As we've talked about at length in recent weeks, there's a really good chance that UCLA takes a big class this cycle, certainly more than the typical 25. In that respect, it's going to be very comparable in size to the 2012 and 2013 classes, the first two recruiting classes under Jim Mora. Those two classes produced basically the entire collective of players who have sustained the last four seasons under Mora. The big question we'll try to answer here is what this class needs to achieve to achieve a similar kind of impact on the program.
That 2013 class is the one we're going to focus on here, as it compares to the 2016 class, since it's the highly rated one that gave UCLA so many star players. That 2013 class came in at No. 3 in the overall team rankings behind Ohio State and Michigan. That was the class that gave UCLA Kenneth Clark, Myles Jack, Eddie Vanderdoes, and even unheralded but impactful players like Jayon Brown. The top end talent in that class has formed the back bone of the program for the last three seasons.
In looking at the class in-depth, though, there were certainly some big hits, as we talked about above, but there were also some considerable misses. Essentially that entire highly rated defensive back class didn't pan out, with Johnny Johnson likely remaining as the best option to make a real impact going forward (perhaps the light does come on for Tahaan Goodman, if he does choose to stick around for his senior season, but we're not counting on it). Eight players from the class have transferred out of the program, so you need to count all of them as misses. In total, we'd say that 13 players in the class were solid hits or better, 10 were misses (either because of transfer or not living up to their star rating), and with four players (like, for example, Johnson) it remains to be seen what kind of impact they will have.
With such a big class, you're of course going to have a miss rate. That miss rate is actually about average, from just eyeballing the numbers for other UCLA classes over the last five or six years. It probably had an unusual number of quick transfers, though, meaning a bunch of guys who didn't make any kind of impact on the program, but other than that, it was pretty typical. Overall, though, that was about a typical class in terms of hit rate, and given the talent at the top of that pile, it was probably the best class UCLA has had in a long, long time.
UCLA's class this year doesn't project to end up quite as highly rated, unless UCLA closes like crazy with basically every player on its list, including longshots like Jack Jones. So, let's just rule that idea out altogether -- this almost certainly isn't going to be a top five class. That said, though, it has a very good chance of being a top ten class, and once you get into that realm, it's all about the miss rate. If this class hits on a higher percentage of its players, it has a chance to be even better than the 2013 class.
There were three big areas where the 2013 class hit in a major way -- on the offensive line, on the defensive line, and at linebacker. Even factoring in what turned out to be a miss on Kylie Fitts (simply due to transfer, not talent), hitting on Vanderdoes and Clark was a game changer, and gave UCLA two stud defensive tackles, which is a rare commodity for UCLA. On the offensive line, that class gave UCLA Caleb Benenoch, Alex Redmond, Scott Quessenberry, and Kenny Lacy, all players who have started games and been productive for UCLA over the last three years. At linebacker, UCLA landed Myles Jack, Isaako Savaiinaea, Jayon Brown, and Cameron Judge, all of whom have turned out to be productive, valuable members of that class in some form or another. Whenever a class hits on both lines of scrimmage, and in the defensive front seven, the way the 2013 class did, that makes the class successful almost by itself.
There were some big misses in the 2013 class, though. The defensive back class could not have been more highly rated, but it has ended up being mostly a bust, with Priest Willis and Tyler Foreman transferring, Goodman not yet making an impact, and Johnson nursing some injuries through his three years in the program. Quarterback was also a miss, with Asiantii Woulard transferring out of the program after a year and a half. UCLA only took one running back, and Craig Lee never made an impact before transferring, so you'd have to call that a miss as well.
So, three positions were basically misses in that class, with UCLA getting exceptionally unlucky with the defensive back class in particular.
Of course, we didn't know that at the time. When the class was signed, we considered the DB group to be one of the best aspects of the class, and neither running back nor quarterback projected as a major concern, since both Lee and Woulard were solid four-star prospects. So, what we'll try to do here is jump back in our time machine all the way to the week of Signing Day and our impressions of the 2013 class as it was being signed, to compare it to what UCLA is getting, or likely getting, in the 2016 class.
Right now, based on just ratings and rankings, UCLA projects to fill many of its needs at most positions. UCLA is taking two quality quarterbacks in Devon Modster and Matt Lynch, so the odds of getting at least one hit from those two are pretty good. At running back, UCLA is taking Jalen Starks, who was a productive bigger back for Crespi, and also have a good chance with Brandon Stephens, the Stanford decommit, who is visiting this weekend. If the Bruins finish with just Starks, that would be fine, but if the Bruins also land Stephens, that more than likely gives UCLA a very solid hit for both positions in the offensive backfield. If UCLA lands Stephens, you'd probably give the edge to the 2016 class for both quarterback recruiting and running back recruiting. If UCLA doesn't get Stephens, the 2013 class has the edge in running back recruiting, but the 2016 class has the edge in quarterback recruiting.
At receiver, UCLA projects to have an excellent class. Theo Howard and Dymond Lee are two very good receiver prospects out West, Demetric Felton was one of our favorite playmakers last spring, Darian Owens is a great athlete who could impact on either side of the ball, and right now we think UCLA lands both Damian Alloway and Aaron Hansford. Hansford, in particular, might be the most undervalued prospect remaining on UCLA's list, with the size and speed to be a fantastic playmaker on the outside. For this class to miss on receiver, it would take the sort of bad luck that killed the 2013 defensive back class, as they are similarly loaded according to the rankings. This projects as a better receiver class than the 2013 class, which included Thomas Duarte as the headliner but not much else besides Darren Andrews and Eldridge Massington (Jalen Ortiz, as well, who came in as a slot, even though he was listed as a running back in the database).
