Football Recruiting Reset: Defense

Sep. 15 -- UCLA has six strong commitments on defense, but is looking for a few more elite guys...

UCLA football recruiting for 2016 is in a very interesting place right now.

The 2016 class is currently ranked 13th in the country in the Scout class rankings. We've always maintained the season would have a major impact on how UCLA finishes off the 2016 class and, after just two games of the season in the books, you could anticipate that to be very much the case. It's just not about whether UCLA has a very successful season, and that naturally attracts elite recruits. It's now also about the Pied Piper Effect of Josh Rosen, which could also attract recruits who think they'd like to be apart of the Rosen era at UCLA for the next few years.

We've also learned that the number of recruits UCLA is looking to take at different positions has changed a bit, as a result of the coaches getting a look at the true freshman class in fall camp. Generally, it's all very good; as we said in our reports from San Bernardino, the 2015 class was very talented, -- consistently talented from top to bottom. There wasn't really one freshman we came away thinking didn't live up to the expectation of playing at UCLA, and a vast majority of them looked like potentially future starters.

So, you can expect UCLA recruiting for 2016 to get more selective between now and National Signing Day. It's basically a case of UCLA looking for a Few Good Men. With 16 commitments currently and UCLA probably taking 23 to 25 total, combined with what could be a great season, and the young depth on the team looking good, UCLA is probably going to be very selective between now and National Signing Day.


UCLA signed just one defensive end in 2015 (Rick Wade) so it needs to load up for 2016. It already has a commitment from two players at defensive end -- Oluwole Betiku and Marcus Moore -- giving it an elite five-star and a very promising three-star prospect, but it's looking for more, and with Betiku and Moore in the boat, UCLA defensive line coach Angus McClure can stretch a little and try for another home run.

Oluwole Betiku, 6-4, 240, Gardena (Calif.) Serra- COMMITTED
Betiku is an athletic freak, not only physically very impressive but very flexible and quick for being so muscular. He's shown flashes of brilliance on the field, even though he hasn't been playing football very long. It was known UCLA was leading for Betiku, and it was thought he'd take his time to commit, but he pulled the trigger in early August. He recently has said he wants to take official visits, to Notre Dame, Florida, Florida State and Texas A&M, but we're still very confident about the connection with Betiku and UCLA and that its very likely he remains committed to the Bruins. Betiku is one of the critical elite pieces to UCLA's 2016 class.

Marcus Moore, 6-3, 250, Encino (Calif.) Crespi- COMMITTED
Moore was one of the top performers at The Opening Los Angeles regional and immediately got on Scout's radar there. But he had been on UCLA's radar for a while, having played at Crespi, where Bruin defensive line coach Angus McClure's son plays. So McClure had seen plenty of Moore, who looked good in the spring and grabbed a few more offers. It looked like Moore would need to come to UCLA's Big Man Camp to get an offer, but his spring performances expedited that process. When McClure offered Moore he committed to the Bruins the next day, the day after his Crespi teammate, Jalen Starks, committed.

Carlo Kemp, 6-3.5, 258, Boulder (Colo.) Fairvew- OFFERED

Kemp is the top prospect in Colorado and there are some connections with UCLA. His uncle is John Pagano, who Jim Mora tried to hire as his defensive coordinator when he first got the UCLA job, but Pagano took the DC job with the Chargers, where he was the linebackers coach. Kemp is also being recruited by graduate assistant Taylor Embree, whose father played and coached at Colorado. Kemp had the hometown Buffs in his top two with UCLA, but Michigan and Notre Dame have jumped in. If Stanford offered they'd be right there, too.

Bryson Young, 6-5, 220, Clovis (Calif.) Buchanan- OFFERED
Even with Young's junior film igniting his recruitment, with UCLA and Michigan offering him in February, he's still a bit of a sleeper. He's long and lean with room to still add more weight and he's a terrific pass rusher. He lived in Los Angeles for a time as a child and has spent time in Los Angeles since. He has an official visit arranged with Oregon on Sept. 26th, and Cal is going after him hard, but UCLA has been thought to be the leader. It's expected that he'll visit UCLA fairly soon and the recruitment might be over then.

Amani Bledsoe, 6-4, 260, Lawrence (Kan.)- OFFERED
Bledsoe is the No. 1 prospect in Kansas and plays in the backyard of the hometown Jayhawks. He's obviously a high priority for Kansas, but many feel he's headed out of state. He visited UCLA last spring and spent almost a whole day on campus with his mother and the visit went very well. It looks like Bledsoe will be returning in the fall for an official visit and Angus McClure was out in Kansas in May to check in on him. He still has a pretty long list, but it's believed Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Oregon are the main competition.

