UCLA football recruiting for 2016 is on the verge right now.
It has laid the ground work for, minimum, a solid recruiting class, but has the very conceivable potential of finishing off with some fireworks.
The 2016 class is currently ranked 14th in the country in the Scout class rankings, but the Bruins are involved with a considerable amount of highly-ranked prospects. UCLA could be limited by the number of scholarships it has remaining to give (18 committed at this time, with probably 25-27 to give total), however. It also was a considerable blow to the quality of the class when UCLA lost the commitment of Oluwole Betiku, who was UCLA's only five-start committed recruit.
What could really boost the class in the next couple of months, and is already helping it, is the Pied Piper Effect of Josh Rosen. He is definitely a factor in the decision for some wide receiver prospects in the 2016 class, and probably prospects at other positions, too.
With maybe 7-9 left to give, you can expect UCLA to get more selective between now and National Signing Day. It's basically a case of UCLA looking for a Few Good Men.
QUARTERBACKS (Needs 2)
It will be interesting to see if UCLA stands pat with its 1 1/2 commitments at quarterback that it currently has. We're counting Lee as 1/2 of a commitment, and that's probably not even accurate because we anticipate he'll be a receiver in college. If Rosen continues to have a big season, quarterback recruits could then clearly see that he's three and gone, UCLA's offense is a great place to showcase your talent, and you'd get some serious attention being the quarterback that comes in after Rosen.
Matt Lynch, 6-4, 185, Broomfield (Colo.) Legacy- COMMITTED
Lynch is looking like just about the smartest teenager on the planet right now. While other quarterback recruits were shying away from UCLA last summer because they didn't want to sit behind Rosen, Lynch committed to UCLA pretty quickly after being offered. Now that Rosen looks three-and-out, Lynch has a wide open lane to be the next starter when he's a redshirt sophomore. Lynch was an early commit to Colorado State but when Jim McElwain left for the Florida head coaching gig and Mike Bobo was hired as the offensive coordinator, Lynch opened up his recruitment. UCLA went to see him throw in late April and then had Lynch on campus for an unofficial visit the first week in May. They offered him on the unofficial and he committed an hour later. Lynch is an intriguing prospect who we got to see at The Opening Eugene regional. And Lynch actually had a good day and alleviated some concern that he can make the jump to the next level with some development, and since there probably won't be an immediate need for Lynch to play in his first two years in the program. His commitment got the position filled with at least one quarterback in this class, in what could have been a tough year to bring in a passer. Lynch took an official visit to UCLA the weekend of the Arizona State game and spent much of it working on Theo Howard, who he's hoping will commit and add to the receiver ranks. He also told us after the visit that Rosen's success is a good thing for him, giving him a chance to redshirt and prepared at UCLA instead of being thrown in to the fire.
Dymond Lee, 6-2, 175, West Hills (Calif.) Chaminade- COMMITTED
Lee was offered by UCLA in early March after patiently waiting for some time. UCLA had been watching him for two years and finally extended the offer. It was a big one for Lee, who had double-digit offers from around the country, including from Colorado, where his older brother, Donovan, plays. So it wasn't a surprise when Lee committed to UCLA. The surprise, though, was that he did so as a quarterback. With Asiantti Woulard transferring, UCLA wanted to bring in an athletic, dual-threat quarterback and Lee appears to be their guy there. He's a terrific receiver but hadn't taken a lot of snaps as the starter at Chaminade. He started the year splitting duties at quarterback before taking the primary snaps from then on out. He has a decent arm, but in the first few games he showed some headiness and composure. In fact, he won a game earlier this season with a last second touchdown throw, where he used his athleticism in the pocket to roll out and run around and throw his receiver open in the end zone for the shocking win. Should quarterback not work out for him at UCLA, though, he can fall back on receiver and, unlike other quarterbacks-turned-receivers like Devin Fuller and Aaron Sharp, Lee is more of an experienced and talented receiver.
