The biggest news, perhaps, is that Gardena Serra defensive end Oluwole Betiku could be close to making a decision, at least possibly in the next couple of months. Depending on who you talk to, the nation's #7-ranked defensive end is leaning to either UCLA or USC at this time. There are those that think the Serra-USC connection will win out, but there are others close to the recruitment that feel UCLA has the inside track. As we've reported, Betiku's guardian is former Penn State linebacker great LaVar Arrington, and Arrington is very close with new UCLA Defensive Coordinator Tom Bradley. Betiku unofficially visited UCLA last week and met with Bradley. Arrington, then, came to UCLA to see Bradley and hang with the coaching staff. Also, we've heard from sources at Serra that Betiku calls UCLA Defensive Line Coach Angus McClure just about every day.
Getting Betiku, this early, would be a major coup for UCLA. As you remember, UCLA signed only one defensive lineman in the 2015 class so the DL was imperative for the 2016 class. Securing Betiku would be a huge boost to McClure's 2016 recruiting then.
We know that UCLA is doing well with Osa Odighizuwa, the defensive tackle from Portland (Ore.) Douglas, the younger brother of UCLA senior defensive end Owa Odighizuwa.
The dream guy is Rashan Gary, the nation's #1 defensive tackle prospect, from Paramus (New Jersey). The word is that Gary intends to visit UCLA unofficially this spring or summer, and come out with his family. As we've said, when a recruit from out of the region visits UCLA on his own dime and brings family members it's a sign he's considering UCLA seriously.
UCLA, we've heard, is doing very well with Boulder (Col.) Fairview defensive end Carlo Kemp, and probably leads for him at this point. Here's a recent article Scout posted on Kemp: Carlo Kemp is Moving in Silence.
We also know that UCLA is aggressively pursuing Maxs Tupai, the defensive end from Murray (Utah), and that the Bruins are one of the early leaders. In fact, we've heard that Jim Mora has talked with Tupai recently. USC, also, recently offered, so the thought is that the Tupai recruitment is going to be a battleground.
On the offensive line recruiting front, the buzz is that the unofficial visit to UCLA by Luke Wattenberg, from San Juan Capistrano JSerra, went really well. Washington might have been leading for Wattenberg before the visit, but that was only because UCLA hadn't seen Wattenberg in person. Apparently Wattenberg and his family were really impressed on the visit and that easily got him leaning to the Bruins. It's really significant, too, since we've heard that Wattenberg will probably make a decision sometime in the next two months, so UCLA is looking good here. Wattenberg is the #3 OT in the west for 2016, and the #29 OT in the nation, so that would be a very good start for Offensive Line Coach Adrian Klemm for 2016.
Alex Akingbulu, the OL prospect from Harbor City (Calif.) Narbonne, and Nathan Smith, the prospect from Murrieta (Calif.) Murietta Mesa, are both expected to unofficially visit UCLA Saturday. Both already have offers, but it will be interesting to see how the visits go, after their performances last Sunday at The Opening Regional L.A. left some questions about both of them. The issue on Akingbulu was how light and narrow he looked, at about 6-5 to 6-6 and 230ish. And Smith didn't perform well, even though we heard that he was experiencing some serious back spasms and decided to tough it out and compete.
We think that UCLA will probably pick up its recruitment of Nate Herbig, from Honolulu (Hawaii) St. Louis. Herbig visited UCLA before The Opening L.A., and did well there. UCLA probably won't offer soon, but Herbig is now firmly on the UCLA OL recruiting radar. Herbig only has one offer to date, from San Diego State, but that will probably change by the end of the summer. UCLA would have a very good chance given its Hawaii OL connections.
We've learned that Lamar Jackson, from Elk Grove (Calif.) Franklin, has emerged as one of UCLA's top DB targets. Jackson is a great all-around athlete who found a home at defensive back on his high school team this season, and UCLA just recently offered. He's the typical big DB that UCLA Defensive Backs Coach Demetrice Martin covets, who could possibly play some corner as well as safety.
The main DB targets for UCLA have come more into focus now. They are Jackson, Jack Jones, the Long Beach Poly prospect who put on a show at The Opening Sunday at defensive back; Los Angeles Loyola's David Long, another two-way athlete who looked very impressive at The Opening; Trevon Sidney, also a two-way player from La Puente (Calif.) Bishop Amat; Byron Murphy, from Scottsdale (Ariz.) Saguaro, and probably Jordan Parker, the prospect from Pittsburg (Calif.).
UCLA is looking good for Jackson, Jones, Long and Sidney, and if they got even just two of those guys it'd be a win. Murphy apparently has an affinity for UCLA, being really close with current UCLA DB Priest Willis, but we've heard that he's even closer with 2015 Saguaro and Texas A&M-committed receiver Christian Kirk, which makes most people close to the situation believe he'll be an Aggie.
Sidney has indicated to the schools recruiting him that he wants to play receiver. And he very well could play receiver on the next level. He looked very good catching passes at The Opening Sunday. In fact, he was probably the best receiver prospect there, despite not taking that many reps. Many, though, think he ends up at cornerback, where he also looked good Sunday. It's tough to determine; Sidney isn't lightning fast in the 40, but he's phenomenally quick in short space. The moves he showed as a receiver Sunday were the best in the camp. He was the only one who got the best of Jones. But being 5-10ish, he might feel that his best pro prospect is at cornerback. Either way, UCLA should just take Sidney if he wants to come and let Martin and UCLA Receivers Coach Eric Yarber fight it out over him.
Another to watch in terms of DBs is Chase Lucas, the athlete from Chandler (Ariz.). Lucas is a running back/defensive back, who looks good on tape at running back. He, though, worked out at running back at The Opening and didn't really stand out. He has a very good cornerback body, at about 6-0 and 180 and, while UCLA has been recruiting him as a running back/slot, we think this could change and they start looking at him as a DB. Lucas visited UCLA Tuesday and said he "fell in love with UCLA today," according to Twitter.
Also there is Michael Pittman, the prospect committed to UCLA from Westlake Village (Calif.) Oaks Christian, and a possibility he ends up at safety. Right now it's completely uncertain what position he plays in college, given that he continues to grow and get bigger. We think he ultimately ends up as a Y, since he has great ball skills and is already 6-4.5 and 210, and looks bigger every time we see him.
Matt Fink, the quarterback from Glendora (Calif.), is expected to be on UCLA's campus today. It was thought that he'd get an offer on the visit, but after his less-than-stellar performance at The Opening it will be interesting to see if that happens. We've heard that Fink wants to stay close to home and could very well jump on a UCLA offer pretty quickly, and if it's a case that UCLA now has some reservations about him and wants to see him in person before offering, all of that could keep UCLA from offering today. Also, from what we're hearing, after UCLA offered Devon Modster, from Las Flores (Calif.) Tesoro, on his visit Saturday, UCLA is the leader for him. We think Modster is atop UCLA's quarterback board right now, and he could commit sooner than later, wanting to make sure he gets the spot.
UPDATE from DW: