There was some news that came with varying degrees of unwelcome surprise, however. Caleb Kelly announced his top seven and UCLA was not in it. Michael Eletise announced his top five and, likewise, the Bruins were not present, despite some attempts by Adrian Klemm to get back into the mix after his three-month suspension.
With Kelly, the surprise was more that he dropped UCLA so early in the process than that he dropped UCLA at all. As we've maintained for a while, Michigan looks like the leader here, and Kelly's body has changed to the point where he probably doesn't project to the position where UCLA initially wanted him. With Eletise, there was a feeling that the relationship Klemm built with the family prior to his suspension would be enough to push UCLA back into the mix upon his return, but that didn't happen.
So, it wasn't a great week for UCLA, especially with the obvious momentum other Pac-12 schools have coming out of the event, with C.J. Pollard and Sidney both announcing for the Trojans, Winston announcing for Oregon, and Eifler announcing for Washington. It is completely reasonable to say that the week was a little disappointing.
Still, you have to remember that the Bruins already have 14 commitments in this class, which is pretty rare at this point in the cycle for UCLA. The Bruins likely have only eight to ten more scholarships to give in the 2016 class, depending on attrition this fall, and almost all of the 14 commitments UCLA currently has are of the solid variety (Jordan Parker possibly being an exception, with his stated interest in visiting other schools). The class is currently ranked in the top 15, and if the remainder of the cycle goes the way we'd project at this point in time, we would guess that the entire class ends up ranked somewhere in the top 15.
With The Opening behind us, we're going to take a look at the UCLA Leans remaining in the class, the Real Possibilities, and the Unlikelies. It would be fair to assume that anyone we haven't included in this story we consider part of the Unlikely group.
Before we get into the list, our take on the class is that if UCLA can add Oluwole Betiku, Boss Tagaloa, Bryson Young, Steffon McKnight, and one of Mique Juarez or Jack Jones, while keeping Parker in the fold, that would be a clearly very good class that would fill a ton of needs while upgrading the athleticism on the team. The big issue going forward is obviously offensive line recruiting -- we wouldn't really classify any linemen as UCLA leans at this point. So, if we had to pick one area to remain concerned about going forward, that would be the one.
The UCLA Leans
Betiku shined at The Opening last week, looking still a little raw technically but very athletic and extremely coachable. He came in a little light at 239 pounds, but he told us that he dropped some weight to run a better 40-yard dash -- which came in at a pretty incredible 4.57 seconds. From speaking with him, it sounds as if UCLA is still in a very good spot, and from what we've heard from those around him, if it was completely up to him, he probably would have committed somewhere and shut down his recruitment a while ago. He'll take some official visits, but it would take a lot to pull him out of Los Angeles and away from UCLA.
This was our first time seeing Tagaloa doing one-on-ones, since De La Salle typically doesn't let its players do them in camp settings. He didn't have the best week, looking a little overmatched in pass-rush drills. He looked plenty strong, but didn't have many moves beyond a straight bull-rush. He probably projects best as a nose at the next level, which is a good thing, since that's precisely what UCLA needs. From everything we've heard, UCLA is still looking very good for him. He'll take his recruitment until Signing Day, according to what he told us last week, but he still lists UCLA as the only official visit he knows for sure that he'll take, so that's probably a good sign.
McKnight told us at the UCLA camp in June that UCLA is his leader, and we've heard nothing since then to contradict that. It's a small concern that as of a few months ago, he wasn't even listing UCLA, but with USC filling up on receivers, UCLA will likely be the best local option for the four-star. We liked what we saw out of McKnight athletically at the camp, as he showed off good speed and very good quickness. He's very skinny, at probably somewhere in the 150 to 160 pound range, but he showed good toughness in that environment, so I don't know how much of a concern his size is. He dropped a good amount of balls, but he had a hand injury that he was still nursing back to health. Assuming drops aren't a consistent issue for him, he has the potential to be a very good receiver at the college level.
Young caused a little bit of a stir when he decided to camp with USC rather than UCLA last month, but that might have simply been due to Young not having a USC offer and already having a UCLA offer. The Trojans did not offer after the camp, despite Young performing very well. USC would be the threat here, since Young grew up a Trojans fan, but without the Trojans in the mix, UCLA is in a good spot for him. He is a very good athlete, and projects as a pass-rushing DE at the next level.
