UCLA Football Recruiting Reset: Defense

Oct. 28 -- We take a look at where UCLA's defensive recruiting class stands, with current commits and top targets, a little more than three months until Signing Day...

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.


Here's a link to the first part of the reset:  Recruiting Reset: Offense


DEFENSIVE END (Needs 3+)

UCLA signed just one defensive end in 2015 (Rick Wade) so it needs to load up for 2016. It has a commnitment from one defensive end -- Marcus Moore -- giving it a very promising three-star prospect, but it's looking for more, especially with the loss of Oluwole Betiku, though Breland Brandt could bulk up and end up as a defensive end.  

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.

Oluwole Betiku 6-4, 240, Gardena (Calif.) Serra

A week ago, Betiku opened up his recruitment and now looks like a longshot to end up at UCLA.  He's enamored with true 4-3 defenses and the pass-rushers that the SEC and Florida State have produced.  He's visited Florida State and Texas A&M, and he decommitted just a couple of days after he visited A&M officially.  He 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. UCLA got his commitment in August, somewhat out of the blue on the timing, but once he started taking visits, it was nervous time and he finally opened it up.  UCLA is still going to try for him, but they have a tough road to go down.  The schools he's enamored by, with their recent history of NFL players, makes it tough, especially with no real roots on the West Coast.  Of course, there is some speculation he may not leave the West, so while UCLA is hoping that is the case, you absolutely cannot count USC out of it for ANY kid they want from Serra.

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 and he'll likely be choosing between the Wolverines and Irish in the very near future.

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 looked like Bledsoe would be returning in the fall for an official visit and Angus McClure was out in Kansas in May to check in on him, but he was supposed to visit earlier in the fall, and cancelled it. He still has a pretty long list, but it's believed Oklahoma and Oregon are the main competition.  

Connor Murphy, 6-7, 250, Phoenix (Ariz.) Brophy Prep- OFFERED

Murphy is one of the most-sought DE prospects in the west, and it's a classic battle, between national programs like Michigan, the local Arizona State, and then west-coast powers UCLA, USC and Stanford.  Jim Harbaugh recruited his older brother, so Michigan has some pull. He might not quite qualify academically for Stanford, and the word is not to count out ASU.  


DEFENSIVE TACKLE (Needs 2)

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's 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 or one of the others on this it 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. Osa has had a very good senior season, looking dominating with his combination of size and quickness. 

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 for sure, but we haven't heard about any visits being arranged. UCLA is the odds-on favorite and the Bruin coaches have continued to show him that, with Angus McClure and Jim Mora going to see him play early in the season and emphasizing his importance.

Rashard Lawrence, 6-3, 305, Monroe (La.) Neville- OFFERED

The #7-ranked defensive tackle in the nation would be a huge get for the Bruins. He visited UCLA officially the first weekend in October and then visited Ohio State earlier this month.  He still has three more official visits to take, and LSU, while being the in-state school, aren't the lock they would normally be.  Angus McClure was down to see him last weekend and the Bruins are definitely candidates to steal him out of the Bayou.

Nick Terry, 6-4, 295, American River (Calif.) College- OFFERED

Terry signed with Boise State in February of 2013 and spent two years with the Broncos before leaving in 2014 after the coaching staff that signed him went to Washington.  Since then, Terry has ended up at a JC, American River College in Sacramento, where he's teammates with Angus McClure's nephew.  UCLA was his first Power 5 offer at American River and the Bruins are in very good shape to land Terry.  He'll have two years to play his two seasons.

Christian Colon, 6-3, 303, Charlotte (N.C.) Independence- OFFERED

Colon was on UCLA's early list and the Bruins seemed to be a legitimate contender for him. Then Colon committed to Penn State in June.  But last week, Colon decommitted from the Nittany Lions and said that four schools, Pittsburgh, Maryland, Miami and UCLA, were the schools he'd be considering and planned to take official visits to.  He'll announce his decision in January at the Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl.

Jordan Elliott 6-3, 300, Houston (Tex.) Westside

UCLA has gotten involved with Elliott a bit more in the last couple of months. The four-star out of Texas was just named to the Army All-American game, and he's getting aggressively recruited by some pretty big-named schools, like Michigan, Nebraska and Oklahoma, including hometown Texas, and USC is on him.  He has said he wants to officially visit UCLA. 


INSIDE LINEBACKER (Needs 2)

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.  And then his brother joined him in the recruiting class in September.

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.  Barnes took his official visit to UCLA in early October and is rock solid in his commitment.

Dontavious Jackson, 6-2, 237, Houston (Texas) Alief Elsik- OFFERED

Jackson would be that elite third inside linebacker that UCLA would take. He too his official visit to UCLA on Oct. 3rd, and also officially visited Florida State (Oct. 10th).  He's also set to visit Alabama and Michigan (Nov. 28th). UCLA is thought to be a longshot, especially with the Texas schools prioritizing him but he reportedly had a very good visit to UCLA when he came in earlier in the month.


OUTSIDE LINEBACKER (Needs 2+)

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 practices in April and August and also has been a mainstay at games.  He's been rock solid to UCLA his whole recruitment and hasn't wavered a bit.

