Evaluations of UCLA Prospects at The Opening Regional Oakland

May 23 -- We take a position-by-position look at how UCLA prospects fared at The Opening Regional in the Bay Area this past weekend...

The Opening Oakland Regional was a pretty talented camp, especially loaded with defensive back talent, and some high-end defensive line prospects.

It was a competitive event for quarterbacks, with a number of high-major prospects participating.

http://www.scout.com/college/ucla/story/1671952-qb-jack-sears-talks-rece...Jack Sears, the UCLA target from San Clemente (Calif.), performed very well, and got an invite to the Elite 11 Semi-Finals.  The plan is for 24 quarterbacks to compete in the Semi-Finals in Los Angeles the weekend of June 3, and Sears was the 17th player invited.

If you remember, Sears participated in The Opening Regional L.A. in late February, and did just okay. He didn’t throw the ball really well that day, and we heard he was injured and gutted it out. He looked like a dramatically different player Sunday, with a much smoother, natural throwing motion and considerable more zip on the ball.  It earned him the quarterback MVP on the day, over the #5 quarterback in the nation, Alabama-committed Tua Tagovailoa.  The lefty Tagovailoa looked good, but Sears was probably more consistent throw to throw, and showed the ability to put some touch on the ball, which Tagovailoa really struggles with.

Sears also was very good in the 7-on-7, being able to find a secondary receiver and make an accurate throw.  In the roll-out drill, he looked very smooth moving and passing, especially against his body.  Sears looked better than Michigan-committed Dylan McCaffrey, Arizona-committed Braxton Burmeister, Washington State-committed Connor Neville, and Oregon State-committed Aidan Willard. After looking this good Sunday, you can easily expect Sears to improve on his three-star status, and his ranking of the No. 30 quarterback in the nation.  The word is that UCLA is doing very well with him, with quarterbacks coach Marques Tuiasosopo going very hard on Sears for the last several months, and not wavering in his recruitment when, say, Tate Martell, the nation’s No. 1 quarterback, openly expressed interest in the Bruins. Sears has been to UCLA’s campus a couple of times, including last week, Tuiasosopo went to see him in San Clemente during the current evaluation period, and now there’s a plan for Sears to be back on campus again this week to meet with Jim Mora.  He’s saying he’d like to decide in July, and UCLA is far ahead of others in its recruitment of him, so it’s a good situation with Sears right now.

A couple of younger UCLA quarterback prospects participated, 2018 Colson Yankoff, from Coeur d’Alene (Ida.), and 2020 Bryce Young from Los Angeles Cathedral.  We didn’t watch them too extensively, but from what we saw there’s definitely some upside there. Yankoff has good size and a fairly strong arm, and Young is very advanced skills-wise for his age (he’s going to be a freshman in high school this fall). Young, if you don’t remember, is kind of a phenom who has said UCLA is his dream school.


 Hunter Echols’ cleats

Hunter Echols, the UCLA-committed defensive end from Los Angeles Cathedral, had a very good day, earning an invite to The Opening Finals.  It’s why Echols went to Oakland, after participating in the L.A. regional, to earn that invite. You have to love his competitiveness, and he clearly has been working hard in the intervening months, looking particularly stronger.  He used that strength and his quickness to win the majority of his reps, and do it fairly easily. 

Echols usually pals around with UCLA-committed defensive end Jaelan Phillips, but on Sunday Echols was tied to the hip of UCLA defensive tackle target Greg Rogers, from Las Vegas (Nev.) Arbor View.  Rogers, physically, was very impressive, at 6-feet-3 and 305 pounds, and not sloppy at all.  In the drills, he started off slowly, however, getting turned around on a number of reps. But he pulled it out in the best-five championship at the end of the camp, winning his reps convincingly there.  He essentially indicated to us that UCLA leads for him, and he’ll visit Westwood this summer.  We know USC is his other big consideration, and he plans to take some official visits across the country, but it will be interesting to see if the Bruins can get a verbal out of him on the unofficial visit.  Echols and Phillips have been recruiting Rogers, and he’s getting sold on coming into UCLA as part of the best defensive line recruiting class in the nation.

