UCLA Football Recruiting Reset: Defense

March 15 -- We reset UCLA's defensive recruiting board with a month before the spring evaluation period starts...

UCLA football recruiting for 2017 is already off to a good start, with six commitments, four on defense and two on offense.

Holding on to Angus McClure was big for UCLA, especially with a deep and talented crop of defensive lineman out West this year. In fact, for the first time in three years, the Bruins had no turnover with the defensive coaching staff.

Each year, there are questions of just how many players UCLA will sign. When a class looks small and BRO predicts they'll have more numbers and scholarships to utilize, they always have the space available, so this year should be no different.

The spring evaluation period starts one month from tomorrow and here is a look at UCLA's defensive recruiting board in mid-March.


DEFENSIVE TACKLES

This will be one of the best defensive tackle classes, and frankly, one of the best defensive line classes the West has seen in a long time. And the timing couldn't be better for UCLA, which is already heavily pursuing a ton of defensive linemen from the region. Angus McClure may be the most underrated recruiter in the Pac-12 and certainly is one of the most underappreciated, as he's been bringing in top defensive lineman yearly since he moved to that position and his diligence on the road has landed the Bruins players like Takkarist McKinley and Chigozie Nnoruka. McClure was the only assistant coach in the country who did the homework to recognize that each of those players was eligible to transfer after their freshman years in junior college. UCLA held off Nebraska, who tried to bring McClure back to Lincoln where he was a one-time assistant, stepping up to pay him and secure him in Westwood and that will help with defensive line recruiting moving forward. Speaking of McClure's diligence, several of what are now the top defensive tackles in the 2017 class were offered by UCLA last spring when they were very much under the radar. They've continued to play at a high level, validating McClure's early offer and eye for talent.

Top Targets:

Martin Andrus, Los Angeles (Calif.)

UCLA has a very real chance with Andrus, who plays at Los Angeles High School, where he is coached by former Bruin receiver and assistant coach Eric Scott. Andrus has said he was a UCLA fan growing up. Scott and McClure coached together, in fact, during the 2007 season at UCLA, with McClure coaching the tight ends and Scott the receivers, so there is that connection.

Greg Rogers, Las Vegas (Nev.) Arbor View

Rogers is another one who grew up a UCLA fan and the Bruins have long been a factor for him. He said that the Bruins were one of his favorites growing up soon after he was offered. UCLA was out to see him in the fall and stopped by his school during January. USC offered Rogers too and he told Scout that UCLA and USC are two of his for sure official visits.

Jay Tufele, South Jordan (Utah) Bingham

Tufele has a lot of Pac-12 interest and McClure and Marques Tuiasosopo, who recruits Utah, will prioritize him inside. He's the top prospect in Utah in this class, where Tuiasosopo made his biggest impact in 2015 when he was across town. Tufele was recently offered by Ohio State and Michigan and Ole MIss have also offered him so he's gone national and he's also the focus of Utah and BYU.

Popo Aumavae, Stockton (Calif.) St. Mary's

Aumavae can play on either side of the line, but most schools appear to be recruiting him on the defensive line and that is where UCLA is focusing on Aumavae playing. He's got significant interest in the Bruins too and he's starting to blossom into a big-time prospect with 15 offers, but the Bruins and McClure are on his very short list.

Marlon Tuipulotu, Independence (Ore.) Central

Tuipulotu is one of the Northwest's top prospects, and UCLA did land a defensive lineman in the last class from Oregon. Interestingly enough, Tuipulotu is originally from Southern California, having lived in Hawthorne and Lawndale before he moved to Oregon before his freshman year, and he grew up watching UCLA and USC, but the Ducks have made a big impression on him.

Noah Elliss, Highlands Ranch (Colo.) Valor Christian

The son of the former Detroit Lions and Utah defensive lineman, Elliss was offered by UCLA last week and the Bruins have somewhat of a chance with him, though he too is a national recruit now. Originally from Utah, his father is now on the Denver Broncos staff, which prompted the move to Colorado, but the Utes have made him a heavy priority and have the legacy ties.