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

Juarez is the #1 linebacker prospect in the nation, as of Scout's most recent rankings. He committed to USC before Signing Day but had been publicly vacilating. The day that Steve Sarkisian was let go at USC, Juarez finally publicly decommitted.  Now, Oklahoma and Ohio State are going to have him in for official visits, but the buzz has always been that he's staying in the Southland, so would it be USC, where he committed, or UCLA, where his family favors.  Juarez said he'll announce his final decision at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, and right now, it looks good for Juarez, who's having a tremendous senior season. 

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. Hansford will visit UCLA on December 4th, his fifth and final visit and will visit Florida the week prior. Already,he's visited Michigan State, Notre Dame and Oregon and the Bruins have a decent shot, though Notre Dame may be the favorite here.


SAFETY (Needs 2)

With how good UCLA's young defensive backs have looked in practice this fall, it makes DB recruiting so much easier for secondary 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. 

Leni Toailoa, 6-1, 190, Rialto (Calif.) Carter- COMMITTED

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. After a good performance at UCLA's camp in June, Leni was offered by the Bruins and it just became a matter of when, not if, he'd flip to the Bruins.  Toailoa ended up committing to the Bruins in September and will play with his brother in college.  Leni is actually young enough to be a junior in high school and moved up a grade to be in the same class as Lokeni, so he's still got some time to grow.

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 taken official visits to Arizona, Arizona State, Michigan and Utah, and won't visit UCLA or UCLA officially.  He's visited UCLA unofficially a few times as well as USC, who was the leader for him, but he said if there is a complete change of coaches at USC, he won't consider them.

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 but still, it's likely he stays out in the East.

Damar Hamlin, 6-1.5, 175, Pittsburgh (Pa.) Central Catholic- OFFERED

Hamlin has maintained UCLA in his top five for some time, along with Notre Dame, Ohio State, Penn State and local Pittsburgh. It's likely UCLA gets an official visit from him but to date, Notre Dame has been the only school that's hosted him for an official visit.

Max Wariboko, 5-11, 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.  He actually tried commiting to Iowa but there wasn't room for him so he's back open with Louisville and UCLA his top two.  The question would be, will UCLA have room to take him.

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.  He raved about his official visit to UCLA in early October and his next visit is to Michigan next month.

Keyon Riley 6-2, 190, Anaheim (Calif.) Servite -- OFFERED

UCLA offered Riley in early August and while UCLA was a school he was high on, he doesn't appear to be as big of a priority right now.  Washington, Wisconsin, Arizona and others are on him and he is likely to end up out of state.


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. 

Chris Gaston 6-2, 180, La Puente (Calif.) Bishop Amat- COMMITTED 

Gaston missed most of his junior year with a leg injury, but was a guy on the radar of many schools, and he was getting some attention with a great start to his senior year. Demetrice Martin decided that he'd seen enough of Gaston and offered him and Gaston committed that night to the Bruins.

Jack Jones, 5-11, 175, Long Beach (Calif.) Poly- OFFERED

The #1 athlete in the nation, as rated by Scout.com, 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's visited Arizona State and Texas A&M and there is a lot of buzz that he wants to leave the area, but if he were to stay home, UCLA and USC will fight it out for him.  We don't see him leaving the Southland for college, and while UCLA has prioritized him and covets him, USC is the childhood favorite and these battles usually always work to their advantage so UCLA has their work cut out for them.

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 and now the Bruins are in his top three with Colorado and Washington.  He's visited Colorado officially and has been to a number of UCLA games and he'll visit UCLA after the season. 

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. 

David Long, 5-11, 185, Los Angeles (Calif.) Loyola -- Committed to Stanford

The West's top cornerback prospect committed to Stanford in the summer, but he said he'll take official visits, with them all being to schools outside the Southland.  Stanford still has him in their class, but Long is checking out schools just in case he's not admitted in to Stanford and also in case Stanford tries to move him to receiver when he's now set on playing corner.  UCLA has had him at a couple of home games and he's close with a couple of UCLA commits and players.


ATHLETES 

Some of these guys have specific positions UCLA likes them at, while some are truly athletes.

Marquis Lawson 5-9, 165, Los Angeles (Calif.) Crenshaw- COMMITTED

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 looked very good to start his senior season, and committed to the Bruins in September.  UCLA head coach Jim Mora was at his last home game and he had almost 200 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns with his future coach on the sidelines.

Michael Pittman, 6-4, 220, 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 Theo Howard, he could be an early-entry candidate, which could speed up the process for him.

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 more often than not, he's looked like a better receiver than safety. He has visited Oklahoma, Florida State and Notre Dame already and will visit Alabama and Ohio State in November, so he has no plans to visit UCLA, but he's been there plenty.  If he stays close to home, UCLA is the favorite, but he's been intrigued by his trips, especially the one to Notre Dame and Florida State.

Myles Hartsfield, 6-0, 175, Great Barrington (Mass.) East Coast Prep- OFFERED

Hartsfield is an interesting story. He was a sought-after prospect in the 2015 class and verbally committed to Penn State, but when some off-the-field scandal hit his high school of Sayreville, the program was actually shut down and his PSU offer was pulled. He opted for prep school, and the reports are that he's matured a great deal. UCLA recently offered him, because of connections with UCLA DC Tom Bradley, and the word is that he wants to visit. Boston College and Temple have also offered, and he's getting attention from Alabama, Rutgers and Penn State.

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.  He was injured early in the season, though, and UCLA has cooled on him a bit, so he's not a real priority right now for them.

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).  He could also greyshirt if he does commit to UCLA and scholarships are at a premium.


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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