UCLA Football Recruiting Reset: Defense

Dec. 3 -- The contact period starts this week and Signing Day is two months away, so we reset UCLA's defensive recruiting board for the stretch run...

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, even on defense.

With not many spots left to give out, it's basically a case of UCLA looking for a Few Good Men. The bulk of the remaining commitments, though, will come on the defensive side, with possibly upward of 6 given out to defensive players.  

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

There was much fanfare when Betiku committed to UCLA in August.  But by late October, after some official visits to Florida State and Texas A&M, he was no longer committed.  UCLA is still trying for him, and it appears to be more and more like a USC and UCLA battle, but these usually don't end well for UCLA when they go after high profile players from Serra.  Betiku wants to play defensive end in a 4-3, so what USC does with their defensive coordinator and defensive line coach could make a big impact, but even then, USC is probably in the lead for Betiku, regardless of what kind of defense they run.

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, with Oklahoma the favorite. He visited UCLA last spring and spent almost a whole day on campus with his mother and the visit went very well. An earlier scheduled visit to UCLA for the fall was pushed back to December, so Bledsoe will be on his official next weekend, the 12th of December, for UCLA's big visit weekend.

Nahje Flowers, 6-3, 275, Los Angeles (Calif.) Dorsey- OFFERED

Flowers was offered in late October and the Bruins shot to the top of his list.  He's an intriguing player, able to play on both sides of the line and while he projects better to offensive guard, UCLA offered him as a jumbo athlete, with the defensive line where they envision him.  He'll visit officially in January and the Bruins are doing well with him.

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

Murphy didn't list UCLA as a school he's likely to visit when he named those schools (Arizona State, Michigan, Oregon and USC were the four he said), but the Bruin coaches aren't giving up and are trying to get him in for a visit.  They will be in Phoenix this week to check in on Murphy, the younger brother of former Stanford All-American, Trent Murphy.

Jake Burton, 6-4, 260, El Cajon (Calif.) Granite Hills- OFFERED

Burton was offered by UCLA in the spring after their lineman camp, but then he turned around and committed to Arizona.  But again, UCLA isn't quitting with Burton, and they continue to pursue him and he said they reiterated that to him last week. The Bruin coaches like him on the defensive line and his versatility to play either inside or outside has ramped up their efforts.

Semisi Lauaki, 6-4, 260, Lawndale (Calif.) Leuzinger

Lauaki was the top performer at UCLA's lineman camp in June but was more of a senior year watch guy.  He ended up committing to Utah at the beginning of the season, but a big junior year opened up more doors for him and USC offered last month and UCLA could be close.  They were by to check him out this week and UCLA could be offering very soon too.

Kelvin Lucky, 6-6, 228, Elmore (Ala.) Edgewood Academy

Lucky is an intriguing player, only in his first year of football, after being a basketball player first.  From Nigeria, UCLA will be seeing him during the contact period and could try and get him to take an official visit.  He doesn't have an offer yet, but after the coaches see him, that could change.


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 had a very good senior season, looking dominating with his combination of size and quickness. 

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

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 got a commitment from him at the end of October.  He'll have two years to play two and will enroll in time for spring practice.  With Kenny Clark likely gone to the NFL, Terry will provide immediate depth at defensive tackle.

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 top five are Michigan, UCLA, Washington, Utah and Arizona, and he said he wants to visit most of those in January, but UCLA is the only visit scheduled. 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 and then being up there this week to check in on him.  Tagaloa will visit UCLA officially next weekend, assuming the Spartans win this weekend, since they'd have a bye before the CIF State Open Division championship game.  

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 in late October.  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, especially with Alabama looming.  Angus McClure was down to see him in October and the Bruins are definitely candidates to steal him out of the Bayou but its more likely he stays in the Southeast.

Garrett Rand, 6-2.5, 275, Chandler (Ariz.) Hamilton- OFFERED

Rand committed to Wisconsin in late September but UCLA is still recruiting him and will see him during the contact period, just in case he gets cold feet heading to the Midwest. One of the top interior defensive linemen in the West, UCLA was one of the first schools to offer Rand.


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.  Toailoa visited Utah last weekend, but it looks like it was more for taking a visits sake rather than legitimate interest.

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.  In fact, there may not be a more solid verbal in this class on defense.  He'll have Scott White at his game this weekend in the CIF-Central Section D-I finals.

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) and Michigan last weekend.  He's also set to visit Alabama and potentially Texas, who visited him earlier this week.  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 fall.


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. 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.  Ole Miss had him in for an official visit in mid-November and he'll visit Oklahoma State this weekend officially.  Where he visits next weekend is up in the air, as it would be his last weekend to take a visit before his announcement.  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. His family heavily favors UCLA and while he's said he's still considering USC, especially with Clay Helton being retained, it still seems like he's UCLA's to lose.

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 is set to visit UCLA this month and already,he's visited Michigan State, Notre Dame and Oregon.  Florida is also exepcted to get a visit at some point.


SAFETY (Needs 2)

With how good UCLA's young defensive backs have looked in practice this fall, it makes DB recruiting a little easier for secondary coach Demetrice Martin. He'll be able to be pretty picky and hold out for some elite guys. Plus 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, Nebraska and Utah.  USC still seems to be in the mix, though if there are major coaching staff changes, they're likely out. UCLA is expected to visit Jackson this week and he said he may take one more unofficial visit to UCLA.

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 had remained on his list of five or so, but his most recent top five didn't include the Bruins.  And with his brother graduating this season, the pull West isn't nearly as strong.

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, UCLA looked like they were going to aggressively recruit him when he was an underclassmen but haven't really pursued him at all this season and it's unlikely UCLA would have room for him either.

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 he also visited Michigan and Arizona State.  UCLA is still in the mix and the coaches are expected to see him this month in Texas.

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

UCLA offered Riley in early August and UCLA was a school he was high on. The Bruins continue to make him a priority and he has position versatility, able to play as a bigger corner but also a pretty athletic free safety. He's laid relatively low during the recruiting process, not a big of all it entails, but schools are definitely still after him, especially UCLA.


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, especially with Jones being high on the Trojans hiring Clay Helton fulltime.

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 and Demetrice Martin has ties with Long, both being from Pasadena, so they're still trying and visiting him this week.

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.  But there may also be a lack of space when it gets down to it, so Bryant appears to be a second tier target right now.

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, even with no other offers and Davis wanting to wait.


ATHLETES 

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

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, Ohio State, Florida State and Notre Dame already and will visit either Arizona, Stanford or UCLA for his final official visit.  UCLA was in his home on Monday night, prioritizing him right off the bat.

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.

Khaleke Hudson, 6-0, 200, McKeesport (Pa.) Area- OFFERED

The top-ranked athlete in the East, Hudson is being recruited by Tom Bradley and he's expected to visit UCLA next weekend officially.  Hudson had previously visited Virginia Tech and Pittsburgh, Penn State and Michigan are all trying to get him on campus to visit.  Hudson likely projects to safety in college.

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, with two commits and one target, needing a punter after Bailey Raborn decommitted.

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.  He's enrolling in January and will be with the program during spring ball.

Austin Kent, 6-2, 210, Charlotte (N.C.) Providence- OFFERED

Kent was offered soon after Raborn decommitted and he'll visit officially before he makes his decision. Right now, his other option is a preferred walk-on at North Carolina, but the Bruins offer is appealing, he just wants to visit before he makes his final choice. He'll visit officially in January.


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