2017 Football Recruiting Analysis: Offense

Mar. 30 -- It's not quite as incredibly pro-UCLA on the offensive side as it is on the defensive side for UCLA recruiting, but it's still looking very optimistic...

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, 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.

http://www.scout.com/college/ucla/story/1654490-2017-football-recruiting... 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.  

OFFENSE

UCLA’s outlook for 2017 recruiting on the offensive side of the ball is looking good early on.  It’s not the same as the outlook for defense, which is bizarrely good, but it’s still positive.

We broke down UCLA’s present situation in quarterback recruiting for 2017.  Most of the time, any recruiting class needs a good quarterback class to really be considered a good overall class, and we think 2017 is no exception.  As we laid out in that story, even with Josh Rosen just a sophomore and two (and a half) quarterbacks coming in for 2016, UCLA needs to do well in 2017 QB recruiting – since your quarterback situation is vastly unpredictable and can change quickly.  Right now, the depth and future (after Rosen) look solid, but quarterbacks are the biggest crapshoot in whether they can actually pan out compared to other positions, so it’s imperative a program loads up on quarterbacks, in its quest to find the “next guy.” 

OFFENSIVE LINE

UCLA has two offensive commitments for 2017 and they’re both on the offensive line.  After OL coach Adrian Klemm was suspended last summer, it set back offensive line recruiting considerably.  He rebounded to sign a solid class for 2016, but it was really important, to keep a top level of talent and depth flowing into the program, that Klemm have a big recruiting year for 2017.  He clearly was pumped up for it, with reports of him contacting and recruiting hard many 2017 prospects early on.  Then he got the two commitments within hours of each other in March.

It’s a great start for offensive line recruiting but there’s still a long ways to go.  We’ve heard UCLA will look to sign five offensive linemen – a full offensive line – and could even take six if it warranted.  That’s a heck of lot of recruiting Klemm has ahead of him, even with two commitments on the books.

It has to be noted that, perhaps, there was a significant development during bowl practice last year in terms of recruiting. Jim Mora, in a post-practice interview, essentially said the program, going forward, intended to load up on offensive and defensive linemen – that he had continued to realize perpetually doing that was a big key to success in college football.

We’ve heard, too, that Klemm, who is an excellent recruiter, is essentially not going to recruit a region anymore (conventionally assistants not only recruit their position but recruit a region of the country).  He’s only going to recruit offensive linemen, with possibly only one or two non-OL from Texas, since he’s had such a long history of recruiting well in that state, with deep ties.

http://www.scout.com/player/194605-will-farrar?s=12

If you look at UCLA’s depth chart, it needs offensive tackles. And for the most part, they’re far more difficult to find than offensive guards.  So, to start off offensive line recruiting for 2017, it was a big development that UCLA got verbal commitments from two guys who project to being able to play tackle on the next level. Will Farrar, the four-star and #30-ranked offensive tackle from Richmond (Tex.) Travis, projects to being a future right tackle, with good feet and mobility. Kanan Ray from Chatsworth (Calif.) Sierra Canyon, is the #48-ranked tackle in the nation, but we think a bit under-rated – that he’ll move up and possibly add one more star to his three-star ranking when he’s seen this spring.  Ray is ranked as a tackle, but has position flexibility, being able to play guard, too, in college. 

And that position flexibility is something Klemm has really stressed in his recruiting previously, and will especially in 2017. 

The remaining #1 OL target is Wyatt Davis, the five-star prospect from Bellflower St. John Bosco, who is the #2-ranked offensive guard in the nation, and the #13-ranked prospect overall.  The bad news is that Davis is getting nationally recruited, and heavily, so UCLA is in for a long haul with Davis. The good news: From what we’ve heard, UCLA is no worse than top two for Davis.  As of right now the word is that UCLA and Alabama are the leaders.  It’s a classic battle – go away to school and get the SEC experience, or stay home to play in front of friends and family, with a coach you’re very comfortable with and, and this is key, get a far superior degree.  It’s key because Davis is a very good student, the Davis family is a very academic one (the older brother went to Cal), and the Davis mother values it highly.   Now, there is that adage (a BRO original) that mothers recruiting against UCLA get their way, but when mothers prefer UCLA their sons go elsewhere.  While, of course, things can change, and some other school could really make an impact with Davis, if the battle remains UCLA/Alabama we feel it literally could go either way. But if you’ve watched Klemm’s recruiting since he’s been at UCLA, you know he doesn’t usually lose recruiting battles of this magnitude, and he’s got the education card in his back pocket. 

