UCLA will only have three official visitors this weekend, with their big weekend set for next week.
But the three are big: two of them are the No. 1 ranked players at their position nationally.
The headliner is Avon (Conn.) Old Farms tight end Chris Clark, the five-star who's the top-ranked tight end in the country.
Clark is essentially down to Michigan and UCLA. He'd committed to the Wolverines then opened things up when Brady Hoke was fired, but the hiring of Jim Harbaugh catapulted Michigan right back in to the race and his official visit there last weekend went extremely well for the Wolverines.
Now the Bruins have their chance, and they turned their focus to Clark last fall when it appeared imminent that Alize Jones, their longtime commit, was looking elsewhere. By the time Jones had flipped to Notre Dame, UCLA had already shifted its focus to Clark.
Keller (Texas) offensive lineman Maea Teuhema has been committed to LSU for almost two years and still seems to be solid to the Tigers, but UCLA is getting him in with the hopes of flipping him and Adrian Klemm has flipped a Texas OL who was committed to a Power 5 school every year he's been at UCLA.
Speaking of Michigan, Buffalo (N.Y.) Canisius defensive end Tyrone Wheatley, who's father was just hired to coach running backs for the Wolverines, will be visiting this weekend.
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.
Maea Teuhema (6'5, 346)
No. 1 OG, No. 42 Overall
Introduction: As we talked about yesterday, no matter how UCLA finishes, if the Bruins retain all of their current offensive line commitments, they're going to have one of the strongest offensive line classes in the country. But one more commitment would tip the balance and give UCLA the odds-on favorite for the best offensive line class in the country. Well, the secret's out, and UCLA will earn a visit from the No. 1 offensive guard this weekend, Maea Teuhema. Teuhema is a longtime commitment to LSU, where his brother plays, but a visit to UCLA in the California sunshine could be especially enticing. Teuhema would be the icing on an offensive line class to rival Adrian Klemm's haul from 2013.
Recruitment: LSU seemingly pulled off a massive coup on Signing Day last year, flipping the commitments of brothers Sione and Maea Teuhema from Texas. Sione, a four-star outside linebacker in the 2014 class, just finished his first season at LSU while Maea has been committed to the Tigers since February. Recently, though, Maea Teuhema has started to look around, with Oklahoma and UCLA both factoring into the mix. He took a visit to Oklahoma in early December, and his upcoming visit to UCLA was kept very much under wraps until this week. There have been rumors that his brother hasn't had the best time at LSU, so it'll be very interesting to see what happens with Teuhema over the next few weeks.
Evaluation: Teuhema is a massive road-grader of an offensive guard, with great strength and size. He plays with an incredible mean streak, and really seems like he wants to drive opponents into the ground when he's lined up against them. He's probably carrying a little too much weight, and it keeps him from being quite as explosive off the snap as he could be, so shedding a good 25 pounds or so is going to be critical for him in his first year in a college program. But in terms of natural strength and drive-blocking ability, there are few offensive linemen his equal in this class. For UCLA's purposes, if he committed, Teuhema would have an opportunity to factor into the mix his freshman year, especially if Scott Quessenberry ends up redshirting, but we could also see him backing up his first year, working on his body, and then really competing for playing time at either guard spot in his second year in the program.
Chris Clark (6’6, 247)
Avon (Conn.) Old Farms
No. 1 TE, No. 23 Overall
Introduction: Just last week, UCLA lost its longtime tight end commitment, Alize Jones, who flipped to Notre Dame. Jones originally committed to UCLA in November of 2013, and had given indications as recently as the end of last summer that he was completely done with his recruitment. But, over the last few months, it’s become increasingly clear that Notre Dame had made up a ton of ground. To UCLA’s credit, the Bruins did a nice job of reading the tea leaves and pivoting early enough to salvage tight end recruiting for this cycle. After getting some lukewarm signals from Jones through the season, the UCLA coaching staff offered Chris Clark, the No. 1 tight end in the country, in mid-November. Since then, the Bruins have pressed hard for Clark, regardless of Jones’ decision, and now stand in reasonable position to land him.
Recruitment: Clark’s recruitment has been a pretty dramatic affair. He’s already committed to two different schools — North Carolina in the spring, and Michigan in the summer — and decommitted from Michigan after Brady Hoke was fired in early December. Since then, he’s taken visits to a variety of schools, but recently cut his list down to just two — UCLA and Michigan. Clark is fresh off his official visit to Michigan, where he met with Jim Harbaugh for the first time. He came away impressed, and the thinking is that it truly is a neck-and-neck battle between the two schools. UCLA will have a chance to sway him this weekend, likely pitching him on the idea that he can by the game-changer for UCLA’s offense, since the Bruins haven’t had a true tight end type since Joseph Fauria graduated. This will be his first visit to UCLA, and with perfect 80 degree weather forecasted for the weekend, it could be a pretty significant one.
Evaluation: Clark is a true tight end in the mold of the (seemingly) dozens of tight ends Stanford churned out in the Harbaugh era, which is why there’s some belief he’ll ultimately end up at Michigan. He’s big, strong, and physical, but he’s also a very good pass-catcher, making him a true dual-threat tight end, with the ability to block at a very high level coupled with the ability to run crisp routes and make big catches downfield. Unlike Alize Jones, who projected more as just a big, albeit extremely athletic, receiver, Clark would change the dynamics of UCLA’s offense quite a bit, allowing the Bruins to use more varied power formations. Right now, Poasi Moala and a variety of defensive linemen have had to play those fullback and tight end roles when UCLA does go to a big formation, but the addition of Clark would change that, and give the Bruins a player who is both a real threat to catch the ball and a real asset in run-blocking.