10. Joseph Wicker, DE, Long Beach (Calif.) Poly,
Wicker drew an offer from the Bruins at the beginning of his senior season, and since then, the speculation is that UCLA is in a very good spot for him. He hasn’t yet visited UCLA officially, but that’s expected to happen in January, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if he committed soon thereafter. Arizona State is also in the picture, and he did just officially visit Arizona, but the Bruins are likely still in good shape here.
Wicker is a versatile linemen, with the ability to play defensive end or, given that he’s already probably near 275 pounds, the three-technique defensive tackle. He has great strength and is an adept run stopper both on the edge and inside. Power is definitely his game, but he’s shown some good explosion at times as well, which could allow him to develop into a pass rusher down the road.
With so few defensive tackle types in the West this year, Wicker is a key recruit for UCLA. Although he’s almost certainly not a nose tackle, unless he grows considerably bigger, he can definitely play on the interior in UCLA’s 4-2-5 look, in something similar to Eddie Vanderdoes’ current role. If UCLA elects to go back to a pure 3-4, he could play either end spot as well. Much will depend on which way his body goes.
Year One Impact? It’ll be interesting. UCLA clearly has a top three with some combination of Kenneth Clark, Eddie Vanderdoes, and Ellis McCarthy (assuming he gets in better shape this offseason). Beyond those, Takkarist McKinley, Matt Dickerson, and Jacob Tuioti-Mariner all showed enough in their first years in the program to expect them to make an impact next year. There’s definitely room for Wicker to compete for serious playing time next year, with the two-deep relatively unsettled, but if we had to predict right now, we’d say his biggest impact would come after Clark, Vanderdoes, and McCarthy are gone, potentially as early as the 2016 season.
9. Josh Wariboko, OG, Oklahoma City (Okla.) Casady,
Wariboko has had an interesting recruitment. His parents are Oklahoma commits, so he committed to the Sooner early without spending much time at all going through his options. He ultimately decided to decommit from Oklahoma over the spring, and since then there’s been varying degrees of speculation about whether or not he’s really still considering Oklahoma, and if the Sooners offering his brother Max would have any impact on his recruitment. As it stands, though, the word is that UCLA has a lead in this recruitment thanks to the relationship Wariboko has built with offensive line coach Adrian Klemm over the last several months, and the comfort Wariboko felt on his multiple visits to Los Angeles over the last six months.
Klemm is putting together another excellent offensive line class in 2015, and it should finally give UCLA some much needed depth. Wariboko, we’d imagine, will be given a chance to compete, and if there’s one area where the depth seems a little bit thin, it’s at guard, where UCLA would love to redshirt Scott Quessenberry and where UCLA didn’t get great production out of Alex Redmond this year. If Wariboko does end up picking UCLA, he would give the Bruins another top shelf guard prospect who could be expected to compete for playing time from the get-go.
Year One Impact? UCLA’s offensive line depth is in very good shape entering 2015, but if we’ve learned nothing from the last 15 years, there’s no such thing as too much depth for the OL. Wariboko will likely compete for the two-deep in year one, but we’d imagine his impact will be felt more in years two through four, when he projects as a starting-level player.
8. Sotonye Jamabo, RB, Plano (Tex.) West,
The story on Jamabo since the summer is that he’s down to UCLA and Notre Dame, and from what we’ve heard over the last few months, very little has changed in that regard. Since his UCLA official visit, there have been consistent rumblings that UCLA is the leader, though there’s still a good distance to go in his recruitment, and he does have a couple of local schools in his top six in Baylor and Texas A&M.
Jamabo is a really unique player, with great size for a running back at nearly 6’3, but without the makeup of a power back. He put up eye-popping stats in his final year of high school, and has very good speed and quickness for his size. As we said, he’s not a power back, despite his size, and doesn’t look for contact, instead preferring to juke his way through defenses. He’s really versatile, with the ability to run the ball out of the backfield or even line up in the slot as a receiver, and he has excellent hands. We have him a little lower on this list than his ranking would indicate, but it's mostly due to not being completely sure where he fits in -- as a running back, he doesn't seem to be the power type that perfectly fits Kennedy Polamalu's style, and, as a receiver, we're not sure if he's so electric in the open field that it'll put him well above the other receivers already at UCLA.