Armani Rogers, 6-2, 220, Los Angeles (Calif.) Hamilton- Offered
Rogers was offered back in the spring, but had committed to Cal. In fact, the offer was a bit curious, reiterated after Devon Modster committed to Arizona though Rogers said he didn't know he had one. Lynch ultimately committed to UCLA and then Lee followed suit and with Rogers committed to Cal, it seemed like a moot issue. Rogers was at a couple of early UCLA games and it looked like there may be some reciprocated interest. But when Rogers decommitted from Cal last week, it didn't seem like, from what we've heard, UCLA is even pursuing him any longer. Still, the fact he's open and the fact that Lee is still better suited for receiver, we won't 100% shut the door here, more like 95%.
RUNNING BACKS (Needs 1)
The future UCLA running backs depth chart is looking pretty good. Nate Starks is a sophomore, and then two true freshmen, Bolu Olorunfunmi and Soso Jamabo, have seen a lot of early carries and both look like they'll be major contributors during their career. It was great recruiting to, first, recognize that Bolu would be as good as he's looked so far, and secondly to load up in 2015, since the 2016 running backs class in the west was pretty skimpy. They'll bring in the big back in Starks for 2016 and then be looking for another homerun-hitter type of tailback in 2017.
Jalen Starks, 6-1, 240, Encino (Calif.) Crespi- COMMITTED
Starks didn't waste any time at all in jumping on a UCLA offer. The Bruins offered in the afternoon and by that evening Starks committed to the Bruins. He's the No. 2 fullback nationally by Scout, and tops in the West, and is a big power back that UCLA running backs coach Kennedy Polamalu likes, and he knows him well, having coached against him when Polamalu coached at Loyola. He's the physical back that Polamalu wants in his offense and Starks had been high on UCLA's board for a while. Now the one caveat here is that Starks does have some work to do academically to get in to UCLA. And he was dismissed from the Crespi football team midway through the season (after a terrific start) when he was coming back from a shoulder injury. But we've heard it shouldn't have any bearing on his recruitment with UCLA.
RECEIVERS (Needs 4+)
While UCLA has a good number of young receivers on its depth chart, it's still in need of a couple of very elite-level guys. Enter Josh Rosen. If you were a high school receiver, wouldn't you want to come to UCLA and catch Rosen's passes? We're hearing that is exactly the sentiment that some receivers have as a result of Rosen's first game, and we suspect it will be even moreso as the season goes on. It helps, too, that the receiver class out West is a deep one, and UCLA probably won't have to leave the west coast to get its guys. The Bruins already have commitments from Felton and Owens, but it's uncertain what position each of them will play in college (Felton probably is a slot, while Owens could be a safety or even a running back). As we said above, Dymond Lee probably ends up a receiver, but that doesn't figure into the receiver number for 2016 because he's legitimately going to get a shot at quarterback first. With the Rosen factor in play, if UCLA came away with two among Howard, McKinley and Alloway it'd be looking very good.
Darian Owens, 6-0, 180, Fresno (Calif.) Clovis West- COMMITTED
Owens looked to be a USC lean last summer but UCLA made up a ton of ground and prioritized him, which was big for Owens. Eric Yarber was key in Owens' recruitment and he said their relationship was a big part of his reason to pick the Bruins. Owens is ranked as a top 15 athlete on Scout, with some schools liking him for defense, but he'll plug in initially at receiver. Interestingly, in the last two months or so, Owens had said he's a bit soft in his commitment and would take visits elsewhere, which he did take an official visit to Nebraska. But then he said he'd firmed things up and is solid to UCLA. He will be visiting UCLA officially this weekend when the Bruins host Colorado.
Demetric Felton 5-10, 195, Temecula (Calif.) Great Oak- COMMITTED
Felton plays running back for Great Oak, but he projects as a slot receiver for the Bruins, and will be used like UCLA used Damien Thigpen, on wheel routes, jet sweeps, and any other way to get the ball in his hands in space. He committed to the Bruins in March and he is a great get because his recruitment was really beginning to take off when they offered. The local factor played a huge role in their ability to get him. Felton has had a very good senior season for Great Oak playing running back, seemingly going over 150+ yards each week and racking up a pair of touchdowns. He's graduating early and plans to enroll in time for spring ball and he took an official visit earlier this month.
