2016 Recruiting Analysis: Wide Receiver

Feb. 19 -- As with the last two years, the main goal for receiver recruiting this cycle should be adding quickness and speed...

This is the third in a series that gets into some deep analysis of UCLA's recruiting needs for 2016 position by position.

Already, we've published:

-- 2016 Recruiting Analysis: Quarterbacks
-- 2016 Recruiting Analysis: Running Backs

UCLA clearly signed a considerably talent-laden class for 2015. Plugging that into the existing talent in the program, UCLA is definitely at its most talented point in quite a long time.

In analyzing the projected depth chart after plugging in the incoming freshmen, it’s fun to nitpick and analyze what are some areas of need for the program, specifically for the 2016 recruiting class.

It definitely is a new era in UCLA football recruiting. Just a few years ago, we couldn’t write the type of article this is – where we selectively pinpointed specific needs in the program. Pretty much under the last couple of coaching staffs you didn’t have that luxury – you’d just say UCLA needed to load up on talent at every position from top to bottom.

So, here it is, what UCLA needs position by position, in 2016, and the 2016 prospects out there that UCLA has a chance to get that best fills that need.

Wide Receiver

Need and Recruiting Tactic: We’ve been beating the drum for a while, and this year is no different: the Bruins need to add some quickness and speed to the receiving corps in 2016. Landing Ryan Newsome would have been significant because he would have given UCLA some of that speed and playmaking out of the slot. It’s been the one glaring deficiency in wide receiver recruiting — generally, UCLA has been able to land the bigger-bodied possession receivers, but landing that elite playmaker has been much more difficult.

From a realistic standpoint, there just haven’t been that many great options on the west coast in the last couple of cycles. Michiah Quick, Adoree Jackson, Dominic Davis — the way each of those recruitments ended up, it would have been pretty shocking to see them head to UCLA. Outside of the west, UCLA has targeted a few guys, and came the closest with Newsome, who seemed to really buy into the idea that he could be that player who blows the top off the defense for the Bruins. But, alas, he couldn’t tear himself away from home and ended up back at Texas. We’d have to figure, though, that the pitch UCLA used with Newsome is probably the most effective method for recruiting those types of players — effectively, come to UCLA and you can be the missing piece to our offensive puzzle. It almost worked with a kid from Texas, so given how deep the class of receivers is in the West, it should work on someone local.

But in addition to that, UCLA will also lose Jordan Payton, Devin Lucien, and Devin Fuller (not to mention Tyler Scott and Logan Sweet) after this season, so we’d have to imagine UCLA is thinking that they'll also be in the market for the bigger types of receivers as well. UCLA does already have quite a few of those types of the roster, though, so we think it’d be a bit of a mis-step to overload on bigger, possession types in this cycle. Right now, if there’s a big need, it’s quickness and speed, and loading up on three quicker receivers could pay big dividends soon.

So, essentially the need is this: UCLA has some bodies to replace, but the most important skill-set that needs to be added is quickness and play-making ability. So, while it’d be great to find that type of ability in the body of a 6’2 type who can do all the blocking of Jordan Payton, the biggest priority should be adding athletic playmakers, whatever size they are.

Our Picks For the Right Fit*

*As a note, we’re not including Michael Pittman here, since we think he’s more likely a tight end or a defensive player at the college level.

Howard makes the most sense, given the parameters listed above, because he comes the closest to fitting both of UCLA’s needs (some size, very good quickness) and the Bruins are already doing well with him. Howard has very good straight ahead speed and underrated quickness, and is an accomplished route-runner. He catches the ball well, and has very good open field ability. In the last year, he developed a really good connection with Malik Henry which seemed to elevate his game a bit.

Physically, Howard is a legitimate 6’1 and projects as an outside receiver in UCLA’s system, with a body that can probably add enough weight to give him the ability to be a good blocker as well. For what UCLA’s needs are (quickness and size) Howard is as close to a realistic perfect fit as there is in the 2016 class.