Other Names to Watch:

Marvin Wilson, 6-4, 309, Bellaire (Texas) Episcopal- Offered

Xach Gill, Wake Forest (N.C.)- Offered

Dalyn Wade-Perry, Sparta (N.J.) Pope John XXIII- Offered

Deiontae Watts, Plano (Texas) East- Offered

Kurtis Brown, 6-3, 290, Bakersfield (Calif.) Liberty

Poni Tu'uta, 6-4, 274, River Ridge (La.) John Curtis Christian

Seleti Fevaleaki, 6-2, 250, Corona (Calif.) Centennial

Jojo Falo, 6-2, 265, San Diego (Calif.) Madison

Oscar Burgueno, 6-1, 250, Chino Hills (Calif.)


DEFENSIVE ENDS

Like with tackles, this is a very good defensive end class out West, with three four-star ends in the state of California. UCLA got a jump on the competition, with the Bruins already taking a commitment from one of those four-stars, Hunter Echols and they were first to offer Johnson.

Top Targets:

Hunter Echols, Los Angeles (Calif.) Cathedral- COMMITTED

Echols made it no secret that UCLA is his favorite school and runaway leader for his services, and, naturally, he committed about as soon as he was able, the day after Signing Day. While Echols has said he'll take some visits and may go through the process, we see some Breland Brandt in him, in that UCLA was his dream school, and the school he wanted an offer from for some time. He actually was trying to commit for a while, but the coaches wanted to wait until right after Signing Day. Echols has spent the time since his commitment recruiting, and he has said he thinks the 2017 class could be one of UCLA's best. He's one of the best pass rushers in the country, with almost 20 sacks, and one of two Cathedral commitments on defense with Rhedi Short. And he's been pretty active on social media showing his love for the Bruins.

Jaelan Phillips, Redlands (Calif.) East Valley

Phillips, the No. 1 defensive end in the West, is another prospect that UCLA identified early and has been on for some time. It's early, but he's fond of the Bruins and he's a good student too and his father went to UCLA. Of course, that means that Stanford will be pursuing Phillips, but UCLA has gotten a head start on him. Phillips was the DL MVP at The Opening Los Angeles and earned an invitation to The Opening Finals.

D.J. Johnson, Sacramento (Calif.) Luther Burbank

Johnson camped with UCLA last summer and was offered that day and is now one of the most heavily pursued players in the West, with over 30 offers. But UCLA was his very first offer and he told Scout that they will always be on his short list because of that. Since then, most of the Pac-12 has offered along with Alabama, Georgia, LSU, Michigan, Tennessee, Texas A&M, Notre Dame and Oklahoma among others.

Donovan Jeter, Beaver Falls (Pa.)

Much of Jeter's attention is coming from Big Ten country, including Penn State and Michigan and Notre Dame is also pursuing him but the Bruins are the lone West Coast school on his short list and Tom Bradley has recruited his area forever.

Luiji Vilain, Alexandria (Va.) Episcopal

UCLA offered Vilian in late February and now he's mentioning them among his top schools, but he'll be tough to pull out of the East. Still, he's expressed interest in visiting UCLA (and USC recently offered), so there is a chance if he takes a trip.

Next Tier to Watch:

Jacob Callier, Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco

UCLA will see and evaluate Callier this spring. He hails from St. John Bosco, where UCLA has had some success of late

Victor Jones, Sacramento (Calif.) Inderkum

Jones is teammates with two UCLA targets, defensive back Trajon Cotton and tight end Josh Falo and he took an unofficial visit to UCLA earlier in the week and said he thinks UCLA could be on the brink of offering. He's a good student too.

Other Names to Watch:

Alden Tofa, 6-4, 255, West Jordan (Utah)

Aliki Vimahi, 6-4, 245, Kahuku (Hawaii)

Jordan Jackson, 6-3, 233, Oakland (Calif.) Bishop O'Dowd


LINEBACKERS

Thanks to the strong efforts of Pac-12 Recruiter of the Year Scott White, UCLA signed the No. 2 linebacker in the country and locked up the No. 1 outside 'backer in the country in Mique Juarez and the West's top two insider backers in Lokeni Toailoa and Krys Barnes. So linebacker recruiting isn't an issue at all under White and in fact is a strength. So now that White has that under his belt, expect him to put the same effort out, if not better, in 2017 and he's already gotten two commitments (they did lose Jaquan Henderson's commitment, but that was pretty much expected.

