Football Recruiting Reset: Defense

Dec. 19 -- Here's a look at the prospects left on UCLA's defensive recruiting board. The Bruins already have 7 defensive commitments but there are some pretty big fish still left out there...

As we've said in previous Recruiting Resets, initially the thinking was that UCLA football recruiting for 2015 would be a bit different than it's been in Jim Mora's first three recruiting classes, since there were seemingly so few scholarships available. Now, however, it looks much more likely that UCLA will take a full class of 22 to 25 players. Perhaps, though, there will be somewhat of a change in the makeup of the class.

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, 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.

These lists aren't absolutely 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.


Needs at Position: 1-2

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 tackles are always hard to find, so almost every year any program is in the market for one. This group includes the three-technique, which is the player who lines up on the outside shoulder of the offensive guard. Right now, it appears UCLA would be content with a guy who's either a nose or a three-technique, and would gladly take two if two elite prospects wanted to jump in the both.

Joseph Wicker, 6-4, 275, Long Beach (Calif.) Poly
Ranking: #195 Overall, #20 DE OFFERED

Wicker had an impressive summer, and garnered a great deal of interest. UCLA was on him, but didn't offer until a couple of games into his senior season when he looked absolutely dominating. A significant development for Wicker was moving from playing mostly defensive end to being more of an inside guy, a three-technique. He's gotten bigger physically and he's very strong, and the type of explosiveness he had at defensive end now is devastating with that size/strength inside. Wicker's recruitment has been a little different. UCLA was doing well with him, but he's pushed back his official visit a couple of times. He'll visit in January, and he's already visited Arizona, Arizona State, Oklahoma and Texas Tech so he has just one visit left. Assuming he takes the visit to UCLA, we think that gives the Bruins his commitment. If he doesn't, then it wouldn't be a surprise if there was a mutual parting of ways.

Daylon Mack, 6-1, 330, Gladewater (Tex.)
Ranking: #9 Overall, #3 DT OFFERED

Mack has been committed to Texas A&M for a while, but has shown interest in other schools, like LSU, TCU and Florida. He recently expressed some interest in UCLA and there's some talk that he could take an official visit in January. As of right now, it's pretty uncertain whether that will happen and just how much legitimate interest Mack has in UCLA.

Du'Vonta Lampkin, 6-4, 295, Houston (Texas) Cypress Falls
Ranking: #284 Overall, #24 DT OFFERED

Lampkin has been a longtime commit to Texas, but UCLA just offered him last week and now there is a chance he'll visit UCLA in January. He's visited Oklahoma and said he's still solid to Texas, but he's willing to visit next month and could also visit Arizona State. While he may be a longshot, if UCLA can get him on campus for a visit, that will help.

Kyon Clark, 6-1, 345, Rialto (Calif.) Carter
Ranking: #96 DT

Clark is the younger brother of current UCLA defensive lineman Kenneth Clark, and attended the UCLA Lineman Camp in June. He's clearly got some weight loss ahead of him, but he has shed some, and for a guy his size he can really move nimbly, to go along with natural strength. Clark verbally committed to Montana but then earlier this week he told Scout that he's open to a UCLA offer, even if it was as a greyshirt, so he could play with his brother and be closer to home. Clark will probably visit in January and its uncertain when he'll be offered, but if he is, expect him to commit and sign in February, even if he postpones his enrollment.

Others to Watch:

Gary Baker, 6-3, 280, Upland (Calif.)


Needs at Position: 2

Getting the JC defensive end prospect, Takkarist McKinley, to enroll at UCLA and currently be part of the team (and playing) is an unprecedented development. In terms of the 2015 class, with McKinley kind of counting and Wade on board, the future of UCLA's defensive end positions looks very good. UCLA is still involved with a number of other elite guys and would take one if he wanted to jump in the boat. If UCLA got Potoae they could be done with DL recruiting altogether for 2015.

Rick Wade, 6-5, 231, Santa Margarita(Calif.)
Ranking: #32 DE COMMITTED

A relative unknown coming into the spring, with just a couple of smaller offers, Wade started to see his stock soar after the NFTC and the evaluation period, and by summer, offers had come in from Boston College, Cal, Oregon, Washington and Wisconsin. UCLA started to pick it up with him and had him come to the Bruin Elite Camp, where he showed well and, not long after, the Bruins offered. Wade's father, though, attended USC, and USC came in late with an offer, but he was already too far down the road with UCLA. After he took an unofficial visit to the school in late July he committed at the end of the month. He's had a very good senior year, looking pretty beastly, racking up sacks and tackles for loss and looking very athletic. He has very long arms and a great body to naturally put on good weight, and a toughness and nastiness. He recently was moved up to four-star status and the #32 DE in the nation.