That said, he might very well be able to fill that role of playmaker that they’ve coveted. He plays on a team with a very good offensive line so he generally has pretty big holes to run through in high school, but he has the athleticism to make plays in the open field. Whether he would be used as a running back or as a receiver, he’d provide instant value to an offense in need of real playmakers.
Year One Impact? It would be a tall order for him to win the starting job at running back in year one, especially over the Pac-12 returning rushing champion. We actually see him performing a variety of roles for UCLA, and maybe even working in as an F receiver in more of the Steven Manfro 2012-mold than the Devin Fuller mold — catching swings out of the backfield and lining up in the slot on occasion, but with a few runs mixed in. He would almost certainly be an impact player in year one.
7. Alize Jones, TE, Las Vegas (Nev.) Bishop Gorman,
Chris Clark, TE, Avon (Conn.) Old Farms,
At this point, given how shakily committed Jones appears to be, we'll just treat this as two uncommitted tight end prospects, and it would be big for UCLA to just land one of them. The Bruins are in need of a true tight end, with good height and pass-catching ability, and both players have those features. Jones is more of an athletic freak, of course, but Clark provides more bulk and size which could serve UCLA well next season if they opt to become more of a run-dominated team in Josh Rosen's first year. Either would provide a dimension to the offense that hasn't been seen since Joe Fauria left for the NFL.
Clark decommitted from Michigan after Brady Hoke was fired, and has been looking at a variety of schools, with UCLA figuring prominently in the mix. There's even some thought that if UCLA were to drop Jones, UCLA could be the favorite to land Clark. It would be a tough gamble to take without some absolute assurances, and, as we've learned in doing this, there are no absolute assurances in recruiting.
As we said, either would be a significant impact player for UCLA, likely early on. The Bruins don't really have a true tight end. Thomas Duarte is not an effective blocker, and the other two receivers with real size -- Austin Roberts and Alex Van Dyke -- are still unproven (Roberts due to a season-ending injury over the summer and Van Dyke because he still needs to add strength). Getting either Clark or Jones would give UCLA the red zone target it lacked at times this year and last.
Year One Impact? Clark might actually make more of a year one impact than Jones because he provides such a different dimension with his strength and ability to block. Both players would almost certainly play in their first year, and possibly become early favored targets for Rosen in the red zone. By year two, we could see either player starting, with UCLA potentially going to more two tight end looks.
6. Jeff Holland, OLB, Jacksonville (Fla.) Trinity Christian,
Holland, a teammate of current UCLA commit Victor Alexander, has been a UCLA target since his junior year, and throughout his recruitment UCLA has been mentioned as a legitimate possibility. We're actually not certain how seriously he's considering the Bruins at the moment, because he was unable to schedule an official visit to Westwood prior to the dead period, and he might still make his decision at the Under Armour All-American Game on January 2nd. In any case, as of now, he's only officially visited Auburn, so we wouldn't be shocked if he pushed his decision back to Signing Day, giving him time to visit UCLA (which is scheduled to take place the weekend of January 16th). With the hiring of Will Muschamp at Auburn, though, the Tigers could be tough to beat.
Holland has great size and physicality, playing with a good deal of strength. He's very good against the run, and can also use his strength and tenacity as a pass rusher to cause issues on the edge. He plays with a good deal of violence, and just from a physical standpoint, he looks close to college-ready. He's not, as of yet, great in pass coverage, but if he slotted into the role that Deon Hollins currently occupies, he wouldn't need to play much in coverage. His athleticism also could eventually lend itself to him becoming better against the pass.
Now, from what we've heard, there could be some of those storied fit issues with Holland that might prevent him from ultimately landing at UCLA. But, discounting those, he's a potential instant impact player who would give UCLA a physical boost at ouside linebacker.
Year One Impact? Given what we learned about how difficult it was for players to adjust to their new gap responsibilities in the defense this year, we're uncertain whether a player like Holland could come in and immediately win a starting job. We'd actually say it's unlikely. However, he has enough talent, and he's physically developed enough, that we could absolutely see him not redshirting and, in fact, playing considerably in his first year in the program, with the potential to start as early as his second year.