With a little less than nine months until National Signing Day 2017, UCLA already has a handful of commits.
Though they've lost four previous verbals, three on defense and one on offense, they're still locked in to a number of key recruiting battles, both in-state and outside the West.
The spring evaluation period wraps up in two weeks and UCLA has been all over the country checking in on their key targets.
Now, we take a look at the five biggest and potentially most impactful recruiting battles UCLA is involved in on offense for the 2017 class.
The Recruit: Najee Harris, RB, Antioch (Calif.)
The Rundown: Harris committed to Alabama in April of 2015, not long after Tosh Lupoi, an East Bay native, was named to the full-time staff at Alabama (he had previously served as an analyst). Harris took an unofficial visit down to Alabama and committed to the Tide on his trip. Now Harris says that he's still committed to Alabama, but being the No. 1 prospect in the country means no one is going to quit recruiting you. UCLA has long made him a priority and has continued to recruit him heavily prior to his commitment and even heavier since he committed. He's visited UCLA a number of times unofficially, including for the first spring practice back in March and he was one of the first players that UCLA went to see during the eval period. Harris also visited Ohio State for their spring game and was impressed by the Buckeyes and Columbus. Having Ezekiel Elliott go in the top five certainly doesn't hurt the Buckeyes chances. Washington also had Harris on campus for a visit and he liked what he saw from there and the Huskies are staying in the mix for the one-time Seattle resident. USC has long tried to stay in the game for Harris, but the overtures have never been as strong from Harris' end, though you can't count them out and they still are trying with him too. And of course, Alabama's last running back was the Heisman Trophy Winner and they've had a nice run of bigger backs the last ten years under Saban, a fact not lost on Harris. But the Bruins continued to prioritize Harris and he's reciprocating the interest and many close to his recruitment think its unlikely he'll end up at Alabama and will stay closer to home, which is what UCLA is hoping ends up being the case.
The Timeframe: Harris will likely take some official visits in the fall and even with his unofficial visits, he still maintains he's committed to Alabama. And it may be that Harris never actually decommits from Alabama, per se, and just signs somewhere else. Even with folks saying it's unlikely Harris will leave the West Coast, do you really want to bet against Saban, his two Heisman Trophy winning backs, first round picks from the backfield and national championships? That said, the distance WILL be a factor, at least somewhat, so this one will be one to watch all the way until Harris inks his name on an NLI. And UCLA should be front and center the entire time.
Other recruits it could affect: UCLA wants Harris, badly. They're still recruiting Stephen Carr, the five-star from Fontana (Calif.) Summit, but it's unlikely those two end up at the same school. The Bruins also have an offer out to Drake Beasley, the four-star back from Loyola in Los Angeles, who Polamalu coached his freshman year, but make no mistake, Harris is their primary target, then Carr and then Beasley.
The Recruit: Wyatt Davis, OG, Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco
The Rundown: Davis is the top lineman in California and the No. 2 guard nationally by Scout and has been an anchor on the line for the Braves the past two years. He has been a priority recruit for the Bruins for over a year, since they offered him, and may be their most important SoCal recruit on offense. He landed his first offer the week of Signing Day his sophomore year from Alabama and the Tide have long been a factor and will be a factor for him till the end. He likes Mario Cristobal a lot and is very aware of Alabama's success with lineman the past few years under Cristobal and Saban. USC has also made him a priority, first with Bob Connelly and Steve Sarkisian and now with Clay Helton and Neil Callaway. Stanford is also heavily involved with Davis and given their recent track record of offensive guards, it makes sense they've pushed for Davis. In fact, Davis said his favorite offensive lineman to watch is former Cardinal Josh Garnett, who won the Outland Trophy. And Washington had Davis on campus for a visit this spring and it left a big impression on him and the Huskies have had some success too at Bosco, including Sean McGrew last year and Terrell Bynum, who he visited with, this year. Still, Davis is at the top of UCLA's list as well and Adrian Klemm has really strengthened their relationship over the past year. Davis played with Josh Rosen his sophomore year, when Rosen was a senior, and he's talked about getting that opportunity to do so again.
The Timeframe: Davis will take this one down for a while. He's committed to play in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl but he's also talking about taking all five official visits and with Bosco returning a lot of talent, they could be playing late into December again, which may push his official visits until January. That will give UCLA plenty of time to get him to campus a few more times for unofficial visits and to games this fall.
Other recruits it could affect: UCLA needs tackles badly and they need linemen in general, really. Taking Davis likely won't scare away any guards, like El Cerrito (Calif.) guard Aaron Banks, especially with Klemm valuing position versatility.