Wyatt Davis

If we had to guess, we’d say the guy UCLA has the best chance to get right now is Andrew Vorhees, the prospect from Kingsburg, the #57-ranked offensive tackle in the nation and another guy we could see moving up in the rankings when Scout sees him more this spring and summer.  Vorhees took an unofficial visit to UCLA about a month ago and we heard it went really well.

http://www.scout.com/college/ucla/story/1653078-4-star-ol-mckenzie-healt... A wildcard in OL recruiting is Jalen McKenzie, the prospect from Concord Clayton Valley, the younger brother of Kahlil McKenzie, the defensive tackle who was the #1 overall prospect in the nation in the 2015 class. Scout had the younger but taller brother earmarked as a potentially elite prospect, but he tore his ACL in the first game of the 2015 season, and he hasn’t been seen much since his recovery.  He was thought to project to being elite because of his size (6-6, 300) and athleticism, and Scout now has him ranked as the #35 OT in the nation just based on that.  UCLA has the mother advantage with McKenzie, too, with the mom having gone to UCLA. If you remember, however, it didn’t have an impact with the older brother, with Jahlil opting to honor his father, Reggie McKenzie, and attend his alma mater, Tennessee.  Jalen, though, has said he wants to blaze a different trail than Kahlil, and we’ve heard that he could strongly be considering the trail to UCLA.   It certainly doesn’t hurt, too, that Klemm is long-time friends with Reggie McKenzie, who is the current general manager of the Oakland Raiders.  Jalen is slated to participate in the Opening Oakland May 22nd, so we’ll get a look at him there. But we expect UCLA and Klemm to get up to NorCal pretty soon after the evaluation period begins in mid-April to see McKenzie. If McKenzie is, in fact, an elite prospect, it’s a huge thing for UCLA, given the relationship with Klemm, the mother being a Bruin, and Jalen not wanting to follow his brother to Tennessee. 

Also, if UCLA has its sights on offensive line prospects from NorCal, and if as a result of the evaluation period it ends up with Vorhees and McKenzie as hard targets, you’d have to favor the Bruins, with Klemm partnered with NorCal recruiter extraordinaire Angus McClure.

http://www.scout.com/player/186114-aaron-banks?s=12

Another big target for UCLA is also from NorCal, Aaron Banks, the #5-ranked offensive guard in the nation from El Cerrito.  Right now, from what we hear, UCLA is in the top three for Banks, along with Oregon, which was a childhood favorite, and USC. Cal, too, should be a contender.  We, though, think the combo of Klemm and McClure is going to ultimately be a force with Banks, too.

From what we’ve heard, UCLA’s chances with Grayson Reed, the #17-ranked offensive tackle in the nation from Houston (Tex.) Cypress Creek, could be greatly under-appreciated. Most think in-state Texas is the leader, and that Texas A&M could be the competition, along with Tennessee, but Klemm could pull off his Texas magic again with Reed.  The prospect is scheduled to visit UCLA this spring, and that will go a long way in the recruitment.  The word is that Reed could make a decision by summer, in fact.

UCLA has an outside chance with the #1 offensive tackle in the nation, Foster Sarell, from Graham (Wash.) Graham Kapowsin.  Washington and Stanford are the leaders and the key for UCLA is if Sarell actually unofficially visits UCLA over the next month.  If he does, the Bruins have a chance; if not, they don’t. 

Speaking of Stanford, UCLA was doing really well with Walker Little, the nation’s #11-ranked offensive tackle from Bellaire (Tex.) Episcopal, until Stanford recently offered. 

