It's a unique class in another respect, in that the Bruins graduate all three specialists, so three scholarships must be spent on a kicker, a punter, and a long snapper. In most years, you don't have to factor in those players taking up scholarships, since you only need to take a scholarship specialists once every four years or so, and you wouldn't usually anticipate having to take all three at once. So, although it looks like it's going to be a fairly big class, perhaps numbering about 24 or 25 players, there will only be somewhere around 21 position players taken in this class.
So, given that UCLA already has its three specialists committed, and 11 other players besides, what would be the best way to finish the class? Taking into account needs, and who UCLA can reasonably get, here's our take on the final ten recruits that would ideally fill out the class, ranked in order of priority.
We've gone on record for a while now that nose tackle is probably the biggest need in the class, and at this point, that's even more the case with a quarterback already committed. UCLA could very well lose both Kenneth Clark and Eddie Vanderdoes this offseason, which would leave the Bruins without a pure nose, or at least one you'd want to start. Tagaloa is the most obvious option for UCLA at nose in this class, and the Bruins are doing well with him, and are almost certainly the current leader. If UCLA should, for some reason, miss on Tagaloa, the Bruins could go all-in on Rashard Lawrence, who intends to officially visit sometime this fall.
From what we've heard throughout Jones' recruitment, we're reluctant to throw him into the Iman Marshall/Adoree Jackson USC-lock category. People around the recruitment at Long Beach Poly have said that they think Jones is serious about his interest in UCLA. Jones would obviously be a huge get for UCLA. He's the most talented cornerback in this class and, at the same stage, is probably a better prospect than Marshall, who was a great prospect in his own right. At corner, he'd project as a potential starter in year one, taking over for Fabian Moreau. The crazy thing is that if he flipped to receiver, he'd be an instant-impact player there as well, thanks to his quickness and play-making ability. Regardless, he's a very important get for UCLA.
It's always important to get impact defensive linemen, and Betiku, at his current rate of development, projects as a big-time contributor even in year one. It's astounding to think that he's only been playing football for about a year, considering his natural feel for pass-rushing. He is an incredible athlete, with great strength, speed, and agility for his size, and he'd fit in perfectly as a defensive end in UCLA's system, with the ability to rush the passer from that spot. He's already built like a college sophomore. If UCLA does indeed lose Vanderdoes and Clark next year, Betiku would project to play significantly and immediately his first year.
Offensive line recruiting has been the big question mark in this class, with no commits yet after Adrian Klemm went through a three-month suspension. As it stands, though, there are still some pretty good options for UCLA in this class, and if we had to pick our favorite who's most realistic, we'd go with Hattis. Hattis has emerged in the last month or two as a legitimate high-level offensive tackle, and was arguably the best offensive lineman at the Oakland Nike Camp. He has great mobility, excellent feet, and a body that looks like it'll fill out well as he develops physically. The Bruins are doing pretty well with Hattis, but if UCLA doesn't land him, getting some impact tackle like Greg Little, Willie Allen, or Terrence Davis from the national ranks would work as well.
Linebacker recruiting is already looking pretty good in this class, but the cream of that crop might very well be Mique Juarez, the USC commit. Juarez has made no secret that he is open in his recruitment, particularly with respect to UCLA. For the Bruins, Juarez would come in and go a long way toward replacing Myles Jack and many contributions Jack makes on defense. Juarez is probably the closest thing to Jack we've seen in terms of athleticism at the linebacker spot, with the ability to cover receivers, range sideline-to-sideline, and lay big hits. It seems like he goes back and forth on UCLA and USC weekly, and this one is anyone's guess heading into the summer.
McKnight didn't blow too many observers away at the UCLA 7-on-7 camp last weekend, but it was largely due to some uncharacteristic drops that may have been due to a recent hand injury. In any case, McKnight showed off plenty of good qualities during that camp as well. He is very quick and pretty fast, and for a skinny guy, plays with good physicality. At pretty much any point, he was able to get open with just one or two quick moves, and if he was pressed at the line, he was able to use his hands to get some separation off the snap. With many of the top receivers in the West either committed or leaning elsewhere, McKnight might be the best available option for UCLA. We'd put him just below Theo Howard in terms of quickness and speed among the receivers we've seen this spring.
This is probably a longer shot at this point, with Stanford looming as the favorite, but the more we've watched Long this spring, the more we've come to appreciate his ability. Early in the spring, it seemed as if he was still getting comfortable with the idea of playing corner, but over the last month or so, his confidence has started to show, and he's developed that sense of athletic arrogance you want in a corner (something Jones has in spades). He has very quick feet, great reaction times, and can run with basically any receiver (he was clocked at a 4.4 at the Oakland Nike Camp). If UCLA somehow managed to pull both Long and Jones in this class, the Bruins would have their starting cornerbacks locked up for the next three years at least.
If UCLA can secure at least one good tackle in this class, the next step would be to get at least one guard. At this point, Eletise looks like the most likely option. UCLA was probably the leader, or at worst top three, heading into Adrian Klemm's suspension, and with Klemm back, we'd anticipate the Bruins getting back to that level with Eletise. This was never going to be a huge offensive line class for the Bruins, and if UCLA can secure both a Hattis type and Eletise, that would be a good enough showing given Klemm's suspension.
Kelly is only this low because, first, we like Juarez better as a player to replace Jack and, second, the Bruins already have two linebackers committed in this class (three if you count Breland Brandt). Kelly is a talented player, and he would very likely help UCLA's pass rush considerably. He's getting a little thicker as he gets older, and he probably projects more and more as an Anthony Barr-type linebacker who's near the line of scrimmage than as a Myles Jack-type who's roaming the entire field. Either way, he's a talented player and would be a very good addition to this class.
We'll put Belton here, but what we really mean is "any other quarterback." We've talked about this often, but with Asiantii Woulard transferring and Jerry Neuheisel having already graduated, UCLA needs to secure the future with two true quarterbacks in this class. We really doubt Dymond Lee stays at quarterback beyond his first year, which could leave UCLA with just Josh Rosen and Matt Lynch at quarterback in 2016, assuming Neuheisel moves on after this year to try to start elsewhere. If UCLA can pull in Belton, who we liked at UCLA's camp in June, or even Dillon Sterling-Cole (or some other quarterback who has yet to emerge), that would put the Bruins on much more solid footing for 2016 and beyond.