Theo Howard, 6-0, 175, Westlake Village (Calif.) Westlake -- OFFERED
The #8-ranked receiver in the nation was verbally committed to Oregon, until early August, when he decommitted. The day after he decommitted he went to San Bernardino to watch UCLA's practice. Going to San Bernardino is an indication enough of Howard's interest in UCLA. He followed it up with an official visit to UCLA in early October and had a great time on the trip. Howard then visited Texas A&M in mid-October and was blown away by what he saw down there and being a part of an SEC game-day experience (the Aggies hosted Alabama). After the visit, Howard said he'd be deciding shortly after and then on Sunday night, he tweeted that he would be announcing his decision on Sunday, November 1st. Howard has said it is down to Texas A&M, UCLA and USC, though the latter doesn't have a coach yet, so it really genuinely seems to be a UCLA-Texas A&M battle, with the feeling that he'll end up picking the Bruins.
Michael Pittman, 6-4.5, 210, Westlake Village (Calif.) Oaks Christian -- OFFERED
The #6-ranked athlete in the nation committed to UCLA late last year, but began wavering on his commitment early on in the spring. He finally decommitted at the end of spring and after a flirtation with Oregon, he ended up committing to USC. Since Steve Sarkisian's firing at USC, however, Pittman has begun to look around again. He recently visited UCLA for a practice, and there's some feeling around the recruitment that he could end up flipping back to the Bruins before all is said and done. Like Howard, he could be an early-entry candidate, which could speed up the process for him.
Javon McKinley, 6-2, 200, Corona (Calif.) Centennial -- OFFERED
McKinley's recruitment has been interesting. He was long thought to be destined for USC, but USC filled up on receivers and didn't have a scholarship for him. UCLA, at one time, was eliminated, but the Bruins are now back in it, and looking pretty good. He'll visit Oregon in November and in December, he'll visit UCLA. He has already tripped to Washington, Tennessee and Notre Dame, and in summer, said Notre Dame was his leader. But we know that his mother really likes UCLA receiver coach Eric Yarber and quarterback Josh Rosen, and we also know that Rosen's performance this fall had a big impact on the McKinleys. We’re hearing, while the visits have been great for McKinley, his family really likes UCLA and wants him to stay close to home. Among the receivers still left on UCLA’s board, McKinley might be the guy they’d take regardless of how many receivers they have committed. There’s a question of whether McKinley would necessarily want to come to UCLA if the Bruins did get all these commitments before his, however. While he doesn't always stand out in 7-on-7, he might be the best prospect in the west's 2016 class with the pads on.
Damian Alloway, 5-10, 170, Fontana (Calif.) Summit- OFFERED
Alloway nearly committed to Cal over UCLA the same day Felton committed but held off from committing. Then we had heard he was a UCLA lean. In the last few months, after visiting Notre Dame, the Irish have been thought to be the leader. At one point, you could see UCLA getting a bit tired of Alloway's non-committal but a good senior season has the Bruins still pursuing him. He was supposed to visit Notre Dame this month, but pushed it back. He'll visit Arizona State and UCLA after the season, but with five 7v7 teammates committed to UCLA, we think when it's all said and done, the Bruins are the favorite slightly over Notre Dame, though an offer from Oregon could muddy things up.
Steffon McKnight, 6-1.5, 165, San Diego (Calif.) Mira Mesa- OFFERED
McKnight is rail-thin, but very quick, with good feet, making him very difficult to stay with downfield. He got his first offer from UCLA over a year ago, and while the Bruins weren't necessarily on his short list ofr a long time, since the summer he has blatantly said UCLA is his leader. Having said that, he's gone underground and its really uncertain who his leader is and who's still actively pursuing him this fall. And UCLA may not have spot for him unless he were to commit soon. He'll be an interesting one to watch.