Greg Rogers and Hunter Echols

Having the best day Sunday among the defensive tackles was Jay Tufele, from South Jordan (Utah) Bingham. He also looked very good physically, at a lean 6-3 and 290-ish, and showed a superior quickness that allowed him to easily beat any OL in the one-on-ones.  Tufele earned an invite to the Opening Finals. UCLA is recruiting him and has him as a priority, but we’ve heard he might be slightly favoring USC, Ohio State or even hometown Utah. You’d think UCLA would have a really good chance, though, with defensive line coach Angus McClure being a great recruiter, and with some help from Tuiasosopo, providing the Polynesian connection and having Utah as one of his recruiting regions.

Washington-committed Marlon Tuipulotu, from Independence (Oreg.) Central, also had a very good day. He’s close in stature to Tufele, perhaps a little leaner in the upper body but thicker below.  He’s probably 280-ish, but with a body that could easily get to 300 pounds without losing agility. He was named defensive line MVP on the day, even though we think Tufele had a better performance.  Tuipulotu said UCLA is still trying with him, and we’ve heard he could still visit UCLA’s campus with his family, but he said he was solid to Washington.

Marlon Tuipulotu and Jay Tufele

There were a good number of offensive line prospects, and UCLA targets, at the camp.  There wasn’t one who dramatically stood out, but with a few looking good.

If we had to pick one, we’d probably go with Aaron Banks, the prospect from El Cerrito. Banks is a big dude, and has even lost some weight, and he moves pretty well for his size. In fact, one of the reasons we like his upside is that he moves well for how big he is, and the potential for even better mobility as he improves his body.  He worked at tackle, which we think is out of position for him, being better suited as a guard, but he did well.  Once he got his feet under him in the first few reps he then moved well and stayed in front of his man.  And that’s a great deal of humanity to get around if you’re a defensive lineman.

Andrew Vorhees from Kingsburg was impressive physically, looking very much like an offensive tackle prospect.  He has a good body and isn’t sloppy at all, so there’s some great potential there for him physically.  He looked good in his reps, perhaps a little nonchalant, even though he won them. What kept him from being our No. 1 OL was that he only took four reps, from what we saw, and that kept him out of the best five final competition.  Perhaps he was nursing an injury?

http://www.scout.com/player/200118-popo-aumavae?s=12

UCLA target Popo Aumavae, from Stockton St. Mary’s, is being recruited by UCLA as a defensive lineman, but he worked as an OL at the camp. He worked as a tackle, and showed good feet and lateral movement.  He got beat a couple of times, with his OL technique being is a bit raw. We know many schools are recruiting him as an OL, while UCLA is recruiting him first as a defensive tackle, and we can see why – with his body and approach probably better suited to the DL.  When we talked to him he said he didn’t prefer either but just felt like working out at OL for the day.

One guy we really wanted to see was Jalen McKenzie, the prospect from Concord (Calif.) Clayton Valley.  McKenzie has been thought to be a promising prospect for a while, but tore an ACL in his junior season and has since been recovering, so his performance here was much anticipated.  For one thing, he clarified with us that he’s only had one ACL tear, even though we had heard it was two. He had some pretty significant knee braces on, but didn’t look hindered at all.  He has some potential, with great size at about 6-6 and 300-plus.  He moved his feet pretty well, and got beat only when he decided to stop moving his feet and reach, so there’s definitely some technique to learn.  UCLA OL coach Adrian Klemm has a connection to the family, but when we talked to him he didn’t mention UCLA prominently. 

Jalen McKenzie, Aaron Banks and Andrew Vorhees

Jonathan Nathaniel, a prospect from Chandler (Ariz.) Basha, won the OL MVP, because he won the most reps on the day.  He’s definitely a Division-1 prospect, there just is some concern over his build, being pretty narrow, at about 6-5 and 250 right now.  To date, he has one Pac-12 offer, from Washington State, and it will be interesting to see if this performance garners more. We don’t expect UCLA to get involved with him, but he’s a name to note.

