It’s March, so it’s difficult to project the recruiting class UCLA will sign next February. More than likely, whatever class we project now will be dramatically different than the one that signs NLIs.
But it’s fun to speculate.
The one element of UCLA recruiting that is the takeaway, though, right now is the level of talent and athleticism UCLA is now recruiting.
When Blair Angulo, BRO’s new contributor, and I were at UCLA Pro Day Tuesday, we kept commenting on how the UCLA players looked physically. And then walking by us was Breland Brandt, the linebacker/defensive end early enrollee, who looked about 6-5 and 215, and Blair said, “That’s the kind of athlete UCLA is now recruiting.”
Four years into Jim Mora’s tenure at UCLA, and it’s safe to say that the type of recruit UCLA is attracting – and getting – is perhaps one of the most profound changes the coach as made on the program.
It’s very evident, in fact, in UCLA’s recruiting board for the class of 2017. It helps that the 2017 west coast class is a very athletic one, but it’s significant that so many of the best-looking athletes in the west are very high on UCLA – or flat-out have UCLA leading for them. This is no longer an uphill battle for Mora – trying to get the attention of the best athletes in the west. You can safely say that, after four years of a successful, high-profile program, Mora isn’t climbing the recruiting hill anymore. Yes, there are still the USC fan boys that grew up Trojan fans, but that’s becoming less of a factor as we get further away from the Pete Carroll era, and we get more of the Jim Mora era at UCLA on the books.
One thing that has to be said, too: UCLA is recruiting well, and attracting top-end athletes, without the benefit of the new football facility. Most of you have never been in UCLA’s current football offices, but trust us – they aren’t impressive. Dated and cramped would be the way you’d describe them. Mora and his staff are recruiting at a top-ten national level right now without the benefit of the gleaming, new facility. The most they can do is show recruits renderings and the big hole that’s just south of Pauley Pavilion where the facility is being constructed. Competing in recruiting against other programs that do have flashy facilities to show off, it’s amazing how well UCLA recruits – and it’s incredibly exciting to think about how much the new facility will enhance UCLA’s recruiting.
And some continued success on the field with a new, entirely different level of athlete.
As we said, what stands out overall when you look at UCLA’s potential recruiting class for 2017 is the level of athlete that UCLA is either leading for or doing really well with.
We’re going to break down each position here for 2017, just to emphasize how the overall transformation in UCLA recruiting has taken place.
UCLA has perhaps the most talented quarterback in college football on its roster in Josh Rosen, and he’s only a sophomore this coming fall. Now, normally, if UCLA had someone of that caliber at quarterback, UCLA wouldn’t be able to get another good quarterback for three years. That’s the way it’s been since Bob Toledo was the UCLA coach. It was a matter of recruits being scared away, but it was also a case of UCLA’s coaches not feeling they needed to recruit aggressively when they had an elite quarterback on the roster. Or it was just really poor quarterback recruiting overall. No longer. It can’t be said enough how big of an impact it is that Mora got quarterbacks coach Marques Tuiasosopo to leave USC and come to UCLA. It will not only reap huge benefits on the field, with Tuiasosopo being a very good, and well-liked and –respected quarterbacks coach, but it will result in a huge payoff in recruiting.
Privately, between the Scout and BRO contributors, all we keep saying to each other, “Isn’t it incredible when UCLA actually has a good recruiter as its quarterback coach?”
http://www.scout.com/college/ucla/story/1652054-a-close-look-at-ucla-qb-... Tuiasosopo made a huge impact immediately, helping to get the commitment of Devon Modster, a top-five QB prospect in the west, late in the 2016 class. Historically, there is no way UCLA would have ever been able to get a commitment from a Pac-12 starter-level quarterback with someone like Rosen as a freshmen, but the Bruins did it this time, and Tuiasosopo had a huge part in it. And that happened when UCLA already had a commitment from Matt Lynch, a solid prospect in his own right. This is pretty much unprecedented, that UCLA is able to secure a quarterbacks class of this caliber any year, much less the one when Rosen is a freshman.
So, going into the 2017 cycle, the potential future of the quarterback position looks the best it’s looked in a while. But we’re realistic – when you take two quarterbacks in one season, more than likely one will leave the program eventually. So, unlike in UCLA quarterback recruiting of the past, Tuiasosopo is going hard in recruiting the 2017 quarterbacks class.
Ironically, Tuiasosopo is recruiting against himself. When he was at USC, he did such a great job of recruiting quarterback prospect Tua Tagovailoa that the quarterback has USC as his solid leader. Tuiasosopo now has to try to unwind that and get Tagaoailoa, who is a relative, to more seriously consider UCLA. The fact that UCLA even has a remote chance at this point is remarkable.
If UCLA doesn’t get Tagovailoa, there are some other interesting options. There’s Jack Sears, from San Clemente and Chase Garbers from Corona Del Mar, and we’ve heard both would have UCLA as their top choice if the Bruins offered. There’s also Nick Sipe of Villa Park, and potentially Connor Neville, Garbers just received an invitation to the Elite 11, and perhaps looked the best among this group at the recent Opening Los Angeles; We know UCLA likes Sears; Sipe is a bit unknown and, we think, under-rated, and is a Pac-12 level prospect; and Neville is the nation’s #20-ranked QB from Oregon, and probably a better pure thrower than Oregon-committed Ryan Kelley. All of these prospects are three-stars, with Sears, Garbers and Neville ranked among the nation's top 32 QBs, with a good chance to move to four-star status (especially Garbers). Put it this way: all of the guys mentioned here are quite a bit better prospects than the typical quarterback prospects UCLA has recruited in recent years ( T.J. Millweard/Eddie Printz level).
Again, most of the reason UCLA would be a top choice for these prospects is because of Tuiasosopo.
We expect the general policy will be for Tuiasosopo to see these prospects throw in person before they’re offered. Unlike in years past, Tuiasosopo will probably set out on the road as soon as the evaluation period begins in mid-April to check out these guys, and more, in person, instead of waiting until the end of UCLA’s spring practice. If one of them looks good in person, we expect Tuiasosopo to offer and go hard on him. Then, we also expect, if it comes to it, for these guys and more to compete at UCLA’s camp in late June to throw in person right next to each other, so Tuiasosopo can compare and contrast.
There’s also Tate Martell, the nation’s #1 quarterback prospect from Nevada, who is committed to Texas A&M, but UCLA is trying to get involved with him. It's just refreshing and a departure, that UCLA and Tuiasosopo is even attempting to go after the #1-ranked quarterback in the nation when he's committed elsewhere (We've heard, too, that there could be a bit of a cooling off from Texas A&M on Martell -- that Noel Mazzone and Taylor Mazzone, the ex-UCLA coaches who are now the OC and quality control coach at A&M, aren't high on Martell, and it's mutual).
Given that you should anticipate that either Modster or Lynch will eventually transfer, we'd expect Tuiasosopo to potentially take two quarterbacks in the 2017 cycle.
We know all of this type of quarterback recruiting -- good evaluations, aggressive recruiting and great roster anticipation -- sounds foreign to you, but it’s clear that UCLA quarterbacks recruiting is completely in new type of territory than it’s ever been with Tuiasosopo as the quarterbacks coach. He’s made it desirable to be the UCLA quarterback (Rosen hasn’t hurt the cause, either), and it’s refreshing to hear that quarterback recruits are coveting a UCLA offer.
Isn’t that the way it should be?
Next Up: A breakdown of the ecruiting situation with 2017 running backs and wide receivers.