As we discussed in the State of Recruiting, UCLA has gone through a little bit of a dry spell in recruiting recently. Much of it can be attributed to the time of year, too; July is easily the slowest month of the year for football recruiting. High school prospects are in their off-season workouts and competing in 7-on-7 tournaments, so there haven't been nearly as many unofficial visits. Next week, however, things should pick up with many high school teams ending their off-season sessions, so expect a flurry of unofficial campus visits. There are, too, a number of recruits who have indicated they'd be announcing their decision soon or before their school year begins.
One thing that should help is having the first week of fall camp, which starts August 8th, on UCLA's campus, making it quite a bit easier for recruits to make the trip, rather than having to drive out to San Bernardino.
What would we do for entertainment if we didn't have Hunter Echols, the UCLA-committed defensive end from Los Angeles Cathedral?
He is verbally committed to UCLA, but he's been pretty candid about enjoying the recruiting process, and allowing other schools to recruit him, and potentially taking some official visits. The most recent incident happened this week, when a Washington Huskies site reported Echols had decommitted from UCLA. When Scout's Greg Biggins contacted Echols he denied it. The Washington reporter then published a screen capture of an Echols' text approving of what the reporter intended to write, which included Echols saying he was decommitting from UCLA. Well, that didn't go over well in the UCLA community, with the fans and, from what we hear in recruiting circles, in particular, the UCLA coaches. In fact, the blowback from UCLA then irked Echols, who said he misunderstood what the writer indicated he was going to write (like we've said, these are 17-year-olds) and would have never agreed to it. Echols reassures everyone close to him that he's committed to UCLA (he's actively recruiting for UCLA), that he's just enjoying the process, and he wants the UCLA coaches to understand that, too, but it's not tough to see that might be difficult for them. And they could also think it's showing a little disrespect.
There actually might be a bright spot to all of this. Echols is still committed to UCLA and the stress and drama over this latest incident might be causing him and his family some recruiting fatigue. You'd have to think that his parents aren't probably too thrilled by recent events, or the prospect of more drama if their son keeps things slightly open to other schools. We'd have to think, too, that Hunter himself might be getting tired of it all. And you know UCLA is. Other schools continue to try hard with Echols; in fact, some have used the UCLA commitment of Echols' friend, five-star Jaelan Phillips, to negative recruit against UCLA. All of this has to take a toll. Echols has said in certain circles that, if he did take official visits to schools other than UCLA, it wouldn't be to any in the Pac-12. So this all might be going the way of Echols potentially shutting down his recruitment. We wouldn't be surprised, though, if Echols does take other official visits, possibly to Notre Dame or Nebraska.
While UCLA wasn't in the recent top-10 list of four-star defensive end D.J. Johnson, from Sacramento (Calif.) Burbank, sources close to Johnson told us that UCLA continues to recruit him pretty aggressively. UCLA wasn't in his top 10 because of the commitments of Echols and Phillips, but if Echols decommitted, you could bet the first call by UCLA defensive line coach Angus McClure would go to Johnson, and there'd be a pretty good chance that UCLA would move into Johnson's list of favorites. Remember, McClure was the first to offer Johnson, and he has said that means something to him.
If it wasn't Echols grabbing the attention of recruiting fans, it was defensive tackle Greg Rogers, the four-star prospect from Las Vegas (Nev.) Arbor View. He took an unofficial visit to UCLA last week and the buzz was that he wanted to end his recruitment that night. He was going to cancel his unofficial visit to USC, but then he decided to take it, and USC impressed him so much there were people close to the situation that believe the Trojans edged ahead. After that flurry, it feels like you can get a different story from different sources -- some that say he favors UCLA and others that believe he's leaning to USC. Many close to the situation think Rogers favors whichever school he had contact with last. What's certain is that he's not going to decide anytime soon, and it will be a continuing Bruin/Trojan drama, probably through the season.
A number of defensive line prospects should be checking out campus soon.
As we reported, Xach Gill, the DT from Wake Forest (North Carolina), expects to unofficially visit UCLA sometime this summer.
The nation's #1 DT, Marvin Wilson, from Bellaire (Tex.) St. Episcopal, plans to take a visit to Los Angeles to see both UCLA and USC.
Popo Aumavae, the four-star lineman from Stockton (Calif.) St. Mary's, could possibly wait to take his unofficial visit when his team travels to L.A. to play Bellflower St. John Bosco September 23rd. We've heard the entire St. Mary's team plans to go to the UCLA/Stanford game at the Rose Bowl the next day. The feeling on Aumavae is that he'll want to take some official visits this fall, probably the highest priority visits being to UCLA, USC and Oregon. UCLA continues to be a bit of an outlier in that they're recruiting him as a DL and not an OL, even though Aumavae has indicated privately he wants to play DL.
Marlon Tuipulotu, the four-star DT from Independence (Ore.) Central who is verbally committed to Washington, is still expected to take an unofficial visit to UCLA, and it could be next week. We're hearing there is still a chance Tuipulotu and his family could move down to the L.A. area for his senior season.
The Los Angeles High defensive tackle Martin Andrus plans to visit UCLA's campus next week.