Tommy Brown, the 2018 OL standout from Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei, put in a very good performance. He’s a very large human being, at 6-7 and probably 330-ish, but to his credit it appears he’s slimmed down some since we last saw him. He did well in the one-on-ones, showing good feet and aggressiveness.  He clearly is already a big target, with UCLA having already offered him, and he’ll be perhaps the No. 1 OL target in the west for 2018.

Alijah Vera-Tucker, the prospect and UCLA target from Oakland Bishop O’Dowd, attended but didn’t participate. 

Among the tight ends, we’d have to go with Josh Falo from Sacramento Inderkum, as the best prospect. He’s very tall, at about 6-6 and long, runs very well for his size and catches the ball effortlessly.  UCLA is trying, but we’re hearing the Bruins aren't on the top short list.


Erik Krommenhoek.

Erik Krommenhoek, from Danville (Calif.) Monte Vista, had a good day. He’s just about exactly what you’d want your tight end to look like in the spring of his junior year – at 6-5 and 240-ish, with a good, wide frame.  He runs and catches the ball very naturally.

http://www.scout.com/player/198486-jimmy-jaggers?s=12

Jimmy Jaggers, from Roseville (Calif.), is physically the prototypical blocking tight end, at about 6-4 and 245-plus.  He doesn’t move or catch the ball nearly as well as Krommenhoek, however, and struggled a bit to bring in the ball Sunday.

Powers Warren is a tight end prospect to be aware of. He’s from Minnetonka (Minn.), but he plays for B2G 7-on-7 in SoCal.  He’s about 6-3 and 230, and runs really well, and has very good ball skills.  He has said in the past that one reason he plays for B2G is for UCLA to notice him.

Just for the record, the two TEs from the west that are committed to Stanford Cardinal, Colby Parkinson of Westlake Village (Calif.) Oaks Christian and Tucker Fisk, participated, and both looked good. Parkinson deserves to be ranked the No. 1 tight end in the west, while we think Fisk ends up on the defensive line, with a defensive-line like body.

The running back ranks were a bit sparse, especially if you’re talking UCLA-level prospects.  Of course, the headliner is the No. 1 running back in the country, Najee Harris, from Antioch. Every time you see him you marvel at what a physical freak he is. We heard he measured at 6-3 and weighed 225, and he physically looks NFL-ready right now. He showed some great hands in the passing drills, and that elusiveness in the one-on-ones.

The receiver group was rather thin, with Washington State commit Isaiah Hodgins probably having the best performance of the bunch. He’s a bigger wideout and showed really good body control when he went up for passes in tight coverage, often coming down with the football. Hodgins has the ability to stretch the field but his physicality also allowed him to box out defenders on throws up the middle. He has good hands and positions his body well to make a move after the catch, fitting that Jordan Payton comparison pretty well the more and more we see him.

http://www.scout.com/player/198200-jamire-calvin?s=12

The other receiver that shined was Jamire Calvin, the teammate of UCLA commit Echols of Los Angeles Cathedral. The three-star prospect could camp with the Bruins and, based on how he’s looked this evaluation period, it would not be surprising if he put on a show in that setting, too. Calvin, though, is on the smaller side and would have been a much better fit in Noel Mazzone’s offense as opposed to some of the formations the Bruins rolled out this spring. Calvin is shifty and exciting to watch in the open field, though there might be some questions about his durability down the road given his slight build. He displayed good hands and has the wiggle to make defenders miss before turning on the jets and taking off up field, so it should be interesting to see if UCLA pursues him aggressively for that slot role.

