Tyrone Wheatley (6'6.5, 270)
Buffalo (NY) Canisius
No. 25 DE, No. 279 Overall
Introduction: As we've discussed at length, filling the defensive line depth chart in the next two classes is going to be critical, since there's a fairly decent chance that one or both of Kenneth Clark and Eddie Vanderdoes could elect to leave school early for the NFL after next season, leaving a gaping hole in their wake. Tyrone Wheatley is yet another player that could fill that void, and with Wheatley, UCLA essentially gets two-for-one: if, for whatever reason, the Bruins don't necessarily need Wheatley at defensive end, the four-star is an equally talented tight end who could plug any gaps on that side of the ball as well, particularly if UCLA misses on five-star tight end Chris Clark.
Recruitment: Wheatley's recruitment became considerably more interesting in recent weeks when his father, the former Michigan and NFL player, was hired as the running backs coach at Michigan. Wheatley had downplayed his interest in Michigan before his father was hired, and has downplayed it since as well, but there's plenty of speculation that he may ultimately end up there. If he doesn't, the feeling is that the two Los Angeles schools, UCLA and USC, could do battle for the New Yorker. Both schools have been consistently in his top five since late last spring, with UCLA recruiting him primarily as a defensive end and USC recruiting him primarily as a tight end. It could come down, ultimately, to, first, whether he wants to play for his dad, and second, what position he wants to play in college. The visit this weekend would be his second to UCLA after an unofficial visit in April of last year.
Evaluation: Wheatley is a big, strong defensive end, whose size can somewhat hide that he's also pretty explosive off the ball. While he might not have the speed of a premier edge rusher, he has enough short-area quickness to blow plays up in the backfield before they develop, and occasionally get a good enough angle to take running backs down from behind. At his size, he might actually grow into an interior linemen, though it may be difficult to play with great pad level given his height. His main asset, though, is his strength, as he's able to bull rush and beat up most offensive tackles at the high school level. As a tight end, he'd fit in as a traditional tight end, with the ability to both block and catch at a high level. For UCLA's purposes, while he is almost certainly not a day one starter, he's yet another player who has some positional versatility along the defensive line, particularly if UCLA stays with its hybrid 3-4. By year two and beyond he could be a starter, or at the very least a key rotational player.
Official Visit Preview: Tyrone Wheatley
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