Phillips and Echols, too, are expected to unofficially visit UCLA next week, along with committed OL Kanan Ray from Chatsworth Sierra Canyon.
UCLA continues to recruit Noah Elliss, the elite tackle prospect from Highlands Ranch (Col.) Valor Christian, but we continue to hear there could be academic roadblocks.
You could probably read into the interview with offensive line prospect Jaxson Kirkland, from Portland (Ore.) Jesuit, that Washington State is the leader. There are sources close to the situation that are speculating the same thing. He'll announce his decision on August 14th.
The feeling on OL prospect Jalen McKenzie, from Concord (Calif.) Clayton Valley, is that UCLA probably leads, but if Tennessee came in the Vols would probably jump to the top of the list.
If Oklahoma City (Okla.) Independence JC freshman Tramonda Moore can get qualified for UCLA in one year's time, it's likely he'll end up a Bruin. That could be a pretty considerable "if," however. Moore, a 2016 U.S. Army All-American, committed to Oklahoma State on Signing Day, but then didn't qualify. He's attempting to get enough credits at the JC -- through two summers' worth of classes, an academic year and some online courses -- to be qualified for a four-year college by fall of 2017. UCLA offensive line coach Adrian Klemm established an excellent rapport with Moore as a high school prospect, and the relationship has continued. If Moore pulls off the academics, he'll have four to play three starting with the 2017 season, and he'd be a huge boost to UCLA's future offensive tackle ranks, which is thin on talent.
UCLA is still considered no less than in the top two for Aaron Banks, the nation's #7-ranked offensive guard from El Cerrito (Calif.). There is some uncertainty about who necessarily the other leader would be with UCLA, possibly Oregon or Cal.
If Klemm could secure a 2017 offensive line recruiting class with already-committed Ray and JC tackle Ronald Rudd, along with Moore and Banks, that'd be a solid class.
The prospect that has become UCLA's #1 tight end target in the 2017 class, four-star Jimmy Jaggers from Roseville (Calif.), has been visiting schools back east, most recently Alabama, participating in their camp. The Crimson Tide have offered and are recruiting Jaggers. It will be interesting to see if he returns with Alabama on his mind, since before the trip the general take was that USC was slightly leading UCLA for him. If Jaggers did, indeed, commit to USC it would truly be a capper on a sequence of very poor tight end recruiting, punctuated by USC getting two tight ends that UCLA coveted and was previously leading for, Jaggers and Eric Krommenhoek. But consider this: We think there's a chance that if Jaggers did commit to USC it could shake loose Krommenhoek. Maybe not immediately, but possibly further down the line. UCLA continues to recruit Krommenhoek, in fact.
UCLA just offered Texas tight end decommit Major Tennison, from Bullard (Tex.), but the word is that leading for him is Alabama, where he's visited multiple times.
UCLA wide receiver recruiting for 2017 is interesting, and in a unique spot.
If you look at the 2016 depth chart we just worked up, you can see that wide receiver projects to being pretty deep over the next couple of years. It's specially stocked with smaller, quicker types; n a more pro-style offense, there won't be enough reps for them necessarily in the slot and they'll have to also line up at the wideout positions.
It's why UCLA is only looking to bring in one receiver in the 2017 class, and wants a bigger type of prospect for that one scholarship.
So, that's unique. But also unique is UCLA's approach to receiver recruiting. It doesn't necessarily use the approach of out-loving other programs for a recruit. And in this cycle, it looks like it's going to have many elite receivers come in on official visits and hope that one of them is taken with the place. It's not a greatly sound approach, but in a year when you only need one recruit, it definitely improves the odds for the strategy.
These are the receiver prospects we've heard have plans to officially visit UCLA:
Omar Manning, 6-3, 205, Lancaster (Tex.). Nation's #9 ranked receiver. He confirmed at The Opening he plans to officially visit UCLA, but the word is that he won't end up far from home, with Oklahoma, TCU and Texas being the leading destinations.
http://www.scout.com/college/ucla/story/1687964-east-s-4-star-wr-looks-h... Tarik Black, 6-4, 206, Cheshire (Conn.) Cheshire Academy. Nation's #12-ranked receiver, he had UCLA out ahead a couple of months ago, but that has changed. He'll probably verbally commit elsewhere but the word is that he'll visit UCLA this fall. There has been conflicting information about how he views Notre Dame: one faction insists he silently committed to the Irish on an unofficial vist there recently, another says he's indicating he doesn't like Notre Dame particularly.
R.J. Sneed, 6-2, 180, Cypress (Tex.) Cypress Ranch. Sneed is solidly verbally committed to TCU, and considered a longshot for UCLA.
Charleston Rambo, 6-1, 180, Cedar Hill (Tex.). Committed to Oklahoma, UCLA recently just offered him, and the plan at this point is that he'll officially visit. But the feeling is that it's almost impossible for any school to take him away from Oklahoma.
As you can see, there is a Texas flavor to this list. That comes from a combination of UCLA generally recruiting well in Texas (it brought in four-star receiver Adewale Omotosho from Plano East in the 2016 recruiting class) and UCLA having a pretty high profile in the state -- and also the word being out in Texas that UCLA is a great official visit.