Tyrone Wheatley, 6-6, 250, Buffalo (New York) Canisius
Ranking: #138 Overall, #16 DE OFFERED

Wheatley visited USC last weekend, his first official visit, and he saw a familiar face there in Marques Tuiasosopo, the Trojans tight ends coach who played with his father with the Oakland Raiders. Next month, Wheatley will visit Alabama, Oregon and UCLA. The Bruins like him as a jumbo athlete and would take him as either a tight end or defensive end. Angus McClure has already been out to see him once this fall and they'll be back out there in January. The word is that the leaders are UCLA and Alabama but he still has three trips to go.

Benning Potoae
Benning Potoae, 6-4, 265, Lakewood (Wash.) Lakes
Ranking: #209 Overall, #23 DE OFFERED

This week, Potoae settled on a top two of UCLA and Washington. The Bruins have been on him for over a year and he took his official visit the weekend of the USC game and had a great time. UCLA was in his home twice in the past month, once with just Mike Tuiasosopo, who's been recruiting him, and the next with Tuiasosopo and Jim Mora. He'll visit Washington in mid-January, and the Huskies have prioritized him and will get the last visit (he also visited Oregon State and turned down a visit from USC). This one could come all the way down to the wire, but there are sources close to the recruitment that feel good about UCLA's chances. As we said, if UCLA gets Potoae they could be done with DL recruiting for 2015.

Rasheem Green, 6-5, 275, Gardena (Calif.) Serra
Ranking: #16 Overall, #4 DE OFFERED

UCLA wasn't in Green's most recent top four, and we've heard both sides have essentially cooled on each other, but UCLA has pursued him for so long, that it wouldn't be a surprise if they made one more last-ditch effort in January to try to get him in on a visit.


Needs at Position: 1-2

Without Anthony Barr in 2015, it was clear UCLA was missing a really big-time pass-rushing linebacker on its depth chart. You could even make the case it was the #1 missing element of this year's team. UCLA clearly wants to upgrade its pass-rushing, and it has the Anthony Barr position/role to sell (in fact, other programs have actually used the Anthony Barr-type role to recruits). 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, 6-5, 220, Orange (Calif.) Lutheran
Ranking: #32 Overall, #5 OLB COMMITTED

UCLA had long been at the top of Lucier-South's list. And just before the UCLA-USC game, Lucier-South ended his recruitment and committed to the Bruins. His versatility has made him a draw, and he's an exceptional pass-rusher. He'll just need to add some weight. We've heard UCLA has told him to get up to about 245, in good weight, for next fall and be ready to play. He'll visit officially in January but first he'll play in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl and said he plans to do some recruiting while he's down there.

Cassius Peat, 6-4, 235, Tempe (Ariz.) Corona Del Sol
Ranking: #132 Overall, #15 DE COMMITTED

Peat is one of the best pass rushers in the west, and had many programs pursuing him. Peat named his top six in July, which was Arizona State, Michigan State, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas A&M and UCLA. He was planning to take all five official visits but after his official visit to UCLA, he announced before he even left Westwood he'd be announcing the next day. And the day after he returned home to Arizona, he committed to the Bruins. Then he sort of opened things up earlier this month before an in-home visit with the UCLA coaches made him say he was back to being pretty solid to the Bruins. He'll still likely visit Arizona State in January. Peat could end up anywhere from the pass-rushing linebacker, to the hand-down defensive end, to even inside on the DL, depending on how his body goes, and he comes from a family of big men.

Jeff Holland
Jeff Holland, 6-3, 230, Jacksonville (Fla.) Trinity Christian
Ranking: #80 Overall, #7 OLB OFFERED

Holland is a pass rusher with a great motor who loves to hit people. He named his top six earlier this fall and it included the Bruins along with Florida, Auburn, USC, South Carolina and Florida State. His friend and high school teammate, Victor 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 planned to visit UCLA with Alexander for the USC game, but with TCA still in the playoffs then, they pushed it back to January. In fact, Holland told Scout that UCLA is right there with Florida and Auburn, the longtime leaders so a good trip could go a long way for Holland.


Needs at Position: 2-3

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.

