We’re doing a series of analyses about what are UCLA’s needs at each position for 2016, but we decided to also provide you an early review of how the Bruins are doing recruiting the 2016 class at each position.
This isn’t a comprehensive rundown of each prospect at each position, but more an overview of how UCLA is doing recruiting at each position, with some examples of prospects at that position.
UCLA is in a recruiting situation at quarterback it hasn’t experienced in, well, ever. It’s recruiting the season after it got the nation’s #1 quarterback. The worry is that UCLA does a couple of things here: 1) Has a little bit of hubris and believes it can go out and get a five-star quarterback right after it brought in Josh Rosen or 2) believes quarterback isn’t a priority for 2016 because it has Rosen. Either scenario could leave a pretty big hole in UCLA’s quarterback depth chart in a couple of years. As of now, UCLA is being pretty selective, having offered just a few quarterback prospects around the nation -- guys that, to be blunt, they have very little chance of getting. It seems like they had really targeted Malik Henry (the elite prospect who was at Westlake Village (Calif.) Westlake but has recently transferred to IMG Academy in Florida), and really hadn’t put too much recruiting focus on other 2016 QB prospects. Since Henry committed to Florida State they’ve seemingly been re-assessing, and are waiting until spring to see many of the local prospects in person at their high school spring practices before really offering any of them or going hard after them. We understand it, but that might be a bit risky. Many of the quarterback prospects we think UCLA will end up recruiting for 2016 are getting recruited pretty heavily already by other programs.
One recent development that was a bit eye-opening was the commitment of Armani Rogers, the prospect from Los Angeles Hamilton, to California. We know that UCLA had been targeting Rogers as a guy they wanted to see this spring. Rogers is really raw, so it’s understandable that UCLA wanted to see him in person, but Cal has a completely different situation to be able to offer someone like Rogers this early. It’s definitely a type of situation UCLA might see itself in a few times recruiting quarterbacks for 2016.
We think a good possibility is Max Gilliam (Pictured above), the prospect from Thousand Oaks (Calif.). UCLA has had some contact with Gilliam, and we like him, and think he could be a good fit for UCLA in 2016, for a number of reasons, primarily: he has some really exceptional tools but needs to develop physically before he actually plays in a college game; he's a good student, which helps UCLA's overall team academics and is especially key for a quarterback; and he’s local, which means he’s more apt to be okay with sitting behind Rosen for a couple of years and won’t want to transfer back home since he’s in his own backyard. Also, and perhaps the biggest reason -- Gilliam is a life-long UCLA fan, with his mom having attended UCLA, so UCLA is his dream school. You’re always risking insulting a prospect like this by waiting too long to offer, but as of now Gilliam doesn’t have any other offers, so UCLA wouldn’t have to pull the trigger anytime soon to still have favored status.
It’s a tough dynamic recruiting a quarterback in the class right after Josh Rosen. It not only affects how the program recruits but how recruits view the program, and their chances to play there. While recruiting and getting a commitment from the nation’s #1 QB might seem like it would take the utmost effort and nuance, getting a prospect a year later who is capable of playing at UCLA, with all of the factors coming in after Rosen, could take even more recruiting adeptness. We completely understand UCLA wants to wait until spring to see the prospects in person and that, really, anyone like Rogers who committed before that is just someone you have to concede. But UCLA needs to work hard to keep the Modsters, Gilliams and Finks warm – and keep them from committing elsewhere – before UCLA has a chance to really evaluate them. The thought could be that it can probably pick up a legitimate guy who's good enough to be on UCLA's roster anytime between now and January. But to get the optimum prospect, one who has a legitimate chance of flourishing as the UCLA starter as a redshirt sophomore, we think UCLA needs to perhaps be a bit more aggressive. At this point, we think UCLA is doing a moderate job in its quarterback recruiting for 2016, and hope that there aren't more Rogers situations in the next several months.
The big event here will be the UCLA camp in late June, when Taylor and Noel Mazzone can see the prospects directly and coach them in person. We think that will be the major catalyst to any UCLA offers this spring. Perhaps not being on too many prospects at this stage won't really matter until then. Also, don't completely count out the L.A. Nike Camp this Sunday; if a prospect – like Fink – really has an exceptional showing, and it’s a no-brainer-offer situation, it could possibly precipitate a UCLA offer.