 20, like they did in real life).

Dechaun Holiday.
It gets really interesting when you add in just the guys that are likely to sign with UCLA right now. If the Bruins hold onto their current commitments (which basically means keeping Alize Jones from going to Notre Dame and getting T.J. Simmons qualified), and then sign these guys who are Bruin leans at the moment:

CB Dechaun Holiday (209 points)
OG Josh Wariboko (208 points)
DE Joseph Wicker (200 points)
WR Tony Brown (184 points)
OG Semisi Uluave (203 points)
OT Kieffer Longson (186 points)

UCLA will add 1190 points to their current total, bringing the Bruins to 4546 points in the class rankings. For reference, that total would be good for the No. 2 class last year (behind Alabama), the No. 5 class in 2013, the No. 4 class in 2012, and the No. 3 class in 2011. So, even if UCLA lands that pretty conservative haul to end the year (that’s not even counting semi-reasonable guys like Octavius Spencer, Nathan Meadors, or Benning Potoae), UCLA will have a top five class — and that’s with just 23 commitments. That may be a little shocking to the system, but it makes sense, given the way that UCLA has cleverly strategized throughout this cycle. Rather than spending tons of man hours pursuing long shots across the country (Rashaan Evans, Malachi Dupre) or betting a good deal on local, longtime USC leans (Juju Smith, Adoree Jackson) UCLA has done a good job of pivoting to more reasonable prospects rather than waiting til too late. This has filled out the class with good prospects — Colin Samuel, Josh Woods, Rick Wade — that might not have been pursued until too late last year. That class, assuming no major rating changes, would finish with a 3.96 average star rating.

So that’s the reasonable, conservative class, and it’s a damn good one. As Tracy wrote way back in the spring, this had a chance to be a really good class because it started with such a high baseline — two of the first commits were five-stars in Josh Rosen and Alize Jones. UCLA has filled it out throughout the season with almost a dozen four-stars, who should go a long way toward improving the depth in the program and restocking the base of talent for the foreseeable future. Adding just those six prospects above would give UCLA 23 commitments, a dynamite OL class, good depth guys at WR and DB, an elite quarterback, and an elite offensive playmaker in Jones. Again, this is the conservative class, where we’ve only included guys where we know UCLA is almost certainly in the lead right now.

But why not get a little crazy?

The Bruins are still reasonably in the mix for the following guys (didn’t include a few guys we consider serious longshots like Iman Marshall, Tyrone Wheatley, and one or two others who we’d rather not put out there quite yet):

OLB Malik Jefferson (300 points)
RB Sotonye Jamabo (300 points)
OLB Osa Masina (299 points)
WR Christian Kirk (297 points)
WR Ryan Newsome (193 points)
DE Benning Potoae (197 points)
RB Cameron Scarlett (192 points)
OLB DeAndre McNeal (191 points)
CB Octavius Spencer (94 points)
S Nathan Meadors (71 points)

Benning Potoae.
Right now, we would say UCLA probably has the best chance with Jamabo among those remaining five stars, the best chance with Potoae among the four stars, and the best chance with Spencer among the three stars. So, let’s call that the best, reasonable case scenario. Those three players would give UCLA 26 commitments in the 2015 class, but for purposes of the ranking, only 25 players count. So, obviously, Jamabo’s 300 points and Potoae’s 197 points count completely, since they’ll fill out the 25, and then Spencer’s 94 points replace Will Lockett’s 69 points (UCLA’s lowest rated player) for a net gain of 25 points. So, the combined total of those three players would add 522 points to UCLA’s class, putting the Bruins at 5068 total points in the team rankings. That class would finish, also, with a 3.96 average star rating, but if one of the three stars dropped off, it’d be a perfect 4.0.

What would a class like that signify? In 2014, that class would have been…still No. 2, since Alabama had a ridiculous class. In 2013, that class would have been just like real life UCLA at No. 3, but with an overall higher point total. In 2012, it would have been the No. 2 class behind Texas. In 2011, it would have been the No. 1 overall class. Looking at the way the classes are trending this year, there’s reason to think that a class that closes with the six players mentioned above, along with Jamabo, Potoae, and Spencer, would have a chance to be the No. 1 class in the country (probably right there with USC — which will close very strong with several five-stars — and Alabama).

So, by the numbers, it’s a successful class. It also massively improves the depth at some key positions while providing several obvious instant impact players in Rosen, Jamabo, Jones, and several others. Unlike the 2013 class, which had to, as a collective, play immediately, this class would have a little more time to develop, and could end up having a longer term impact on the program since some of the very talented players would likely be in the program longer than three years.

Would it fill the big needs? Well…mostly. Lucier-South would help the pass rush, as would Potoae and Cassius Peat. Jamabo and Jones would help in terms of providing offensive playmakers. And Rosen, of course, would give UCLA its starting quarterback for the foreseeable future. The class wouldn’t have an elite, versatile outside linebacker (we see Lucier-South as more of a defensive end, though we're willing to wait and see on Josh Woods), and there wouldn’t be that jitterbug slot receiver we’ve long coveted. It’s also probably missing a true lockdown cornerback, though one could always emerge from that group of Samuel, Holiday, Stephen Johnson, Spencer, and Brown, and we’d like to a see a true nose tackle if UCLA intends on retaining the makings of a three-man front. But those are nitpicks. The offensive line depth would finally be up to the standards of an elite program, linebacker depth would look good for the next couple of years, and UCLA would have a good stable of defensive ends to start developing into Stanford-esque monsters. That class, if it ends up looking even remotely like what we just described, would sustain the program at an elite level for at least the next couple of years, and keep Jim Mora’s window to compete for Pac-12 championships (and beyond) open for the foreseeable future.

Bruin Report Online Top Stories