There’s also Alijah Vera-Tucker from Oakland Bishop O’Dowd, and UCLA will be involved because of the Klemm-McClure factor, but we’ve heard Washington, Oregon and Cal are probably the leaders. 

Brett Neilon, the #3-ranked center in the nation from Santa Margarita (Calif.), just got an offer from USC, his father's alma mater, so Neilon probably isn't a fall-back option for UCLA at this point.   There’s Casey Roddick, the #21-ranked offensive guard from Ventura St. Bonaventure, who would probably snap up a UCLA offer.  He attended UCLA's first spring practice Tuesday. 

With the defensive recruiting analysis we could project a class based purely on the prospects UCLA had offered and was clearly leading for.  With projecting the offensive line class, we have to take a little license. But if we had to go out on a slight limb, here’s the class we’d guess. There isn’t a true center in the group, but it does include many players with position-flexibility. 

Early Guess at 2017 OL Class:

Wyatt Davis, 6-4, 310, #2 OG, #13 Nationally

Aaron Banks, 6-6, 305, #5 OG, #120 Nationally

Will Farrar, 6-5, 290, #30 OT, #263 Nationally

Jalen McKenzie, , 6-6, 300, #35 OT (with good chance to move up in rankings)

Kanan Ray, 6-4, 275, #48 OT (with good chance to move up in rankings)

Andrew Vorhees, 6-6, 290, #57 OT (with good chance to move up in rankings)

We think Klemm’s highly motivated to have a big recruiting year in 2017, and he’s going to take out much of that motivation on the Davis recruitment.  We actually think the more uncertain guess here is Banks but, like we said, UCLA has the combo of Klemm and McClure on the Banks desk.   If McKenzie turns out to be an elite prospect and becomes a Bruin, he’s a gamechanger for the class.  If that’s the case, and UCLA even misses on Banks, but it gets Wyatt, Farrar, McKenzie, Ray and Vorhees, it would be a great class, especially if a few move up the rankings, as we anticipate.

TIGHT END

With UCLA going to an offense that utilizes tight ends more, with some double-tight end looks, the position is a priority for 2017, and it will be aiming to sign two next February.

http://www.scout.com/college/ucla/story/1642987-ucla-te-target-jimmy-jag... As of right now, from what we hear, UCLA is leading for Jimmy Jaggers, the nation’s #9-ranked tight end from Roseville (Calif.).  Jaggers embodies the big-bodied, blocking tight end who can also catch a pass. 

After Jaggers, there isn’t another guy that you would project UCLA getting.  It’d love to get Josh Falo, the #8-ranked tight end from Sacramento (Calif.) Inderkum, but we haven’t heard any indication that UCLA is necessarily doing well with Falo. He plans to visit campus during spring practice. 

Other visitors will be Alexander Marshall, the nation’s #19-ranked tight end, from Andover (NH) Proctor Academy, and Moses Robinson-Carr, the prospect from Lancaster Antelope Valley, whose recruitment has really caught fire, with offers from USC, Oregon, Texas A&M and more.  Robinson-Carr is supposed to visit UCLA for spring practice Thursday. We’ve heard if UCLA actually offered the #6-ranked tight end in the nation, Hunter Bryant, from Sammamish (Wash.) Eastside Catholic, they’d probably be among his favorites.  There’s also unoffered Taariq Johnson from Buena Park, who has looked good this spring so far, and attended a few UCLA games last year.  We wouldn’t be surprised, either, if UCLA got involved with Erik Krommenhoek, from Danville (Calif.) Monte Vista, who has been offered by Arizona and has family ties to UCLA.

Early Guess at 2017 TE Class:

Jimmy Jaggers, 6-4, 235, #9 TE, #279 Nationally

??

Tight end could be the weakest position right now for 2017 UCLA recruiting. And it’s understandable – it’s a new position in UCLA’s offense, so the coaches don’t necessarily have tape to show recruits.  And UCLA has a new tight ends coach in Rip Scherer, who will need to make an impact and sell himself to recruits.