Top Targets:

Rahyme Johnson, Los Angeles (Calif.) Salesian - COMMITTED

Johnson was UCLA's first commit in the 2017 class, committing back in the summer. He's a pretty good athlete with good size and he's looked solid this spring on the 7v7 circuit and fluid in coverage. He could outgrow the position and he was originally a receiver, so tight end wouldn't be completely out of the question, but for now, he's an outside linebacker. The big thing for him is with committing so early, he's talked about taking some visits and Nebraska is making a push for him.

Javaris Steward, (OLB), Pomona (Calif.)- COMMITTED

Steward has been high on UCLA for a while despite his day-long commitment to USC and he's one of UCLA's primary targets. He currently considers himself a UCLA verbal, but his recruitment is pretty fluid and in its preliminary stages.

Addison Gumbs, (OLB), Oakland (Calif.) Stellar Prep

Gumbs is an intriguing player, playing at a small school in the Bay Area, but has been extremely productive. We saw him two years ago on the camp and 7v7 circuit and he's grown a ton since then. He's a player we're excited to see again in person this spring, but UCLA saw what they needed on film and offered him and immediately made an impression on him to the point they're on his very short list. Interestingly, he played on the same 7v7 team with Bolu Olorunfunmi when he was a sophomore.

Baron Browning, (OLB), Kennedale (Texas)

Browning was a commit to Baylor but opened things up and UCLA is very much in the mix for him and he may visit UCLA this spring, but they'll also have to battle a number of national programs who want the five-star on campus. But even when he was committed to Baylor, he was staying in steady communication with the Bruin coaches.

Levi Jones, (OLB), Austin (Texas) Westlake

Jones visited UCLA last week and raved about the visit and his time spent with Jim Mora. He's a Texas native but he's talked about moving to the West Coast for college and UCLA and USC both had him on campus and both are pursuing him.

Next Tier to Watch:

Joshua Brown, (ILB), Long Beach (Calif.) Poly

Brown is the younger brother of Jayon, and he will get some heavier UCLA interest this spring. An early offer could mean an early commitment from one of the few true inside 'backers in the West.

Sampson Niu, (ILB), San Diego (Calif.) Madison

Niu's recruitment has blown up in the past few weeks and he's nearing 20 offers. UCLA will check him out this spring but could offer him before then. Scott White is from San Diego and has ties to Niu and his coaches too.

Other Names to Watch:

Will Ignont, (ILB), Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy- Offered

Santino Marchiol, (OLB), 6-2, 225, Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy- Offered

Isaac Slade-Matautia, (OLB), Honolulu (Hawaii) St. Louis

Ariel Ngata, (OLB), 6-4, 205, Folsom (Calif.)

Tysyn Parker, (OLB), 6-2, 195, Gardena (Calif.) Serra

Cedric Dashiell, (OLB), 6-1, 204, Buena Park (Calif.)

Lamin Touray, (ILB), 6-0, 215, Mission Hills (Calif.) Alemany

Kylan Wilborn, (OLB), 6-1, 235, Sherman Oaks (Calif.) Notre Dame

Ezekiel Noa, (ILB), 6-0, 220, La Mesa (Calif.) Helix)

Anthony Pandy, (ILB), 6-2, 220, Harbor City (Calif.) Narbonne


CORNERBACKS

UCLA needs to land one true, pure, elite lockdown cornerback in the 2017 class. It might be one of the biggest priorities in the class. And they're doing well with the West's top corner in Holmes. But make no bones about it, they need a pure, true, lockdown corner in a bad way.

Top Targets:

Darnay Holmes

Holmes is the West's top defensive prospect in 2017 and is arguably UCLA's top defensive target in this class. The Bruins offered him when he was a freshman and have prioritized him for years. His father and Demetrice Martin grew up together in Pasadena and played together as youth. Holmes has a top seven, but said he's focused on five. We've actually heard its more like a top three, with UCLA, Stanford and Nebraska, but Ohio State and Washington are also getting mention. But UCLA is doing well with him and he'd be one of their biggest gets in years if they can reel him in.

Jaylon Redd

Redd is another guy UCLA went in on early and the Bruins are doing well with him. He's been somewhat overshadowed by Thomas Graham and Rancho Cucamonga and while he may not have the upside that Graham has, his junior film might be even better than Graham's. Redd has offers from both Los Angeles schools and has said in the past he'd like to stay in California if he can.