Chandler, Ariz., athlete Johnny Johnson was another standout Sunday, looking explosive and versatile as both a receiver and scat back. He runs low to the ground and was a tough matchup all afternoon. Chase Cota, the son of former Oregon standout Chad Cota, was perhaps the best looking 2018 receiver in attendance, using long strides to get by defenders and going up in the air to make some nice grabs in traffic.

The linebackers group was particularly thin, too. Mission Hills Bishop Alemany’s Lamin Touray won the MVP, and it was deserved. We like Touray, even though he might be a bit undersized at about 6-0.5 and 225.  But he has great instincts as an inside linebacker, and he showed very good balance and instincts Sunday.  He attended numerous UCLA spring practices and we know the interest in the Bruins is there. UCLA is showing a preference for bigger, longer linebacker types, but the pickings are slim in the west.

The expected linebacker headliner, Addison Gumbs from Hayward (Calif.) Stellar Prep, didn’t attend the camp.  We continue to hear UCLA looks good for him, but Washington is making some noise, with USC probably third.

The defensive back group was a good one, with several UCLA targets among the loaded field. Jaylon Johnson, the brother of Bruins corner Johnny Johnson, was the top performer, shining brightly in coverage drills while also taking the crown in the testing portion of the event. He has a long frame with long arms and really good feet, so he would theoretically fit what assistant coach Demetrice Martin typically looks for in his corners. But Johnson has indicated for a while that he rather pave his own path in college and the Bruins don’t appear to be a factor in his recruitment at all, with USC and Arizona getting a lot of the buzz.

Elijah Gates of Buena Park, Calif., was really good all afternoon as well, showing the ability to stay with receivers down field and breaking toward the football on underneath throws. He looked nimble in open space and has good straight-line speed, making him a tough matchup for receivers that try to gain separation. Gates was hindered a bit by a groin injury but he fought through it well. We hear that the Bruins continue to be in good position for him.

Pasadena (Calif.) Muir standout Elijah Blades was solid throughout the session, too, particularly when he had to body up receivers near the line of scrimmage. His lanky frame makes him one of the more intriguing defensive back prospects in Southern California from an upside standpoint. Kirkland (Wash.) Juanita two-way star Salvon Ahmed, who camped with the Bruins last summer but has not picked up an offer, worked out at corner and earned an invite to The Opening, as did the aforementioned Johnson and Alex Perry, the four-star cornerback from Las Vegas (Nev.) Bishop Gorman. Perry actually made it a point to match up against the top receivers and again fared well, showing discipline and patience as he dissected routes. The Bruins went out to Bishop Gorman earlier this month and could continue to take a closer look at Perry as they pursue teammate Bubba Bolden, the four-star safety whose verbal commitment to USC has softened substantially in recent weeks. Marques Evans of Newbury Park, Calif., slipped quite a bit throughout the day, looking out of position as he peeked into the backfield and allowed receivers to blow past him on several occasions.


Chaz Ah You.

At safety, Provo (Utah) Timpview four-star Chaz Ah You had the best showing. He has added some bulk this offseason, making him more powerful and allowing him to fare well on jump balls. He also displayed good instincts in zone coverage and broke toward the football well, planting his feet and showing a burst to close quickly on ball carriers. UCLA continues to lead, but Ah You intends to take some visits during the season before narrowing anything down.

The other standout safety was Bellflower, Calif., athlete Jeffrey Manning, a three-star prospect who holds three Pac-12 offers but appears to be on the cusp of a few more. He looks like a sprinter, so it’s no surprise that he moved remarkably well through his backpedal and seemed comfortable in coverage drills, too. Expect the Bruins to continue to monitor the local prospect as the defensive back board becomes clearer. Trajon Cotton, the three-star from Sacramento (Calif.) Inderkum, didn’t put on his best performance, getting beat often in one-on-one drills and looking a bit sloppy in the secondary during the 7-on-7 portion. He did have some eyebrow-raising plays where he made some tremendous interceptions, but was too up-and-down throughout the session, and appears to be slipping on the Bruins' board at a position where they might take just one.

Jeffrey Manning
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