WIDE RECEIVER

http://www.scout.com/college/ucla/story/1650738-wr-alex-cook-lands-dream... UCLA’s depth chart at wide receiver looks pretty deep, and there’s definitely some talent, albeit unproven.  Given that, UCLA wide receiver coach Eric Yarber will probably only have two scholarships to give to receivers, and those will probably go to bigger, possession types, since UCLA seems to have a good stable of smaller, faster guys now on the roster.

If there was an offensive recruit we think UCLA has the best chance to get it’s probably Alex Cook, from Sacramento Sheldon, whom UCLA recently offered.  UCLA has been recruiting Cook for a while, and UCLA was his “dream offer.” And that all coincided with Cook having a big spring so far, looking good in 7-on-7s while also running a 4.55 at the Opening Los Angeles, which was one of the best times of the day.  He’s supposed to visit for spring practice, and we hear he could be an early commitment, despite many other schools now jumping on the Cook bandwagon.  

http://www.scout.com/player/193353-terrell-bynum?s=12

If UCLA did get an early commitment from Cook, it could be really selective in finding the right guy to fill that other receiver-earmarked scholarship.  We would have thought it was going to be Terrell Bynum, the nation’s #12-ranked receiver from Bellflower St. John Bosco, but we’re hearing he’s showing strong interest in other schools, namely USC, so we’re growing skeptical.  

We don’t think UCLA will be involved with Joseph Lewis, the nation’s #1 receiver from Los Angeles Hawkins, for long.  It has all the markings of a circus recruitment, and a potential smokescreen type of situation, and we don’t think UCLA will want to expend much time on it.  There could be other national names. 

One local guy to watch, as we’ve been saying for a while, is Bryan Thompson, the prospect from Moreno Valley Rancho Verde, who has looked very good in spring and is getting a good amount of attention, but hasn’t received a UCLA offer just yet.  We could easily see UCLA offering him as soon as they see him during the evaluation period. 

Early Guess at 2017 WR Class:

Alex Cook,  6-2, 175, #71 WR (and a chance to move up and get another star)

??

RUNNING BACKS

You haven’t heard too much about UCLA recruiting running backs for 2017, and that’s an accurate indication of exactly what’s going on – UCLA, in fact, isn’t recruiting many running backs for 2017.  After unexpectedly picking up Brandon Stephens late in the 2016 cycle, UCLA can be pretty picky for 2017, especially with the position looking a bit thin in the west for depth of talent. 

http://www.scout.com/college/ucla/story/1651259-nation-s-no-1-prospect-c... While UCLA has some courtesy offers out at running back around the nation – the type you can’t see ever really developing seriously for UCLA – as of right now there is only really one 2017 running back UCLA Is going hard on in recruiting – the nation’s #1-ranked RB and #1 prospect overall, Najee Harris, from Antioch (Calif.). Harris is committed to Alabama, but it’s pretty well-known it’s a soft commitment, and Harris is entertaining the idea of going elsewhere. There is a good undercurrent of sentiment that Harris ultimately won’t leave the west coast and, if he stays in the west, UCLA will be where he ends up.  Of course, the recruitment of a prospect of this caliber is always a circus, and it’s a long way until Signing Day 2017.  

Harris was present for the first day of UCLA's spring practice Tuesday, and it's the second time he's come down from NorCal to visit UCLA in a month.

UCLA has offered Drake Beasley, from Los Angeles Loyola, and it’s Beasley’s only offer. Loyola is, of course, the former employer of current UCLA offensive coordinator and running backs coach Kennedy Polamalu. 

We know that Polamalu favors bigger backs and it’s probably unlikely UCLA seriously recruits any smaller, scatback type for 2017.

http://www.scout.com/player/191061-najee-harris

So, in other words, everything points to Harris. We’re going to go out on a limb and say, once the dust settles, UCLA sells its new, power-running game of an offense that showcases a big back, and with Polamalu, Angus McClure (who recruits NorCal so effectively) and Marques Tuiasosopo (who is close with the Harris family) appealing to Harris’ desire to stay close to home, the Bruins get Harris.

Early Guess at 2017 RB Class:

Najee Harris, #1 RB, #1 Nationally


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