Dylan Crawford, 6-1, 175, Santa Margarita (Calif.)- OFFERED
Crawford thought he was going to get an offer from Oregon a couple of months ago and then pretty much shut down his recruitment and the Duck offer never came. UCLA looked to be in decent shape for him, but then last week, Oregon offered and it was a game-changer for Crawford. While if he chose to stay in the Southland, UCLA would be the option he'd likely pursue, he's been pretty open about wanting to leave the area and the Oregon offer could be the final straw for him.
Adewale Omotosho, 6-2, 190, Plano (Tex.) East -- OFFERED
Omotosho is a well-sought prospect in Texas, with 30 offers, and many of the local programs are thought to be the favorites -- like Texas Tech, Oklahoma, and Arkansas. But he has indicated he wants to officially visit UCLA and we know his parents are enamored of UCLA. Omotosho has yet to set up an official visit, with anyone for that matter, but the Bruins would welcome him in for a trip.
Trevon Diggs, 6-1.5, 182, Gaithersburg (Md.) Avalon -- OFFERED
Diggs recently said he wants to visit UCLA, but UCLA’s wide receiver recruiting could be over before Diggs is even close to making a decision. Still, they'll keep tabs on the younger brother of NFL receiver Stefon Diggs. The younger Diggs will visit LSU next month and Alabama and Maryland, where Stefon played, are also likely to get a visit from him.
TIGHT ENDS/Y (Needs 1-2)
UCLA signed the nation's #1 tight end for 2015 in Chris Clark, with the intention of Clark fulfilling the role we haven't seen in UCLA's offense since Joe Fauria -- that of the big, traditional tight end. Clark loved that idea so much that he was gone from UCLA before the school year even started, never quite fitting in at UCLA and seemingly having drama following him since he left the East Coast and continues to provide drama even with his departure. So UCLA needs at least one tight end in this class but would absolutely welcome two.
Jordan Wilson, 6-5, 210, Nashville (Tenn.) Montgomery Bell. -- COMMITTED
Wilson is a long, rangy prospect who took an unofficial visit to UCLA this summer and committed not long after. He was just starting to emerge in the southeast and garner some SEC attention when he committed. He hasn't really put up great stats this season and still seems to be a bit under-the-radar though
Devin Asiasi, 6-5, 265, Concord (Calif.) De La Salle- OFFERED
Asiasi is just a great all-around prospect. He's a very good tight end, with very soft hands and quickness for his size, but he might even be a better defensive end prospect. It's always been thought that USC is the team to beat for Asiasi, but we've heard that it might not be that set in stone as once believed. UCLA is doing well with his teammate, DL Boss Tagaloa, and UCLA defensive line coach Angus McClure is assigned to Tagaloa and Asiasi, with NorCal being his recruiting territory, and you can never count out McClure on NorCal guys. McClure and head coach Jim Mora both went to see Asiasi play and he'd truly fit that all-around traditional tight end that UCLA covets- able to catch the ball and run, but also being a very good and physical blocker, thanks to being in the veer-oriented offense at De La Salle. And the departure of Clark makes UCLA that much more eager to get Asiasi on board. But they'll still have their work cut out for them.
Thaddeus Moss, 6-4, 235, Charlotte (N.C.) Victory Christian- OFFERED
The son of former NFL great Randy Moss, Thaddeus has garnered some recruiting attention and will actually be visiting UCLA this weekend officially for the Colorado game. Moss has three schools standing out, Arizona State, NC State and UCLA and the Bruins have a legit shot at him and wouldn't mind getting him on board, but NC State has the local edge.
OFFENSIVE LINE (Needs 3)
Offensive line recruiting might be the aspect of 2016 recruiting that is the most unknown, and perhaps has the most chance for dramatic improvement. Adrian Klemm's suspension definitely threw it off track. Before it was probably on track for Klemm to get, or have a very good chance of getting, some elite national OL recruits. But that looks to no longer be the case. For Klemm, when he returned, it was literally starting over in recruiting. But luckily, Klemm did very well in recruiting the 2015 class, and really doesn't need that many for 2016 -- perhaps three, or more if elite guys want to jump in the boat. They have one interior guy in Auwae already in the boat, and will definitley need at least one tackle type.
