UCLA football recruiting for 2016 is in an interesting place 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 15th 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 (20 committed at this time, with probably 26-28 to give total), however.
What has helped the class 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 not many spots left to give out, it's basically a case of UCLA looking for a Few Good Men. UCLA could take maybe just 2 or 3 more commitments on the offensive side of the ball.
QUARTERBACKS (Needs 2)
It will be interesting to see if UCLA stands pat with its 1 1/2 commitments at quarterback. 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. With Rosen's 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. 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 later followed suit and committed. Lynch had a pretty good senior season and is a pretty good athlete, using his legs a lot this season. 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. Lynch will be on campus for spring football and with it looking like Jerry Neuheisel will move on after the season since he's graduated, Lynch very well could be the No. 2 quarterback coming out of the spring.
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.
Nathan Rourke, 6-2, 200, Elmore (Ala.) Edgewood Academy
Rourke is an intriguing prospect having moved to Alabama from Canada to play his senior season. While he doesn't have any offers yet, a big senior year has gotten a few schools interested in him, one of them being UCLA, with Noel and Taylor Mazzone staying in contact with him. It's unlikely he'll get an offer unless something happened with Lynch or Lee, but he's one to keep monitoring.
RUNNING BACKS (Needs 1)
The future UCLA running backs depth chart is looking pretty good. Nate Starks will be a junior next year, and then Bolu Olorunfunmi and Soso Jamabo will be true sophomores, and each 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. If Paul Perkins comes back for his senior season, which is looking more and more possible, this becomes even less of an issue.
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? 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.
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. 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). But really, once he opened things up, it became UCLA's recruitment and Eric Yarber wrapped it up and got a verbal from Howard last month. He'll be an instant impact player for the Bruins, and is the top receiver UCLA has gotten a commitment from in over a decade. He's a big-time pull for Yarber and the Bruin staff, and give credit to Angus McClure for staying on him after his initial commitment to the Ducks.
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 month after rescheduling his trip the weekend of the Colorado game.
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 had a very good senior season for Great Oak playing running back, seemingly going over 150+ yards each week and racking up a slew of touchdowns. He's graduating early and plans to enroll in time for spring ball and he took an official visit earlier this fall and remains completely solid and has been one of the more vocal commits in recruiting teammates.
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 had begun to look around again. And it looked like UCLA was going to be able to swoop back in on him. But Pittman had said numerous times, if USC retained Clay Helton as their head coach as well as Tee Martin and Marques Tuiasosopo, the two coaches who recruited him the most, he would stick with USC. Helton is now the head coach and both are likely to be retained, so Pittman is becoming a longer shot by the day.
Javon McKinley, 6-2, 200, Corona (Calif.) Centennial -- OFFERED
McKinley's recruitment has been interesting. UCLA has stayed in his top five for some time, after not even being in it early on. He's visited Oregon, Notre Dame, Tennessee and Washington and has one more official visit, to UCLA next weekend. 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. UCLA will be at his game on Saturday night against St. John Bosco. McKinley will announce his decision at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in January.
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 had 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 visited Notre Dame last month and told us last week that he's down to the Bruins and Irish and he'll take his official visit to UCLA next weekend and will be ready to make a decision. From what we heard, his trip to Notre Dame had him questioning if he wanted to get that far from home, so that bodes well for UCLA. Both UCLA and Notre Dame had in-home visits with Alloway on Tuesday night.
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. He was underground and it was really uncertain who his leader is and who was still actively pursuing him this fall. But he told Scout in November that the Bruins are still atop his top five and UCLA continues to pursue him. But if he waits too long, there may not be a spot for him to commit to.
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 in October, 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, especially after a good visit to Eugene.
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. Interestingly enough, he has yet to take an official visit, and there are really only five visit weekends left. UCLA coaches could be down in Texas this week to see 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 didn't really have a great season, stat-wise, when he was playing, then a foot injury ended up costing him the rest of his season.
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. Asiasi will officially visit UCLA next weekend, if, as expected, De La Salle wins their 24th straight CIF-NCS title, as the Spartans will have a bye before the Open Division state title game.
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 he was expected to visit UCLA in October, but pushed the visit back to this month. 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. His dad still lives on the East Coast, but does fly out to the West Coast for his NFL on FOX gigs.
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.
Mike Alves, 6-5, 318, San Diego (Calif.) St. Augustine -- COMMITTED
UCLA was supposed to get a visit from Alves last month but he ended up pushing it back until December. But that didn't stop UCLA's pursuit of him- he instead committed to the Bruins the Monday after he was supposed to visit. He's got some position versatility- able to play guard or tackle, which is how Adrian Klemm likes his lineman. He chose the Bruins over Oregon and Boston College.
Alex Akingbulu, 6-6, 240, Harbor City (Calif.) Narbonne- COMMITTED
Akingbulu was a long UCLA lean, especially once Klemm returned from his suspension. He was offered the day after Signing Day, but it really wasn't until Klemm's return that the Bruins really got in to the drivers seat, as Klemm and Akingbulu's relationship was strong. Akingbulu visited Cal and Utah officially, but on Thanksgiving, he committed to the Bruins. He will take his official visit to UCLA next month. His season is still going with Narbonne, the heavy favorite for the City Section title, so plans to visit next weekend are being pushed until January.
Terrance Davis, 6-4, 310, Hyattsville (Md.) DeMatha Catholic -- OFFERED
UCLA was probably among the few leaders for Davis pre-Klemm suspension, and while UCLA was hanging in there for a while, it looks like it's a Michigan-Maryland battle for him now, with the Wolverines still having the edge. UCLA hasn't completely given up, but they're not focusing on him as much because he's a little more unrealistic.
Francisco Perez, 6-4, 300, Baldwin Park (Calif.) -- OFFERED
Perez was offered by UCLA on Tuesday, and while he's committed to Cal, and has been for a while, this will be a recruitment worth watching. Perez grew up not far from the Rose Bowl and his family is big on academics- hence why Cal got his commitment. But with an equal education at UCLA and its proximity to home, the Bruins have a very realistic chance to flip Perez. Couple that with there being rumors Sonny Dykes could be leaving Cal, and UCLA could really get in good with Perez. Klemm went and visited Perez on Tuesday at his school and offered him. We've been big fans of Perez since the spring and thought he should have been offered during the eval period, but this was an obvious casualty of Klemm's suspension.
JohnCarlo Valentin, 6-4, 320, Philadelphia (Penn.) Imhotep -- OFFERED
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. Valentin has yet to schedule his remaining three visits, with only Arizona State and Oklahoma his only visits that he's taken. His coach wants him to finish his visits in January and UCLA is one that he still wants to visit, but again, academics could deter his recruitment. On top of that, hometown school Temple, with its emergence this season, has a very realistic chance to hold on to 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 remaining coaching jobs actually happens, but it looks less and less likely that RichRod will leave, and if he stays, Jim Michalzik likely stays and Eletise likely sticks with his original commitment.