Maxs Tupai, 6-2.5, 250, Murray (Utah)- OFFERED
Utah's top prospect, Tupai blew up in spring and garnered offers from all over the country. Tupai has said UCLA is still a school he's very interested in, but we think UCLA might not ultimately show that much interest, especially since the word is that there might be some academic issues.

Connor Murphy, 6-7, 250, Phoenix (Ariz.) Brophy Prep- OFFERED
One of Arizona's top prospects, Murphy has good bloodlines, with his brother Trent a former all-Pac-12 defender at Stanford before going to the NFL. Murphy has a slew of offers from all over, but Arizona State and Oregon seem to be the front-runners for Murphy. We also think that Michigan is going to be right there, since Jim Harbaugh successfully recruited his brother while at Stanford. Murphy, though, has continued to mention UCLA on his short list.

Justin Madubuike, 6-4, 240, McKinney (Tex.) -- OFFERED
Similar to Betiku in size and athleticism, Madubuike is one of the most-sought prospects in the state of Texas. With in-state heavy hitters like Texas, Baylor, TCU and Texas A&M all over him, he has continued to indicate UCLA is in his top five (with those other four Texas schools), and it's likely he'll officially visit UCLA.


The defensive tackle crop isn't great in California this year. The good news is that UCLA is doing well early with Tagaloa and he figures to be their top interior prospect on their board. And with Odighizuwa they obviously have some ties that helped land him. If UCLA could get Odighizuwa, Tagaloa and then Rashard Lawrence it would take three DTs.

Osa Odighizuwa, 6-3, 255, Portland (Ore.) David Douglas- COMMITTED
The first five days of May were a pretty memorable time for the Odighizuwa family. On May 1st, UCLA defensive captain Owa Odighizuwa was drafted by the New York Giants. Five days later, the youngest Odighizuwa, Osa, committed to UCLA, continuing the family legacy in Westwood. Odighizuwa was offered by the Bruins back in January and was a virtual lock to commit from the day he was offered. The No. 3 player in Oregon (in what is a pretty good year in-state), Osa is much more raw than Owa was at the same stage, but Owa was a physical freak at the same age. Osa, though, is a pretty physical player in his own right and is a two-time national heavyweight champion wrestler. While he's probably a lock to redshirt, he's a hard worker (much like his older brother), who figures to contribute down the line at UCLA. Osa looked very good at UCLA's camp in June.

Boss Tagaloa, 6-3, 250, Concord (Calif.) De La Salle- OFFERED
Tagaloa is the top defensive lineman in the West and UCLA has made him a heavy priority for some time, offering him over a year ago. UCLA has been the long-time favorite; he came down to Los Angeles in April and spent a couple days on campus with the UCLA coaches and took in practice. But he publicly says he wants to stay open for a while. His public top five are Michigan, UCLA, Washington, California and Arizona, and he said he wants to visit Washington and Michigan. He could accompany his teammate, Devin Asiasi, on some visits, too, like to Alabama. UCLA is the odds-on favorite.

Rashard Lawrence, 6-3, 305, Monroe (La.) Neville- OFFERED
The #3-ranked defensive tackle in the nation would be a huge get for the Bruins. It has been believed that UCLA and Lawrence were a long shot, and you still have to believe it. But he continues to prominently mention UCLA, and he just arranged his UCLA official visit, for his open week on his high school schedule Oct. 3rd. He also just said Ohio State and Washington will for sure get visits, and possibly LSU and Alabama, with the latter two thought to be his favorites.

Garrett Rand, 6-3, 275, Chandler (Ariz.) Hamilton- OFFERED
The DL MVP at The Opening Los Angeles, Rand is another talented defender from Arizona. Rand has favored Stanford, ASU and Michigan State, but has maintained interest in UCLA. His father lives in SoCal, so there's a connection. He visited campus in summer and reportedly loved it. If UCLA got Tagaloa to go with Odighizuwa, though, it's uncertain if they'd take Rand, too.

Soape Tupou, 6-3, 290, Sacramento (Calif.) Grant- OFFERED
Tupou is kind of a man of mystery. He was one of the first prospects to get an offer from the Bruins after Signing Day last February. We actually saw him play last fall when we scouted Darrin Paulo, with Tupou playing left guard next to Paulo. He was a solid offensive guard but UCLA wants him as a defensive lineman, where he could play inside. Still, with some of the other defensive lineman that UCLA is doing well with, he may not be a guy UCLA gets to in this class.