Josh Woods, 6-2, 210, Upland (Calif.)
Ranking: #254 Overall, #21 OLB COMMITTED

Woods missed all of his junior year after transferring to Upland from Victorville, so he did every camp, combine and 7v7 imaginable this summer and showed what kind of prospect he is. One of those camps was the Bruin Elite Camp, where he looked very good and put himself high on the Bruins recruiting board. He said then that UCLA told him they wanted to see the first couple of games his senior year before they offered, but then in late July, they decided they didn't need to wait and offered Woods. After spending an hour thinking about it, Woods committed to UCLA. He grew up a USC fan but specifically said watching Jim Mora and UCLA the past two years he started to like the Bruins more. So far in his senior season he's looked like a very good get for UCLA, showing off some considerable athleticism -- and also as a tailback on offense. And he's also seen it boost his overall ranking, moving in to the Scout 300 and up to a four-star. Woods visited Washington State with two teammates committed to the Cougars, but said he's uncertain if he'll end up taking any more official visits. He said, though, despite the visits, he's solid to the Bruins. Woods wasat just about every home game this year. Woods will visit UCLA next month officially.

Victor Alexander, 5-10, 225, Jacksonville (Fla.) Trinity Christian
Ranking: #24 MLB COMMITTED

Alexander committed to the Bruins really early and he's still yet to visit Westwood. This fall, Alexander has gotten a lot of attention from Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech and Utah, and the two ACC schools are a real threat for Alexander. However, with him yet to take a visit, and still staying committed, the Bruins have a chance to seal the deal on his visit, especially if a teammate or two decides to join the mix. Alexander was supposed to visit UCLA in November for the USC game but had to push it back when TCA advanced in the state playoffs.

Josh Woods
Osa Masina, 6-4, 210, Salt Lake City (Utah) Brighton
Ranking: #22 Overall, #2 OLB OFFERED

Masina is the top prospect to come from Utah since Haloti Ngata in the 2002 class and every one in the country wants him. He visited UCLA officially for the Utah game (his brother plays for the Utes), and has since visited Arizona State and USC. He visited USC for the Notre Dame game and the visit went well for the Trojans, and there was some talk that Masina may have silently committed. Worst case, USC made a big impression. UCLA had an in-home with Masina last week to try to get back in the mix and even with the Trojans. January will be key for Masina, especially if he doesn't announce his decision at the U.S. Army Bowl.

Roquan Smith, 6-1, 207, Montezuma (Ga.) Macon County
Ranking: #67 Overall, #2 MLB OFFERED

Smith has visited USC and Georgia and will visit LSU in January. The Bruins had always been on his short list, but he surprisingly took an official visit to USC and its uncertain if he'll end up taking an official visit to UCLA in January, though he says he will. Still, the feeling has been all along that he wasn't leaving the South.


Needs at Position: 4+

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, but it's not as deep as it necessarily looks, with the future of some injured guys questionable. In fact, it looked like UCLA a few months ago would just take two DBs, but it now could take four or more. 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. We've seen this season how versatile DBs like Anthony Jefferson and Ishmael Adams can add dimension and depth to a secondary. With three committed, it's safe to assume if UCLA wouldn't hesitate to add two and even three more elite guys.

Colin Samuel, 6-2, 175, Long Beach (Calif.) Poly
Ranking: #40 CB COMMITTED

Samuel's emergence this season shows there is still stock put into a recruits senior year. He had mostly Mountain West and mid-tier Power 5 offers going in to his senior season, though the transition from Alemany to Poly probably didn't help. But in his senior year, playing on a very good Poly team and for a good secondary, he really got to blossom and it showed in his recruitment. Just recently named a four-star by Scout, Samuel turned his senior season into one that made him a national recruit, with Oklahoma and Mississippi State throwing their name in the ring for him. In fact, Samuel visited Oklahoma last weekend before committing to the Bruins. His commmitment gives the Bruins a high-upside four-star corner for their depth. It also gives them a commitment from Poly, which is obviously a school you want to keep drawing recruits from. Samuel is by no means, a finished product. But he's got a lot of upside, yet still is showing that he's got a chance to contribute early. As he continues to fill out, he'll present a nice option at corner down the line, with the potential to even put more weight on and become a safety.

William Lockett, 6-0, 182, Manvel (Tex.)
Ranking: #72 CB COMMITTED

Lockett emerged in the offseason and garnered offers from UCLA, Michigan State, Missouri, Maryland and more. He has good size, and good speed, to go along with good cover skills. He camped at UCLA, and the word was that, as a result of his unofficial visit, UCLA had emerged as the leader. While he didn't commit right after the time in Westwood, he ultimately did in August. He had a big senior season and more schools came after him, including Oklahoma, which had him in for an official visit last month. The Sooners made a decent move for him, but then the next weekend, Lockett visited UCLA officially, for the USC game, and the visit went so well that Lockett said he was done with his recruitment entirely and was solid to the Bruins.

