UCLA's Top Five Defensive Recruiting Battles

May 17 -- BRO takes a look at the five top recruiting battles that UCLA will be involved in on the defensive of the ball for the 2017 class...

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 defense for the 2017 class.


The Recruit: Darnay Holmes, CB, Calabasas (Calif.)

The Competition: StanfordArizonaNebraska and Ohio State.

The Rundown: Holmes came out with a top eight but the list is realistically much shorter than eight schools.  UCLA has long been high on his list and he has a tremendous relationship with defensive backs coach Demetrice Martin, who grew up with Holmes' father, Darick, a former NFL running back, in Pasadena.  Holmes is the top corner out West and a true lockdown player at the position and one of the best corners UCLA has been in the mix for in some time.  He's easily their top defensive target that is uncommitted and a key in this class.  He's been tremendous on the camp and 7v7 circuit this spring, furthering the importance of getting him.  Stanford is a school he's been talking about for some time, though he's not a slam dunk for admission into Stanford.  Arizona has his older brother, Darick Jr., on the roster and the Wildcats have done well in California this year.  Nebraska has commitments from two of his teammates, Keyshawn Johnson Jr. and Tristan Gebbia and he's made a couple of visits to Lincoln.  And Ohio State has been heavily pursuing him for a year and he and Michael Thomas, the former Buckeye receiver, are close (Thomas is Keyshawn Johnson's nephew and Holmes' 7v7 team is part of Johnson's Team 19 family).  Still, UCLA is doing very well for Holmes, who's been wearing UCLA gear all spring (including a throwback Jackie Robinson 42 jersey to UCLA's Spring Showcase).

The Timeframe: Holmes was set to commit around his birthday in June but wisely decided to push that back so that he could wait and take some official visits in the fall, so it's more likely he'll announce closer to Signing Day.  He is set to play in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl so an announcement could be then too.

Other recruits it could affect: We'll talk about Thomas Graham below, but could UCLA realistically land the top two corners in the West? Or do they go to separate schools?  That wouldn't be a bad question for UCLA to have to experience, because if they got Holmes, they'd be pretty happy no matter what Graham did.


The Recruit: Baron Browning, OLB, Kennedale (Texas)

The Competition: Alabama, LSU, Michigan, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, TCU, Texas and USC

The Rundown: Browning was an early commit to Baylor but opened up his recruitment in early spring and UCLA has been one of the schools he's continued to mention, even during his time as a Bear verbal.  He has a loaded top ten with the in-state schools like TCU and Texas plus national powers like Alabama, LSU, Oklahoma and Ohio State.  And USC is also on his short list.  He's planning to visit Ohio State and Michigan unofficially and will likely visit Notre Dame unofficially too.  Browning visited UCLA unofficially last summer and they are all but certain to get an official visit from Browning this fall, which will be crucial that it happens for UCLA to stay in the mix.

The Timeframe: Since he was an early commit who opened things up, Browning doesn't want to rush into a decision a second time so he will slow things down and pump the brakes and take a number of unofficial visits before he gets into official visit mode.  He's spent a lot of time at TCU and Texas this spring and those schools certainly have the local advantage to get him on campus while he reconvenes.

Other recruits it could affect: With Jaquan Henderson and Rhayme Johnson decommitting, UCLA needs outside linebackers in this class, especially with there being a dearth of outside 'backers in the region this year, save Addison Gumbs.  So Browning won't really affect anyone, but he's a pretty crucial recruit for UCLA.


The Recruit: Greg Rogers, DT, Las Vegas (Nev.) Arbor View

The Competition: USCMichiganWashingtonNotre Dame and Arizona.

The Rundown: We first saw Rogers when he was a freshman at the Pylon Lineman Challenge in his hometown and he showed then the makings of an elite prospect, landing his first offer a couple weeks later from Utah.  Two years later, he's a top 40 player nationally and the No. 3 tackle in the country and high on the board of most Pac-12 schools and several national programs.  But Rogers hasn't hidden his affection for UCLA, and the Bruins have been in his top two almost from the beginning.  USC offered and the Trojans were the other school that Rogers grew up watching so this could very well end up being really a Bruin-Trojan battle.  Michigan has offered and has been to Vegas this spring and he took an unofficial visit to Notre Dame for their spring game and loved his time in South Bend, earning an offer.  Washington has also had him in town for an unofficial visit and Arizona was one of his early favorites, but we still think this comes down to the Los Angeles schools.  