Rashan Gary, 6-4, 280, Paramus (N.J.) Catholic- OFFERED
Gary is the No. 1 ranked prospect in the country in the 2016 class. He's one of the best high school prospects in recent years, and his recruitment is a circus, with all the big-named programs all over him. He has, though, maintained a slight interest in UCLA, probably because he wants to take an official visit.


First-year linebackers coach Scott White didn't waste any time recruiting, picking up commitments from the top two inside 'backers in the West right after he was hired. This has put UCLA's inside linebacker recruiting in a great spot. It could completely stand pat with Toailoa and Barnes, or take a third guy if he's elite.

Lokeni Toailoa, 6-2, 225, Rialto (Calif.) Carter- COMMITTED
Toailoa is a big hitter who's gotten bigger since he was first offered by UCLA a year ago. Toailoa picked the Bruins in March over USC, which was the family favorite, and he had offers from 11 Pac-12 schools and several national programs. It was a big recruiting win for White and UCLA because of who they beat, but also because of the player that Toailoa happens to be -- a true leader type.

Krys Barnes, 6-2, 215, Bakersfield (Calif.) Liberty- COMMITTED
While Toailoa had an offer from the Bruins for a year when he committed, Barnes had one for just a couple of minutes, and his commitment was just as big, if unexpected. Barnes had offers from LSU, USC, Oklahoma and Nebraska among others, but the Bruins hadn't offered him to that point, wanting to do so in person. When Barnes finally visited UCLA in mid-March, he was offered and committed on the spot. More importantly, he said he was shutting down his recruitment and wasn't just trying to save a spot. Barnes may have more upside than Toailoa, but the two can complement each other well. In fact, they played on the same 7v7 team, Ground Zero, and that team won the Pylon Elite 7v7 National Tournament. Barnes was the Linebacker MVP of The Opening Los Angeles and earned and participated in The Opening Finals. He said, when it comes to recruiting, his job right now is recruiting other prospects in the 2016 class to UCLA.

Dontavious Jackson, 6-2, 237, Houston (Texas) Alief Elsik- OFFERED
Jackson would be that elite third inside linebacker that UCLA would take. He has set his official visit to UCLA for Oct. 3rd, and will also officially visit Florida State (Oct. 10th) and Michigan (Nov. 28th). UCLA is thought to be a longshot, especially with the Texas schools prioritizing him.


This category includes both the linebacker/defensive end hybrid and the SAM linebacker spot. So, in UCLA position terms, that's Deon Hollins' position as the DE/LB and Myles Jack's traditional outside linebacker position. With Brandt committed at the LB/DE spot, it gives Scott White the luxury of having to fill just that Myles Jack spot.

Breland Brandt, 6-4, 220, Los Angeles (Calif.) Windward- COMMITTED
Because he's played basketball, he's not been able to keep the weight on, but his body and athleticism projects really well to that LB/DE spot, in much the same way that UCLA freshman Keisean Lucier-South does. Brandt is still new to football, only having played for a few years, going to Windward to play basketball, and in a short time has become one of the most intriguing defensive prospects in the west. He's still raw, but he's ridiculously athletic and has more upside than he knows what to do with. Brandt was a frequent visitor to UCLA's spring practices in April.

Mique Juarez, 6-2, 210, Torrance (Calif.) North- (USC commit)

Juarez is now the #1 linebacker prospect in the nation, as of Scout's most recent rankings. He committed to USC before Signing Day but has since been publicly vacilating. The inside buzz on him is that it's unlikely he ends up at USC, and that UCLA could be his destination. He has a great relationship with Scott White and, even though he might take some visits to out-of-the-region programs, it's believed he'll ulitmately want to stay close to home. Juarez's recruitment is going to be probably the #1 most interesting recruitment of the 2016 class for UCLA. If UCLA gets him, White will have turned in the most spectacular recruiting class of any first-year coach, and it will cement UCLA's 2016 recruiting class as an elite one.

Aaron Hansford, 6-2.5, 210, Washington (D.C.) St. John's- OFFERED
UCLA offered Hansford in June after a great spring and before his trip to The Opening Finals. He has a great body for a linebacker prospect, almost 6-3 and about 210, with a frame that could handle more weight. He is athletic, and able to drop in coverage, which makes him a good candidate for that Myles Jack spot. He's also getting some interest as a receiver. He recently said he'll officially visit UCLA Dec. 4th. He's already visited Michigan State last weekend, and has plans to visit Notre Dame (Sep. 18th), Oregon (Sep. 26th), and Florida (Nov. 27th).