On the offensive line, in an ideal world, you'd like UCLA to have gotten at least one highly rated tackle to help build some depth behind Kolton Miller and Conor McDermott, but given what Adrian Klemm had to work with after returning from suspension, this class has filled some needs and basically sets UCLA up to take another big offensive line class in 2017. Getting Jake Raulerson was absolutely key, and if UCLA can add Francisco Perez to Mike Alves and Alex Akingbulu, then this projects to be a more than solid result for Klemm given the limitations he had to work with this cycle. Obviously, though, it's going to be hard for this class to compete with that 2013 class, which was probably UCLA's best offensive line class in over a decade.
Tight end recruiting is interesting. UCLA has Jordan Wilson in the fold, but to get to a point where it can actually run double-tight sets and real pro-style formations, UCLA really does need to get another tight end, and right now the option is Devin Asiasi. He might be the linchpin for the class in terms of our assessment of it, but we'll get to that in a second. If UCLA lands Asiasi, tight end recruiting was obviously a huge hit. If it doesn't, given where UCLA wants to go in terms of its offense, you'd have to say it's a bit of a miss. We like Wilson, but he might be a year or two away from making an impact at this level, and UCLA simply needs more tight ends on roster. UCLA got Duarte in the 2013 class, but even at the time Duarte was projected as a receiver, not a tight end. Let's just say 2016 is better, since it's actually recruiting the position.
So, for the entire offense, if UCLA lands Asiasi, this class ends up being basically a success across the board. Yes, landing another offensive tackle would have been good, but given the mitigating circumstances with offensive line recruiting, this class should end up being very solid. Compared to 2013, it's either similar or a slight cut above, with the only area where the class is worse being the offensive line, and perhaps running back recruiting if UCLA misses on Stephens.
On the defensive side of the ball, our assessment of defensive line recruiting is all about Boss Tagaloa at this point. If UCLA finishes with Tagaloa, that gives the Bruins a class of Tagaloa, Nick Terry, Osa Odighizuwa, Jake Burton, and Marcus Moore (and you can throw Breland Brandt in that weird mix of defensive end/linebacker as well). Even without Garrett Rand, we'd call that class a solid hit. We've heard great things about Terry, and Tagaloa was one of the biggest needs this cycle, as we've been talking about since last February. One more high level defensive end would take the class to elite levels, but all things considered, this class hits on a lot of needs and gives UCLA numbers on the defensive line, which it will need. If UCLA doesn't close with Rand, it's probably a step below 2013, but if it closes with Rand (and Tagaloa, obviously), it's probably right there with 2013.
At linebacker, the class is a major hit if it lands Mique Juarez, and we'd still guess that happens at this point. Lokeni Toailoa, Krys Barnes, and Brandt are all high-level prospects in their own right, and if you add Juarez to the mix, this class has the potential to have a big impact on the linebacker depth chart for years to come. As with the receiver class, it would take bad luck on the order of the 2013 DB class to have this class, if it ends up including Juarez, to not pan out. You'd have to say that the 2013 and 2016 classes are very comparable in terms of linebacker talent.
The jury is still out on the defensive back class this cycle, mostly because Brandon Burton hasn't yet announced. From what we gather, the plan is actually to have Keyon Riley start out at corner, with Burton (if he ends up picking UCLA, which we guess will happen) and Leni Toailoa starting out at safety. This wasn't a class where UCLA needed big numbers in the defensive backfield, and landing Burton will be key in giving UCLA a big safety who can see the field potentially early in his career. If there's a miss, it's not getting an elite cornerback, with the two local options, David Long and Jack Jones, looking elsewhere. But the biggest need in this class for the DBs was improving the size at safety, and with Burton and Toailoa (and Riley, if he eventually moves over to safety), UCLA will do that. That said, there's no way to assess this class as anything other than a step below the 2013 class (again, when it was signed). In actual real life, it'd be hard for this class to not make a bigger impact than the 2013 class.
So, overall, compared to the 2013 class, UCLA projects to have a better quarterback class, a better receiver class, and a better tight end class, with a chance at a better running back class if Stephens joins up. The Bruins project to have a worse offensive line class and a worse defensive back class than 2013 (again, when it was signed), and similar defensive line and linebacker classes.
Obviously, it's impossible to say right now what kind of miss rate UCLA sustains from this class, especially when we look back on it in three years. Some guys will outperform their rankings, some highly ranked guys will end up being busts. But we'll say this -- based on what we've seen with this class, it has a real chance to have as big of an impact on the program as the 2013 class, and if UCLA closes really strong with guys like Asiasi and Rand, in addition to the ones we still think are coming like Juarez and Tagaloa, it has the potential to have an even bigger impact. Asiasi might actually be the linchpin, as we said above. If UCLA doesn't land him, it might be hard for the 2016 class to outperform the 2013 group, but if UCLA does land him, that kind of big, high-level athlete could be what elevates the 2016 class a notch.