The Recruit: Tate Martell, QB, Las Vegas (Nev.) Bishop Gorman
The Rundown: Martell's recruitment has been entertaining to say the least. He committed to Washington in 2012 when he was going in to his eighth grade year, then decommitted a couple years later when Steve Sarkisian took the USC job. Then he committed to Texas A&M last summer but then the OC he committed to, Jake Spavital, left and ended up at Cal while the Aggies brought in former Bruin offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone, who didn't really recruit Martell much at UCLA and continued that at A&M. When Martell decommitted in May, it wasn't a huge surprise- he had said in April he was going to take official visits and it was clear then that the Mazzone/Martell marriage was unlikely. UCLA quarterbacks coach Marques Tuiasosopo went to see him throw last week and Martell had a good day throwing. He's also considering Ohio State, where he visited earlier in the spring, and has family ties there. With Spavital at Cal, and their relationship being a good one, the Bears are trying to get involved. And then there is Oregon. The Ducks lost their quarterback commit, Ryan Kelley, earlier this month and then he committed to Arizona State. They don't have an offer out to an uncommitted quarterback in the West, but Martell does seem like an ideal fit for the Ducks' offense and we know Martell covets an offer from them. So an Oregon offer could change things up. But UCLA is now recruiting Martell with the same zeal they're recruiting Jack Sears
The Timeframe: Martell said before he decommitted that he wanted to take an official visit. It's not that common anymore for quarterbacks to take multiple official visits, largely because the quarterback dominoes fall earlier and partly because quarterbacks tend to be early enrollees. But Martell is good enough that if he wants to take visits, most schools would wait it out to see what he does. Which leads to the next point.
Other recruits it could affect: Most notably, it's Jack Sears. Sears could decide to commit to UCLA at any point, and the Bruin coaches would probably take his commitment and be happy, and would still recruit Martell, but they know they have a quarterback in their class with Sears. But does Sears commit to UCLA if they're still considering bringing in another quarterback of Martell's caliber? Or does Sears just commit to cement his spot and does that make UCLA just end quarterback recruiting if they got his commitment? That is the big question and easily the most fascinating part of quarterback recruiting (aside from the fact that UCLA actually has a plan with quarterback recruiting this year...).
The Recruit: Jimmy Jaggers, TE, Roseville (Calif.)
The Rundown: Jaggers is the No. 5 tight end in the West, but the tight end UCLA has the best shot with and they've been on his short list for some time. In fact, he's visited just three places this spring: UCLA, USC and Washington and he's made multiple visits to each. He was at UCLA's Spring Showcase and camped with them last summer. USC offered him this spring, though, and that offer was a big one for him that he was thrilled to get and since both UCLA and USC need big, physical tight ends like Jaggers, he's become a priority for both. And then there is Washington, which also likes the type of tight end that Jaggers is and has Chris Petersen recruiting him. Petersen has long had success in the Sacramento area, both at Boise State and Washington and Jaggers probably has the best relationship with a head coach with Petersen. There are other schools, like Florida, LSU and Texas A&M, that Jaggers is looking at closely and he plans to visit them too this summer.
The Timeframe: Jaggers told Scout last week that it is unlikely he'll take all five official visits, that he's not sure he needs to take them all. He does plan to come up with a solid top five after he visits the SEC schools and then he'll keep trimming from there, so an early fall visit could be on the agenda for him.
Other recruits it could affect: UCLA needs tight ends in a bad way, so they're going to bring in two tight ends in this class if they can. They're doing well for Erik Krommenhoek, and he's not going to chase off Jaggers nor would another tight end commit likely scare Krommenhoek. But if Jaggers ends up elsewhere, UCLA will need to find another tight end like him, so a guy like Moses Robinson-Carr could be one to watch.
The Recruit: Tarik Black, WR, Cheshire (Conn.) Academy
The Rundown: Black named a top five last week of Alabama, Michigan, Notre Dame, Stanford and UCLA. He visited California and checked out both Stanford and UCLA and both earned high praise from Black. Of his UCLA visit, he said "I absolutely loved UCLA. When I was at UCLA I was very, very impressed. It’s a great coaching staff, NFL experience, coach (Eric) Yarber is a great receivers coach He coached a bunch of NFL guys. I could definitely see myself fitting in. I went in having high expectations, and I left impressed." UCLA may be in his even shorter top 2-3, but the other schools are going to get their chance with Black so UCLA will have their work cut out for them. But it's a group of schools that UCLA has actually recruited decently well against the past few years and have had some head-to-head battles with each, showing you the difference in recruiting under Mora.
The Timeframe: Black will take all five of his official visits and told Scout that it will be to the top five schools, so UCLA is in good shape to get an official from him come fall. He'll decide after he takes his official visits.
Other recruits it could affect: UCLA could use a couple receivers in this class and while there are some good ones in the Southland, they like Black a lot and feel like they're doing well with him, hence why they're focusing on him over some other local options. Given Yarber's ability to coach, that gives the Bruins a chance for Black. If they miss out on him, they could turn to the next tier of receivers from the West like Bryan Thompson or Warren Jackson.