Sean Auwae, 6-3, 290, Kapolei (Hawaii) -- COMMITTED
Getting the commitment from Auwae was very positive for UCLA OL recruiting, coming not too long after Klemm returned to the program. UCLA needed to get one OL commitment on the books, and Auwae, who was the OL MVP of the Opening Los Angelese Regional, was a very solid get. Auwae is strong and quick, with very good feet, and can play either center or guard.
Alex Akingbulu, 6-6, 240, Harbor City (Calif.) Narbonne- OFFERED
Akingbulu set his official visit for UCLA in January and the Bruin coaching staff is starting to prioritize him a little more. His sister attends UCLA and its local, and he has a high emphasis on academics. He has gotten close with Klemm since the latter's return and he's having a good senior season, increasing UCLA's interest in him. Akingbulu is visiting Cal this weekend will also visit Utah next month before his visit to UCLA in January.
Tramonda Moore, 6-5, 350, Oklahoma City (Okla.) Marshall- OFFERED
Moore is one of the hottest OL prospects in the country, with offers from the SEC, Florida State, TCU and locals Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, but we’ve heard Moore likes the idea of going to the west coast for college. He’ll officially visit FSU, TCU, ASU and UCLA, and so far the one set in stone is UCLA for the Colorado game Oct. 31st. We don’t think he’ll make a decision quickly, since he just recently became an object of intense recruiting attention, but UCLA will probably be in it until the end.
Mike Alves, 6-5, 318, San Diego (Calif.) St. Augustine -- OFFERED
UCLA will get an official visit from Alves next month when the Bruins host Washington State. He's already visited Oregon, and the Ducks are the likely leader for him, but UCLA will try with him. There is also a connection with Alves, with his father growing up with Kennedy Polamalu. Wisconsin, Boston College and Washington are also in play to get a visit from him.
Terrance Davis, 6-4, 310, Hyattsville (Md.) DeMatha Catholic -- OFFERED
UCLA was probably among the few leaders for Davis pre-Klemm suspension, but Davis is probably the national prospect that UCLA still has a good chance to get. Davis was supposed to visit Alabama in early January but has now pushed it back later in the month, his last official visit. He'll visit Michigan next month and Georgia in December and UCLA, which would have gotten his last visit prior to Alabama's move, will instead get him in town the weekend before he visits Tuscaloosa. Homestate Maryland is also likely to get a visit, but will wait until hiring a head coach.
Richard Merritt, 6-5, 325, Washington D.C., Archbishop Carroll -- OFFERED
Merritt is a big body who moves very well for his size. He has a connection with Klemm, so UCLA is doing better with him than many people realize. Merritt plans to take three official visits when the season is over, to Virginia Tech, Arizona and UCLA and the Bruins have a decent shot at him.
JohnCarlo Valentin, 6-4, 320, Philadelphia (Penn.) Imhotep -- OFFERED
It's another national prospect that will be hard to make up ground on, with Arizona State and Oklahoma already having received visits. Valentin said he will definitely visit UCLA and the Bruins are a school he's high on, but we're hearing his academics could make it difficult for UCLA to really pursue him all that hard. Valentin is a huge body, but is supposed to be very athletic for his size.
Stewart Reese, 6-6, Fort Pierce (Fla.) Central -- OFFERED
UCLA got into the game with Reese pretty recently, but the four-star tackle prospect has indicated UCLA absolutely has a chance with him and intends to visit. Florida State, Michigan State, Nebraka and Georgia are locked in and will be difficult to beat. Reese is a very academic kid, and aspires to be a surgeon, so UCLA, and an official visit, could perhaps make the Bruins stand out for him.
Michael Eletise, Honolulu (Hawaii) Kaiser. -- COMMITTED TO ARIZONA
UCLA was definitely the leader for Eletise, the #1 guard prospect in the west, before Klemm was suspended. It was a bit surprising that he committed to Arizona without giving Klemm a chance to return and recruit him again. UCLA could pursue Eletise if the rumors of Rich Rodriguez being in play for any of the numerous Eastern jobs continues to heat up.