Elijah Gates, Buena Park (Calif.)

Gates has been one of the best players this entire spring and UCLA offered him in February and are doing well with him. He visited unofficially last week and enjoyed his time with Martin and Jim Mora, saying that was a big deal for him to get to spend time talking with them. The Bruins should be on his real short list throughout his recruitment.

Elijah Hicks, La Mirada (Calif.)

Hicks is really seeing his stock rise this spring too and UCLA offered him in February as well and that was a big offer for him. He's starting to attract some national attention too, with South Carolina offering this week, but he would like to stay in Pac-12 country.

Deommodore Lenoir

UCLA was doing well with Lenoir for much of his junior season but of late, the two seem to be cooling on each other. UCLA isn't completely giving up on him nor has he completely ruled UCLA out, but for now, it doesn't appear the two will unite in college.

Next Tier to Watch:

Marques Evans, Newbury Park (Calif.)

Evans has just a couple of Mountain West offers but we think he'll end up with a slew of Pac-12 offers when it's all said and done. He's originally from Pasadena and his father is also a childhood friend of Demetrice Martin. Evans has looked very good this spring and could end up with a Bruin offer sooner rather than later. He said UCLA was his dream school growing up.

Jaylon Johnson, Fresno (Calif.) Central

Johnson is the younger brother of Bruin cornerback Johnny Johnson. He's significantly bigger than Johnny was at the same stage, but not quite the pure corner with the feet that Johnny had. He said he'd like a UCLA offer, but he's also said he's looking to carve out his own path as a prospect.

Javelin Guidry, Leander (Texas) Cedar Park

Guidry has an obvious history with UCLA, with his father and uncle both having played for the Bruins in the 1990s. Guidry doesn't have an offer yet, but he camped with the Bruins last summer. He was the DB MVP of The Opening Dallas regional over the weekend.

Quentin Lake, Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei

Another son of a former Bruin, Lake is the son of UCLA great Carnell Lake, who also coached the Bruins secondary with Rick Neuheisel before going back to the NFL to coach. Lake is one of the best defensive backs in the state and has positional versatility too, much like his father, who was a Pro Bowler at both safety and corner in the NFL.

Elijah Blades, Pasadena (Calif.) Muir

Blades has been stellar this spring and is one of the best big corners in the region. He also has good speed, winning the fastest man at The Opening Los Angeles regional. Blades has said he's got work to do academically which he acknowledged has slowed down his recruitment but if he can get that cleaned up, UCLA may be able to pursue him more.

Other Names to Watch:

D.J. Brown, 5-11, 160, Fairburn (Ga.) Creekside- Offered

Thomas Graham, 6-0, 180, Rancho Cucamonga (Calif.)- Offered

Tre White, 5-11, 170, Concord (Calif.) De La Salle

Jalen Cole, 5-9, 150, Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei

Tayari Venable, 5-11, 175, Rancho Cucamonga (Calif.)


SAFETIES

Getting a big, physical safety is definitely one of the ten most important recruiting needs for UCLA this year. As we’ve said a few times, UCLA’s lack of size at safety in 2015 was a factor. So they signed two physical safeties in 2016 but still need more depth. They already have one commitment at safety but could use a couple more.

Top Targets:

Rhedi Short, Los Angeles (Calif.) Cathedral - COMMITTED

A UCLA commit since the fall, Short sometimes gets overlooked when talking Bruin verbals but he is a talent in his own right. That said, his recruitment has taken off of late and more schools are making a push for him and while he told Scout he still considers himself a UCLA commit, he's open to other schools.

Chaz Ah You, Saratoga Springs (Utah) Westlake

Ah You is the top skill prospect in Utah and some in the state have said he's one of the better skill guys the state has produced in a long time. The Bruins have long been a contender for him along with Stanford and Oregon but he has ties to a couple other programs, his uncle having played at Oklahoma and now on staff at Vanderbilt while his father is on staff at BYU. But still, we've heard he wants to carve out his own niche for college.

Brandon McKinney, Orange (Calif.) Lutheran

McKinney has a handful of Pac-12 offers but UCLA is doing well with him. He camped at UCLA last summer to really get himself on their minds and then was offered early in the fall. UCLA has the local edge he's looking for.