UCLA offered Lawson last month, and with the Bruins currently his only offer, it stands to reason that he is leaning toward UCLA. He fits into the mold of a slot receiver, and makes sense for UCLA in the increasingly likely event that Damian Alloway ends up elsewhere.
UCLA offered the son of Kennedy Polamalu late in the spring, and, while the offer might help to get Tre more offers from other schools, we'll include him in the heavy lean category since he grew up a UCLA fan (even before his dad took a job there). He was offered as an athlete.
The Real Possibilities
UCLA is in the top couple of schools for Kemp, and there's a connection here between Jim Mora and Kemp's family (he's related to the Paganos, who Mora is close with). We would have had Kemp in the Lean category as of a month or two ago, but with increased interest from schools like Michigan, Notre Dame, and Stanford, it's going to be a battle for him. UCLA will likely earn an official visit from Kemp. He's a powerful end who has the ability to pack on weight and should project well as a 3-4 defensive end.
McKinley and USC have mutually cooled on each other, and in the wake of that news, UCLA has jumped back into the mix for the four-star. While Notre Dame and Oregon probably have the inside track at this point, it's completely believable that UCLA could end up the destination for him assuming he wants to stay local. McKinley had a good week at The Opening, and ran a better 40 (4.61) than many expected.
Juarez is committed to USC, but UCLA is still right in the mix for him. He was on campus a couple of weeks ago for the UCLA camp, and seemed to enjoy himself, actually choosing to participate at one point. He told us that UCLA and USC are pretty close to neck-and-neck for him, and that he'll watch both teams this year to see how they use their linebackers. Juarez is a complete stud who would be the ideal fit in this class to replace Myles Jack in UCLA's defense. He has the athleticism to cover, pursue, and pass rush, and is an elite linebacker prospect.
Jack "smokescreen" Jones showed on the national stage what we've been seeing on the 7-on-7 circuit all spring. He was excellent in coverage against a variety of receivers, and when he flipped to receiver, he showed the quickness to get open against a variety of cornerbacks. He'd be an impact player on either side of the ball, but he's recently committed to the idea of playing corner in college. From what we've heard, UCLA really is in the mix for him, though we'll forgive any UCLA fan who decides this is another Iman Marshall situation and ignores him. Much could come down to how the seasons go for USC and UCLA. In any case, Jones is likely not going to make a decision until Signing Day.
Crawford had a solid week at The Opening, testing well in the combine portion and then looking pretty good during 7-on-7 before suffering a minor injury at the end of the week. From what we understand, Crawford really wanted an Oregon offer, but it doesn't look like that's going to come, and while he was pursuing the Ducks' offer, he hasn't kept in touch with a variety of other schools that have been recruiting him. There's a feeling around this recruitment that UCLA is going to be right there for him at the end, but Stanford and Washington are also in the mix.
UCLA offered Delance last month upon Adrian Klemm's return from suspension, and from what we understand, Delance was pretty excited about the offer and the conversation he and Klemm had. It's a good bet that UCLA will earn an official visit from Delance, and he projects as one of Klemm's priorities heading into the fall.
Burton showed up surprisingly well at The Opening, running a better 40 than we would have expected (4.66 seconds) and then not looking out of place at all at safety. We still think he might make most sense at receiver at the next level, but it was a nice week for him. Florida State and UCLA still appear to be the top two for Burton, but it doesn't look like he's in any hurry to make a decision.
We didn't see Jackson do a whole lot at The Opening, which is pretty much what happens to safeties in 7-on-7. I still would be interested in seeing him play receiver, but I might be the only one. USC still appears to have a slight edge over UCLA in this recruitment, but he still maintains that he has the best relationship with Demetrice Martin. Jackson is going to wait until potentially after the season to make his decision, and it might simply come down to which team has a better season.
UCLA is in the informal top five for Tupai, so there's at least a chance here, but we'd put him on the lower side of the real possibilities. USC is probably the more likely of the two L.A. schools to land Tupai, though much could hinge on whether the Trojans still have scholarships available if and when Tupai wants to commit. Wisconsin, Texas Tech, and Mississippi State are all in the mix for him as well.