Octavius Spencer, 6-1.5, 170, Monrovia (Calif.)
Ranking: #48 CB COMMITTED

Spencer is an intriguing prospect, and much like Samuel, again proves that there is still importance in the senior season. Spencer had one offer going into the 2014 campaign, from Sacramento State, then UCLA, Oregon, Washington and Cal all offered him. Oregon actually got him to take an official visit the weekend of the UCLA-USC game and made a big impression, putting themselves in the lead. He then visited Washington (a weekend after attending the UCLA-Stanford game). It looked like he wouldn't commit anywhere until he took an official visit to UCLA, but out of the blue, he committed to the Bruins this week. Like we said, he reminds us of Mossi Johnson, another player who was relatively overlooked until his senior year, where he really emerged. And like Johnson, Spencer has the ability to play on either side of the ball. The chance of Spencer playing more receiver than defensive back is real and he could mirror Johnson in his impact in the offense. Spencer's best football is ahead of him and he's big on upside and is a nice pickup for the Bruins.

Dechaun Holiday, 6-2, 190, San Marcos (Calif.) Mission Hills
Ranking: #92 Overall, #10 CB OFFERED

Holiday has been one of UCLA's primary targets for most of the recruiting process and he came up from San Diego to San Bernardino to watch the Bruins practice and has been to a couple of games. If there was one uncommitted target for the Bruins we feel the most comfortable in saying will sign with UCLA, its Holiday. He's been high on their board for a year, and he's always talked glowingly about UCLA. He and Demetrice Martin have a great relationship, and with Martin and Mora coveting position versatility, Holiday has that. He's not taken any official visits, but UCLA is the one school he said for sure will get one. He could announce at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl but may also wait until January. He'll visit next month.

Iman Marshall, 6-1, 190, Long Beach (Calif.) Poly
Ranking: #11 Overall, #2 CB OFFERED

Marshall's recruitment will be one of the most fascinating ones to watch through Signing Day. Most feel he's headed to USC, the childhood favorite, and there is good reason to think that is the case, but Jim Mora has also been personally recruiting him and he does have a good relationship with Mora and Demetrice Martin, while spending a lot of time on the UCLA campus. Privately there have been times when there have been indications he, indeed, is destined for USC, but other times we've heard he's legitimately displayed a favoring of UCLA. He's worn UCLA gloves in games, been to a number of Bruin games, and will tweet or instagram 'Four's Up'. Still, we'd be stunned if he ended up anywhere but USC.

Ben Edwards, 6-0, 195, Jacksonville (Calif.) Trinity Christian Academy.
Ranking: #46 S OFFERED

Edwards has been committed to both Ohio State and Auburn, but is open again. The recent word is that UCLA has a legitimate shot with him, but its a matter of how much UCLA wants him. He will officially visit UCLA with his teammate Victor Alexander in January. He's visited Notre Dame, North Carolina and Stanford officially and will make his decision following his visit to UCLA.

Prentice McKinney, 6-2, 180, Dallas (Texas) South Oak Cliff
Ranking: #30 S OFFERED

McKinney has been committed to Notre Dame since March, but UCLA swung by his school before the dead period and offered and now he'll take an official visit in January. While it may be tough to steal him from the Irish, the fact that he's willing to take an official visit next month has to give UCLA some confidence.

Nathan Meadors, 6-2, 180, San Bernardino (Calif.) San Gorgonio
Ranking: #68 S OFFERED

Meadors got an offer from the Bruins just as he was emerging as a prospect. Cal and Notre Dame have also offered and he's visited Cal already as well as Boise State and will visit Washington, UCLA and Notre Dame next month. The Bruins were in the lead, but the visit to Cal helped the Bears quite a bit. Still, UCLA will have their shot at him when he takes his trip.

Fotu Leiato, 6-0, 200, Steilacoom (Wash.)
Ranking: 3* NR at OLB OFFERED

The owner of one of the most entertaining senior highlight films around, Leiato was offered last week by the Bruins as a safety. He comes from a suburb of Tacoma and UCLA visited him at the school when in town to see Benning Potoae. He'll visit officially in January, though the date hasn't been set yet. Oklahoma just offered this week so the secret of Leiato is getting out.

Football Recruiting Reset: Offense Premium Story - Here's the companion piece -- running down UCLA's targets on the offensive side of the ball...

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