UCLA is still trying with the nation's #1 receiver, Joseph Lewis, from Los Angeles Hawkins, who is in its own backyard. We know there has been contact recently between UCLA and Lewis, but Lewis is getting loved by some of the biggest programs in the country. And then there's always the Smokescreen Affect to consider -- that he'll ultimately end up at USC.
Then there's also Jamire Calvin, the 5-10 prospect from Los Angeles Cathedral who doesn't fit the bigger-receiver mold, who has made it pretty public that he really likes UCLA and he's just waiting on a UCLA offer. We suspect that, with only one scholarship to give, Calvin might have to wait a while, like through UCLA bringing in a number of bigger-type of receivers on official visits. That could mean that, if Calvin does get offered, it could be in December, and that more than likely will be too late, even for Calvin.
We anticipate, too, there will probably be other bigger-types of receiver recruits who will emerge that UCLA will bring in on official visits. And again, with only needing one, it's not a longshot UCLA actually gets one. It clearly isn't a reliable strategy in most recruiting years, and probably not in this one either, but it could ultimately prove to work, like it did with Omotosho.
The recruits that have made indications in the last couple of months that they'd be committing soon, well, haven't.
Four-star quarterback prospect Jack Sears from San Clemente has said he would commit in July, so the clock's ticking. No one really know where Sears is leaning at this point, but the consensus among Scout experts is that UCLA looked to have all the advantages but the longer it takes him to make a decision probably the worse it is for UCLA's chances. There has been some buzz about Duke, but sources out of San Clemente confirm UCLA, USC and Duke are still all being considered.
Generally it's the same feeling for four-star linebacker Addison Gumbs, from Hayward (Calif.) Stellar Prep. He's a long-time UCLA lean, and the thought was that he'd commit in early June, then late June, then early July and now -- who knows? The feeling is that UCLA still leads, but there has to be some concern that there is something keeping Gumbs from pulling the trigger. We expect Gumbs to make a decision and announcement in the next week or two, but we admit, we've said that before.
UCLA also is the leader for two defensive back prospects they offered as a result of their performance at the UCLA Camp in June -- Jaylan Shaw from Corona Centennial and Quentin Lake from Santa Ana Mater Dei. Both have indicated they wanted to make a verbal commitment before their season starts, which for both Centennial and Mater Dei is late August. With how UCLA is doing so well with many elite DBs you'd think that Lake and Shaw would want to snatch up a spot while it's available, and we still expect that to happen, but haven't heard the exact date for either Lake or Shaw to make an announcement.
UCLA is still looking good for Darnay Holmes, the five-star DB from Calabasas, and Chaz Ah You, the four-star safety propect from Provo (Utah) Timpview. With the de-commitment of Las Vegas (Nev.) Bishop Gorman safety Bubba Bolden from USC, it now looks like a UCLA/Arizona State race for him. While he's drawn to make it a package deal with teammate and close friend Alex Perry to ASU, we've heard there's a strong pull for Bolden to UCLA defensive backs coach Demetrice Martin, and to UCLA and Los Angeles in general. For one, we've heard he's holding a bit of a grudge against USC for screwing the pooch on his recruitment and wouldn't mind taking that grudge to the crosstown rivalry.
We've heard that UCLA is no less than in the top two for four-star cornerback Thomas Graham from Rancho Cucamonga.
With Jeffrey Manning, the DB from Los Angeles Cathedral, already committed, we've just named quite a few DB prospects. UCLA is looking at a "problem" any coach would love to have -- too much talent on the hook and not enough spots.
It's one reason we've heard that Jaylon Redd, the four-star prospect from Rancho Cucamonga, is probably leaning to Oregon, because it appears there are others ahead of him on UCLA's board.
And while UCLA clearly has made it obvious it covets Buena Park corner prospect Elijah Gates, we've heard Gates might be perceiving a bit of a talent logjam at UCLA, and is also probably leaning to Oregon.
http://www.scout.com/college/ucla/story/1684612-no-1-olb-baron-browning-... Sources in Texas have told us that UCLA has done a great job recruiting five-star linebacker Baron Browning from Kennedale (Tex.), specifically that UCLA linebackers coach Scott White has built the best relationship with Browning of any coach recruiting him. There are some close to the situation that think the Bruins actually lead. We know there are family connections to the L.A. area, and right now the word is that UCLA is on track to get an official visit.
Another elite Texas linebacker, Anthony Hines, has UCLA on his list of 10. It was good that UCLA beat out USC to be the Los Angeles option on Hines' list, and he could take an official visit. But it's thought Hines is a kid who is inclined to ultimately stay close to home. If he announces before the start of his season, and there's a possibility, UCLA's chances dwindle to almost nothing.
Also, know that there are a number of sources that say UCLA has a number of silent verbal commitments or indications of heavy leanings from many elite prospects. So, despite the summer lull, in recruiting circles the general consensus is that UCLA is putting together a very big class for 2017. We'll see if it actually becomes public and comes to fruition.
Scout's Greg Biggins, Brandon Huffman, Blair Angulo and Greg Powers contributed greatly to this article.