SAFETY (Needs: 2)

As we said at the top, with how good UCLA's young defensive backs have looked in practice this fall, it makes DB recruiting so much easier for DB coach Demetrice Martin. He'll be able to be pretty picky and hold out for some elite guys. A prospects on this list might be slow-played, with UCLA waiting to see what the bigger fish do.

Lamar Jackson, 6-3, 210, Elk Grove (Calif.) Franklin- OFFERED
Jackson played a little bit of everything for Franklin, including quarterback, before finally settling on safety. He could end up a linebacker, even though he wants to remain at safety. He has double digit offers from around the country, but the Bruins have some connections, namely Marcus Rios, who trained with True Grit Sports, where Jackson trains, and Franklin said Rios has talked up UCLA to him. Jackson has set five official visits, to ASU, Michigan, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, and Oregon, and won't visit UCLA or UCLA officially, even though the word is that those two schools lead for him. Jackson did take two visits to UCLA last spring, so he's been to campus a good amount.

Brandon Burton, 6-1, 180, Gardena (Calif.) Serra- OFFERED
Burton is an interesting prospect. He's definitely a talented player who many think will play safety on the next level, and many schools are recruiting him as one. But every time we saw him in summer he looked like a better receiver than safety. He has visits set for Alabama, Florida State, Notre Dame and Oklahoma, and USC is pretty much eliminated, while the word is that he'll end up staying local -- so that means UCLA.

Leni Toailoa, 6-1, 190, Rialto (Calif.) Carter
On the same day UCLA got commitments from Lokeni Toailoa and Demetric Felton, Toailoa's under-the-radar brother Leni committed to San Jose State, his lone offer at the time. But now Lokeni's brother is becoming a big time recruit himself with a number of Pac-12 offers coming in, including from UCLA. It's thought it's only a matter of time before he commits to the Bruins.

Jordan Fuller, 6-2, 190, Old Tappan (N.J.)- OFFERED
Fuller is the younger brother of current UCLA receiver Devin Fuller. While UCLA is a longshot, UCLA has remained on his list of five or so, and there's a good chance he'll officially visit.

Damar Hamlin, 6-1.5, 175, Pittsburgh (Pa.) Central Catholic- OFFERED
Hamlin has maintained UCLA in his top five for some time, along with Ohio State, Miami, Penn State and local Pittsburgh. It's likely UCLA gets an official visit from him.

Max Wariboko, 5-, 170, Oklahoma City (Okla.) Casady- OFFERED
The younger brother of UCLA freshman OL Josh Wariboko, Max could follow his brother to Westwood. He has offers from Iowa, Louisville, SMU and others, and it's a bit of a question whether he's a UCLA-level guy, but we think UCLA would take him.

Tre Polamalu, 6-0, 175, La Canada (Calif.) St. Francis- OFFERED
Polamalu, the son of UCLA running backs coach Kennedy Polamalu, was offered by UCLA in June. His mother is a UCLA alum and his grandparents have been longtime boosters of UCLA (on his mom's side).

Chris Brown, 5-11, 185, Houston (Tex.) Alief Elsik -- OFFERED
Brown is one of the best safeties in the state of Texas for 2016 and, after UCLA offered him in early August, the Bruins continue to be among his top five, along with Michigan, Michigan State, Oklahoma and Texas.

Keyon Riley, 6-2, 190, Anaheim (Calif.) Servite -- OFFERED
UCLA offered Riley in early August and it's believed the Bruins are the leader for him, with Washington, Wisconsin, Arizona and others on him.

Calvin Bundage, 6-2, 190, Edmond (Okla.) Santa Fe -- OFFERED
UCLA offered in August, and it looked like they were among his leaders, but the Bruins have fallen off some since, with Arkansas, Arizona, Missouri, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State being the top five.

Troy Warner, 6-2, 186, San Marcos (Calif.) Mission Hills. A teammate of current UCLA freshman DB Dechaun Holiday, it was thought UCLA was doing well with Warner when he surprisingly committed to Oregon in spring. He recently just de-committed and UCLA is one of the schools he's now interested in. BYU could be a player, since it's where his brother plays, and he visited there last weekend. Notre Dame is also a contender.

Deontay Anderson, 6-1, 202, Manvel (Tex.) -- OFFERED
A very good-looking safety prospect, with good size and athleticism, Anderson is sought by the big, local Texas programs and LSU, so it's interesting that he's set an official visit to UCLA on Oct. 2nd. His former teammate, Will Lockett, is a current UCLA freshman and has been talking up UCLA to him.

