Football Recruiting Reset: Defense

Dec. 28 -- We reset UCLA's defensive recruiting board during the dead period and in the lead up to the All-American games...

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. 

There have been some interesting recent developments in terms of scholarships available, too.  It always appeared that UCLA wouldn't have that many to give to the 2016 class, but that has clearly changed.  A college football team has a limit of 85 scholarships, and UCLA currently has 26 available for the 2016 school year.  You'd have to think, also, that there will be some attrition before next fall (there always is), with players leaving the program due to medical reasons or transfer.  So, it's not a stretch to think UCLA will have upward of 28, or more, available for the 2016 fall quarter.  

The limit of bringing in 25 per recruiting class isn't relevant either, since UCLA opened up room in the 2016 class by signing 8 early enrolees last week that can be considered counters against the 2015 class.  So, theoretically, if UCLA has 15 commitments to date, and 8 count against 2015, and it can bring in 25 in the 2016 class today, UCLA could bring in another 18 prospects if it so desired.

We, then, expect UCLA to possibly take a few more recruits in the 2016 class than we might have previously anticipated.  There might not be that many on the offensive side of the ball, but if you take Jim Mora's recent comments to heart, expect UCLA to sign at least a couple more offensive linemen.  


Part 1: Offensive Recruit Reset


DEFENSIVE END (Needs 2+)

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.   UCLA, too, moves around it's defensive linemen, so there are some prospects listed among defensive tackles that very well could line up as defensive ends, especially if UCLA goes to a base defense that features bigger, more physical DEs.  Also, bear in mind that Devin Asiasi, the prospect from De La Salle, appeared on the offensive reset as a tight end, and that's definitely the postion where he'll first work when he gets to college. But it's pretty well-accepted that Asiasi, while being a very good tight end, has a chance to be a high-impact defensive end on the college level. 

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.

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 but if he doesn't commit soon, there may not be room for 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 were in Phoenix earlier this month to check in on Murphy, the younger brother of former Stanford All-American, Trent Murphy. And UCLA is still posturing to get one of his final official visits in January, so they're staying in the mix as much as they can.

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 month. 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 month and UCLA could be offering very soon too.

Leki Fotu, 6-6, 255, Herriman (Utah)

A player who's getting more and more attention in the West is Herriman (Utah) defensive end Fotu. The three-star committed to Utah in September, but USC offered him this month and UCLA is watching him closely. And Fotu has a connection to two current UCLA freshman, Andre James, who he played with at Herriman last fall and Stephen Johnson, who he played with as a sophomore at San Leandro.

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 went to see 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. He could end up being more of a defensive end type, too, if UCLA goes with bigger DEs in the future. 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.  He'll be playing in the Semper Fidelis All-American Game in Southern California next month.

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. having signed early enrollment papers last week.  With Kenny Clark likely gone to the NFL, Terry will provide immediate depth at defensive tackle.

Boss Tagaloa, 6-1, 290, 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. Then he took his first, and so far, lone official visit to UCLA and he loved his time there.  He was dominant too last weekend in the state championship game, showing why he's been coveted for so long.  USC offered earlier this month and they could get an official visit from Tagaloa in January, so UCLA will have to keep on him, with his official visit to Westwood already done.  Still, we've heard the Bruins are in a very good spot for him.

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.  It's probably LSU or Alabama at this point, and he could commit soon. 

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

Rand committed to Wisconsin in late September but UCLA is still recruiting him and saw 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. He could officially visit.  


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, 6-1, 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 took a visit to Utah, but was never in danger of flipping and he signed with UCLA last week and will be on campus in early January when he returns from the Under Armour All-America Game.

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.  

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 month.  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 and signed with UCLA in the early enrollment round last week.

Mique Juarez, 6-2, 225, 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 also visited Oklahoma and Washington officially. His family heavily favors UCLA and it still seems like he's UCLA's to lose.  Having said that, he did push back his decision to later in the month instead of the Army Bowl, but he still plans to enroll somewhere in time for spring practice, which works for those schools on the quarter system.  Even though there are rumors that other schools are making impressions, the reliable word is that UCLA still leads for Juarez.

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 next month and already he's visited Michigan State, Notre Dame and Oregon.  Florida, North Carolina and Oklahoma are all hoping to get his last visit.


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. It's one of the reasons it wasn't that big of a deal when Chris Gaston decommitted (from what we've heard, mostly because of academics).  This list could be slightly deceiving, too; there are players who do have offers but could be slow-played, with UCLA waiting to see what the bigger fish do first. 

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.  He signed with UCLA last week as an early enrollee and will be on campus next month.

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 and UCLA is still trying and visiting and hoping he'll at least take an unofficial.  But Nebraska is in a good spot for him and Oregon is still highly in the mix.

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.  Riley said he will visit UCLA officially the last weekend before Signing Day.

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 went to see him this month in Texas.


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.

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 opened things up last week and said that Washington and Michigan were his top two.  UCLA and USC, which both have former Loyola coaches of Long on staff, aren't giving up, and Demetrice Martin is still trying ot get back in to it for Long, so getting him on campus for an official visit in January could go a long way in determining if they have a chance at him.

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.

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.

Kentrell Love, 6-2, 175, Corona (Calif.) Centennial -- OFFERED 

Love was a bit of an under-the-radar type of prospect but Washingtonr recognized his upside early, offered him and got his commitment. When Centennial made its run through the CIF playoffs, other schools noticed Love, and how big and physical he was as a corner. Both UCLA and USC then offered, and both are trying to get him on campus for an official visit in January.


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 the first Monday night, prioritizing him right off the bat and would more than welcome his commitment.

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

The top-ranked athlete in the East, Hudson is being recruited by Tom Bradley and visited UCLA officially earlier this month and had a good trip.  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.  He'll be back in Southern California next month for the Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl and UCLA continues to pursue him and hopes to get him away from the East.

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 three commits.

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.  He's in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.

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'll have big shoes to fill, taking over for the Lou Groza Award winner and the Pac-12's all-time leading scorer, Ka'imi Fairbairn.  Molson is enrolling in January and will be with the program during spring ball.  But first, Molson will be playing in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, only the second Canadian player ever invited to San Antonio.

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

Kent was offered soon after Raborn decommitted and he chose the Bruins last week.  He'll officially visit next month.  Kent, like Molson and Den Bleyker, will likely be thrown into the fire right away.


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