Alloway is an obvious fit for the shiftier, play-making slot receiver. He is fast, quick, and has excelled as both a receiver and a kick returner. Perhaps the most significant thing is that he’s local. Rather than having to hit Texas, the South, or even somewhere in Northern California, UCLA can take a short step outside of its backyard to recruit Alloway. Alloway grew up a UCLA fan, so from that perspective he also makes sense as a fit for the Bruins.

If we have a concern from watching his film (and we’ll have to see him in person to get a really good evaluation of this), it’s that he doesn’t appear to be extremely explosive — it looks like it does take him a bit to get up to top speed. He looks like he has a good ability to make guys miss, though, and his top end speed shows that he can run away from defenders, so it’s perhaps a bit of a nitpick to also expect him to explode to top speed within a step or two.

Getting that type of player is a real need for UCLA. Even if Alloway doesn’t have that ability to explode out of a cut, his natural quickness and speed would give UCLA an immediate upgrade in both areas in the wide receiving corps.

Long is another of the quicker, smaller types of receivers, but as we said up top, UCLA needs to add quickness and speed in whatever way it can. With Massington, Roberts, Alex Van Dyke, Jordan Lasley, Cordell Broadus, Thomas Duarte, and Chris Clark, UCLA has size aplenty at the receiver positions. Quickness, though, is not as prevalent, and Long would provide an immediate upgrade there. In contrast to Alloway, Long actually accelerates very quickly, but probably doesn’t quite have Alloway’s top-end speed. In terms of UCLA’s needs, though, that might make him a better fit, since he can probably accelerate upfield better on swing passes and receiver screens.

Long is also a surprisingly physical player, given his size. While he’s not particularly well-built, he is a very willing blocker, and sees the field very well, to the point where he can go out and find the right guys to block. From a toughness standpoint, he’d be a nice fit in terms of how UCLA likes to use its receivers as both pass-catchers and run-blockers.

Others Who Could Fit

Jones also completely fits the mold of a quicker slot receiver. He’s packed on about ten pounds since we saw him over last summer, but looks like he’s gotten even quicker and faster since then. As he continues to fill out and add muscle, he could get even more explosive. His hands are generally thought to be pretty good, but he had some issues in the 7-on-7 the other day, oftentimes trying to make a move before he really looked the ball into his hands. Those are nitpicks, though; as it stands, Jones has exceptional playmaking ability, and with the ball in his hands, there are few his equal on the West Coast this year. The issue here isn’t so much talent as it is how realistic of an option he is for UCLA; as of right now, the expectation is that he’s leaning toward USC, having grown up a fan of the school. In any case, UCLA would be foolish not to recruit him hard for at least a while, since he is local and an obvious talent.

We already wrote about Felton in the running back story, but as we discussed there, it’s uncertain where he ends up. Felton has burst onto the scene of late after some good performances in 7-on-7 action. Burst is the operative word there: Felton might be one of the more explosive players in the 2016 class in the West. From watching his tape, he looks more like a running back than a slot receiver, but we’ve heard that he looked very much like a slot receiver during 7-on-7 action. In any case, with his speed and explosiveness, he’s probably one of the more intriguing players to see this spring. If his explosiveness in person matches what we’ve seen on his film, then there’s every reason to think he could rocket up UCLA’s recruiting board.

It’s unclear what Sidney will play at the next level. Currently, Scout has him ranked as a cornerback, and that certainly could be where he ends up in college, as he has good quickness and plays with a competitive edge. He’s told us before that he’d prefer to play on the offensive end, and from what we saw of him last year, he looks like he could make an impact on that end as well. He is a playmaker, with overall good athleticism. Despite being somewhere in the 5’10 to 5’11 range, he has good leaping ability to go along with good speed and very good quickness. His hands have been a little questionable from what we’ve seen, which may play into why many see him as a defensive player. UCLA was his first offer and the Bruins have been on him hard, but this is another situation where UCLA will likely be going up against USC for his services.

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