CORNERBACK (Needs: 1-2)

Like with safeties, UCLA is feeling pretty good about its young cornerbacks, but a big missing piece of the defensive puzzle for the last several years has been that lock-down corner. You can probably expect Martin to be pretty picky here, too, and hold out for an elite guy.

Jack Jones, 5-11, 175, Long Beach (Calif.) Poly- OFFERED
The #1 athlete in the nation, as rated by, Jones is perhaps the best corner prospect we've seen in the west for the last few years. He's incredibly quick in a short space, and has remarkable recovery speed to go along with great instincts and a very strong competitiveness. He's one of the missing pieces of this class for UCLA. The first day Jim Mora could be out to watch prospects in their games he went to watch Jones with Long Beach Poly, and then Jones came to the UCLA game against Virginia the next day with a Poly crew. He has said hell take visits, and they'll probably be to Texas A&M, Michigan and Notre Dame, and the word is that USC isn't on his short list of favorites. It's thought he'll want to stay close to home, and he really likes Mora and the UCLA coaches, so UCLA looks good.

Marquis Lawson, 5-9, 165, Los Angeles (Calif.) Crenshaw- OFFERED
Lawson was offered in June after UCLA saw him in the spring. He can play slot receiver, too, but he's projecting as a cornerback. He's apparently looked very good to start his senior season, and it's looking to be a likely scenario that Lawson ends up a Bruin.

Chase Lucas, 6-0, 180, Chandler (Ariz.)- OFFERED
Lucas is now listed as an athlete on Scout, with many schools liking him as a corner, some as a running back, with UCLA recruiting him as an athlete. We saw him a couple of times this summer and thought he looked much better as a cornerback. UCLA has had some good success at Chandler, with Brett Hundley and Paul Perkins both former Chandler stars, and that's not lost on Lucas. He visited UCLA last spring and said he had a great time on campus.

Myles Bryant, 5-8, 170, Los Angeles (Calif.) -- OFFERED
Bryant had offers from Colorado, Nevada, Utah State and Washington, so he looked like a wait-and-see type of kid, but UCLA offered him in August.

Andrew Davis, 6-0, 170, Upland (Calif.) -- OFFERED
Davis didn't play much as a junior, because Upland was loaded in the secondary, but he came to UCLA's camp and 7-on-7 in the summer and impressed Martin -- enough to the point that he offered Davis in August. It's his only Power-5 offer, and you would think he might snatch it up but, again, it would be interesting to see if UCLA would take him at this point.

Devron Davis, 6-0, 205, Merced (Calif.) -- OFFERED
The JC defensive back received a UCLA offer in August, and that made the Bruins quickly go to the top of his list. Arizona State, Florida State and Georgia have also offered, and he'll officially visit Colorado State. There's some concern that Davis will qualify academically for UCLA.

Chris Gaston, 6-2, 180, La Puente (Calif.) Bishop Amat
Gaston missed most of his junior year with a leg injury, but he is a guy on the radar of many schools, and he's been getting some attention with a good start to his senior year. Demetrice Martin has been talking with Gaston, as well as other Pac-12 programs. He is the big type of corner that Martin likes.

SPECIAL TEAMS (Needs: 1 at each spot)

UCLA loses kicker Kai'mi Fairbairn, longsnapper Christopher Longo and punter Matt Mengel this year, so they're filling all three spots in this class.

Johnny Den Bleyker, 6-0, 200, Hayward (Calif.) Moreau Catholic- COMMITTED
Den Bleyker is the No. 1 longsnapper nationally by Rubio Long Snapping and he jumped on the UCLA offer the day it was given. He'll come in with the expectation he'll start from day one taking over for Christopher Longo. The last time UCLA brought in a scholarship snapper out of high school it was Christian Yount, so it speaks to Den Bleyker's ability.

J.J. Molson, 6-0, 190, Montreal (Canada) John Abbott College- COMMITTED
Molson is the top kicker in Canada and he's ranked No. 2 by Chris Sailer Kicking for the 2016 class. He coveted a UCLA offer and took an unofficial visit to Westwood twice and raved about it. Alabama offered him, but then UCLA knew it had to offer him to get him, so the Bruins did and he committed.

Bailey Raborn, 5-11, 195, Lafayette (La.) St. Thomas More- COMMITTED
Raborn was at the UCLA Specialists Camp, and was offered by UCLA the next week and committed on the spot. He's the No. 2 punter in the 2016 class by Chris Sailer. He has a huge leg, and is also a monster with kick-offs.

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