So it’s been a bit quiet around these parts, no?
UCLA, coming off a rather successful four-year run under head coach Jim Mora, holds only five verbal commitments heading into the final week of July. The doldrums are such that you’d have to thumb your way through the Scout.com College Football Recruiting Team Rankings to find the Bruins tucked somewhere between the likes of Duke and Pittsburgh, good for eighth in the Pac-12 Conference. That’s certainly not where we would expect UCLA to finish when it really matters, but does a slow start alter momentum? Do low numbers in the summer affect how the program is perceived heading into the fall and, most importantly, the winter?
The 2017 class already features a major cornerstone in No. 1-rated defensive end Jaelan Phillips, but even with the five-star prospect from Redlands (Calif.) East Valley offering his pitch to other recruits, there’s been a spell of inactivity on the trail. The reason for that is an obvious one given UCLA's strategy to target elite prospects that usually wait things out, take their visits and decide closer to February.
Of course, since recruiting is so fluid, we can’t necessarily analyze the present state of the class without looking at what’s already happened. Four of UCLA’s first five commits in the 2017 group have backed off their pledges and the other, Los Angeles Cathedral defensive end Hunter Echols, is about as firm as a loaf of bread.
It’s been quite the contrast from the previous cycle. At around this stage last year, the Bruins already held 14 commitments -- nearly half of what turned out to be a 30-man class on National Signing Day.
A closer look at the classes Mora has signed suggests that the 2016 class might have been an anomaly, though.
On the way to signing the No. 3-rated class in 2013, Mora and his staff got only five of their 27 eventual signees before August -- Kenny Clark, Deon Hollins, Myles Jack, Cameron Judge and the since-departed Christian Morris.
UCLA signed the No. 20-rated class in 2014, but only three of those members committed before the calendar turned to August and only two, tight end Austin Roberts and wide receiver Jordan Lasley, remain on the roster. So, if we're keeping tally, that's four players total from Mora's first two recruiting classes that committed early and are on the team heading into this season.
And from the 2015 class that finished No. 9 in the rankings, only quarterback Josh Rosen, running back Bolu Olorunfunmi, outside linebacker Josh Woods, offensive tackle Andre James and cornerback Stephen Johnson were on board at this point in the summer. That’s five commits, just like this cycle.
The current recruiting board is loaded with high-caliber players, as it was in years past, and the Bruins have an opportunity to put together another top class. From a short-term outlook, there is still the chance that San Clemente four-star Jack Sears, the No. 1-rated quarterback in the state, and Hayward (Calif.) Stellar Prep four-star Addison Gumbs, the No. 1-rated outside linebacker in the West region, join the class before the Bruins converge on the Intramural Field for the start of fall camp.
With Sears and Gumbs pushing back their decisions, it’s been rather quiet in Westwood, but has preseason recruiting noise ever truly mattered?