Trajon Cotton, Sacramento (Calif.) Inderkum

Cotton has had his recruitment take off of late, with double-digit offers but he said that three schools standing out to him were Hawaii, Oregon and UCLA. He took an unofficial visit to UCLA over the weekend and he said he's got a great relationship with Demetrice Martin.

Josh Talbott, Long Beach (Calif.) Poly

Talbott was an early offer recipient from UCLA along with Oregon, but he told Scout recently that the two schools standing out to him were Texas A&M and Washington State. Still, being close to home, UCLA will be in the mix for him.

K.J. Jarrell, Scottsdale (Ariz.) Saguaro

Jarrell was another player UCLA offered early. He took an unofficial visit to UCLA over the weekend and raved about his time with Martin and Jim Mora and about the school. Arizona State also has the local edge and Texas A&M, which has former Saguaro teammate Christian Kirk and Washington, which inked Saguaro teammate Byron Murphy last month, are both trying to reunite him with former teammates.

Derrick Tucker, Manvel (Texas)

Tucker might be hard to get out of the Lone Star State, with Texas his favorite school, but UCLA did sign a teammate from two years ago in William Lockett. Tucker named a top five recently and the Bruins are on it so they'll keep trying with him.

Next Tier to Watch:

Isaiah Pola-Mao, Phoenix (Ariz.) Mountain Pointe

Pola-Mao is the nephew of Bruin offensive coordinator Kennedy Polamalu and has looked really good when we've seen him this spring.  He's a versatile athlete, he can play safety or receiver but he may end up growing into a linebacker.  He's one UCLA will take a long and close look at this spring, but they have some obvious family ties.

Other Names to Watch:

Jaylen Kelly-Powell, 6-1, 190, Detroit (Mich.) Cass Tech- Offered

Maleik Gray, 6-2.5, 200, LaVergne (Tenn.)- Offered

Scott Young, La Mesa (Calif.) Helix

Nick Pickett, 6-3, 180, Los Angeles (Calif.) Salesian

Christian Cumber, 5-11, 175, Denver (Colo.) Mullen


ATHLETES

UCLA mostly has a pretty good idea of what positions it wants guys to play, but there are a few exceptions who have some versatility. Given UCLA's overall penchant for using guys two ways in Jim Mora's time here, you could expect all of these players below to move around a bit in their college days.

Top Targets:

Michael Onyemaobi, Temecula (Calif.) Chaparral

Onyemaobi was offered by UCLA in February and they're his top school right now. He's another Ground Zero kid, which had a half dozen players sign with UCLA in the 2016 class. Onyemaobi can play safety or receiver, but we think his ceiling is higher at receiver.

Nathan Tilford, Ontario (Calif.) Colony

Tilford likely will be a running back in college but could play safety. He's been a physical specimen since he was a freshman in high school. But he's also a similar player now than he was when he entered high school and he may have some academic work to do so it's uncertain how hard, if at all, UCLA is recruiting him.

Dylan Moses, Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy

Moses committed to LSU then opened it up and is unlikely to leave the South, even though he's said he's interested in UCLA. So UCLA will take that because he's the No. 2 player in the country and would be more than willing to stay on him, but they probably won't heavily pursue him unless he takes an unofficial visit to show he's as serious as he says.

Next Tier to Watch:

Hunter Bryant, Sammamish (Wash.) Eastside Catholic

Bryant, the No. 2 tight end in the West, likes both the in-state schools but has told Scout on numerous occasions that he's interested in both UCLA and USC and he's not opposed to leaving the state. He's said since early in his sophomore year, in fact, that UCLA is school he hopes to get an offer from.

Salvon Ahmed, Kirkland (Wash.) Juanita

Ahmed is another top prospect from Washington who camped with UCLA last summer. He can play running back or safety and UCLA likes him more as a running back. He doesn't have an offer from the Bruins yet, in fact, only UCLA and Colorado have not offered from the Pac-12, but we still think he'll be tough to pluck from Washington, regardless of an offer.

Other Names to Watch:

Bruce Judson, 5-10, 171, Cocoa (Fla.)- Offered

Jordan Genmark-Heath, 6-1, 210, San Diego (Calif.) Cathedral


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