Alloway has gone back and forth on his recruitment so many times that it's hard to keep track. He's been a heavy lean to UCLA, California, UCLA again, Wisconsin, and now, probably, Notre Dame. He might slingshot back to UCLA at some point, but we wouldn't be shocked if the Bruins just move on at some point. He projects as an effective slot receiver at the next level, but not an elite game-breaking type.
UCLA and Arizona State are probably the top two for Lucas at this point. The Bruins are recruiting him as an athlete, and he has the potential to play anything from running back to receiver to cornerback. He could make a fairly early decision -- in fact, there was some talk that he could commit sometime in June or July. We're not sure if that's still in the cards, but UCLA figures to be in this one until the end, with a good chance of landing him.
Pennamon has visited Los Angeles twice this spring, with one of those including an unofficial visit to UCLA. He was on campus for the Skills Camp in June, and his former teammate, Will Lockett, is an incoming freshman safety for the Bruins. We wouldn't be shocked to see Pennamon leave home for college, and he seemed pretty enamored with L.A. when he was out here. He said that Houston, actually, is the local school that's currently standing out to him.
Moss had indicated that he wants to take an official visit to UCLA this fall for the Colorado game. UCLA will have to fight the likes of Alabama, Arizona State, and Georgia for him.
UCLA hasn't yet gotten on Alves hard, but we'd imagine that he's one UCLA will start to recruit harder heading into the fall. The Bruins figure to be the best local option for him, so if they decide to pursue him hard, they'd have a good shot at landing him.
Akingbulu was thought to be a heavy UCLA lean up until a month or so ago, but enough schools have gotten involved in his recruitment that the Bruins are at least back with the rest of the pack a little bit more. Oregon could offer at some point as well, which would be a big one for him. Michigan, Utah, and California are all in his top four at the moment.
Hattis earned a UCLA offer earlier this spring after his performance at the Oakland Nike Camp. The Bruins are in the mix for him, but Stanford and Oklahoma both loom large.
Fant has local interest from Nebraska, but the Bruins are probably right there in the top two for him. UCLA is recruiting him primarily as a defensive end, but he has the potential to be a very good tight end as well.
UCLA is recruiting Hansford as a wide receiver, which should keep them in the mix for him for a long time, since most other schools are recruiting him as a linebacker.
Toailoa came to UCLA's camp in June intent on earning an offer, but his performance there wasn't enough to get an immediate offer. UCLA will continue to evaluate him heading into the fall, but if the Bruins do offer, we'd imagine they'll get a pretty quick commitment.
We talked to Lawrence at The Opening, and while he still says he wants to take an official visit, it sounds as if UCLA is a bit of an afterthought for him.
It's an open secret that Long is probably going to commit to Stanford fairly soon. UCLA might be No. 2, though.
Ohio State might be the leader here, but in any case, it doesn't sound like UCLA is a serious contender.
Asiasi, from what we've heard, is still a pretty heavy lean to USC, despite the Trojans taking Cary Angeline.
UCLA is fading for Murphy, and it looks more and more likely that he'll pick Texas A&M, as we reported earlier this spring.
We've heard conflicting things on Bledsoe, with some saying he wants to stay local and some saying he wants to leave the Midwest. This is more of a gut instinct than anything, but we'd bet he ends up staying relatively close to home.
Davis wants to officially visit UCLA in January, but Michigan is the stated leader here, and we'd have to imagine he ends up a Wolverine.
Hamlin wants to officially visit UCLA, but this seems like a visit just to visit. Other big schools like Ohio State are making him a priority and that could be compelling for him.
Murphy lists UCLA, but the Bruins are behind Michigan, Arizona State, USC, and probably Oregon in this one. He'll visit unofficially toward the end of summer, perhaps, and at that point we might kick him into the Real Possibility territory.
Sterling-Cole is a little more interested in UCLA than he let on in the interview with Scout recruiting expert Greg Powers, but if we had to handicap this one, we'd say Florida or Arizona State has the lead.
Valentin wants to officially visit, but he isn't sure of a date yet. He told us it's important to his family to stay relatively close to home, which might rule out UCLA as a real possibility.
UCLA is still trying with Rand, but he has others higher on his list, like Stanford, Nebraska, and ASU.
UCLA was in the mix for Allen prior to Klemm's suspension, but the Bruins are probably on the outside looking in now.
UCLA offered Lashley when Klemm returned, and from what we understand, they had a good conversation, but it'll be tough for the Bruins to pull him out of Mississippi.