The Timeframe: Rogers was initially planning to make an early spring decision, then, unsurprisingly, his recruitment blew up.  Now he's planning to take all five official visits before he makes an announcement, so this likely goes until January at the soonest.

Other recruits it could affect: It is a banner year for defensive tackles in the West, and while a couple are committed (Haskell Garrett and Marlon Tuipulotu), there are still several uncommitted like Jay TufelePopo AumavaeMartin Andrus and Noah Elliss.  So should Rogers choose UCLA, it likely wouldn't affect those other four, but losing Rogers makes those others that much more important.


The Recruit: Thomas Graham, CB, Rancho Cucamonga (Calif.)

The Competition: ArizonaNebraskaAlabama and USC.

The Rundown: UCLA was one of Graham's first offers over a year ago but when USC offered him in late spring, it was a matter of days before he committed to the Trojans.  That was also to Keith Heyward and Steve Sarkisian and with a new head coach and new secondary coach at USC, Graham's relationship with his dream school went south quick and last month, Graham opened up his recruitment entirely and decommitted from USC.  Now, having said that, USC is still the childhood favorite and his sister runs track for the Trojans, so they cannot completely be ruled out, especially if USC tries to repair that relationship.  But if the parting is permanent, UCLA will continue to remind Graham that they want him and were one of his first believers.  And there is also the Ground Zero factor. The Bruins signed six players from Ground Zero in 2016 and Graham was one of the few underclassmen on that team, so he played with most of those guys and they are recruiting him feverishly to keep that pipeline going.  Alabama was one of his more recent offers and it obviously left a big impression on Graham.  And Arizona has been one of the schools who've been consistently recruiting Graham since before his USC commitment and after he opened it up and Donte Williams is one of the best recruiters out West and so is Marcell Yates and both are working on Graham.

The Timeframe: Graham committed just days after his sophomore year in high school ended.  With that commitment no longer existent, he will be taking a much more deliberate approach this time around and won't rush things until he's completely certain.  In his defense, he committed to different coaches than are there now, so it's not as if he's flaky.  But he's doing his due diligence now.  So expect this one to go until at least late Fall.

Other recruits it could affect: As good as Graham is, and make no mistake, he's very good, Holmes is rated higher for a reason.  While the two are friends, they do play for rival 7v7 teams and both have alpha dawg personalities so it wouldn't be a surprise if they both decided to go to different schools.  But they could also both end up at the same school and UCLA is one of the possibilities.  If UCLA got both Holmes and Graham, that probably ends any chances of Elijah Gates going to UCLA but someone like say, Elijah Hicks, is probably still going to consider the Bruins.


The Recruit: Addison Gumbs, OLB, Hayward (Calif.) Stellar Prep

The Competition: Washington and USC

The Rundown: Gumbs has 30+ offers and took an unofficial tour to the SEC and Big 12 during the spring.  But the three constants in his recruitment have been UCLA, Washington and USC.  He's visited each a couple of times and raved about visits to each spot.  All three have reason to think that Gumbs could end up signing with their schools.  UCLA has been doing well with him for a long time, but they also did sign a pretty good linebacker class in February, so a logjam could hurt them.  USC was a later offer and there are questions if Gumbs will get moved inside instead of playing his natural outside position in college.  Washington has been doing well with him but it's further from home.  So each has things working against them while having natural advantages.  Gumbs is a pretty quiet kid who plays things close to the vest so he's tough to get a good read on, but UCLA is still very much in the mix for him.

The Timeframe: Gumbs is set to make a decision in June and he's the kind of kid that will probably make a decision and completely shut things down and quietly go about his business.  So wherever he commits in June will likely have their work done and not have to worry about him still taking visits, making the stretch run important.

Other recruits it could affect: Like with Browning, a dearth of linebacker prospects out West probably keeps Gumbs from affecting anyone's decision and he's unlikely to keep Browning from coming.  If he does end up elsewhere and Browning doesn't come West, then guys like Kylan Wilborn (an Arizona commit from the Valley) or Tysyn Parker could end up on UCLA's radar.

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