With a little less than six months until National Signing Day 2017, UCLA recruiting has been in a curious position.
Though they've lost six previous verbals, five 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.
Fall practice starts in a week and come September, recruiting really ramps up again. And several of UCLA's top targets will take their recruitments down till the end.
We once again 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: Darnay Holmes, CB, Calabasas (Calif.)
The Rundown: Holmes is the top uncommitted defensive target on UCLA's board and has been for some time. He's the No. 1 cornerback in the country for a reason and is one of the best pure cover corners, and pure football players, the West has produced in some time. UCLA has been doing well with him for a while, thanks to his father's relationship with defensive backs coach Demetrice Martin. He's been to campus a number of times and is tight with the current players and the coaches. Holmes has set three official visits, for Michigan, Nebraska and Ohio State and he'll probably take a couple more officials. UCLA may not get an official, just because he's been there so many times, but they'll still have him on campus several more times.
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. He told Scout at The Opening that he'll announce his decision at the Army Bowl in January, so he'll probably be able to get all five officials in.
Other recruits it could affect: UCLA will wait as long as they need to wait for Holmes. He'll have a spot whenever he wants to come. Who it could affect is Thomas Graham, though, who may not want to go to the same school with Holmes. And it could affect Elijah Gates as well, who also is being pulled a number of different ways. You could also expect guys like Jaylan Shaw and Quentin Lake to pop sooner rather than later, especially with Jeffrey Manning decommitting over the weekend.
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 a commit to Baylor but opened up things and UCLA is very much in the mix for him. He was hoping to get out to UCLA by the end of summer, but the Bruins will also have to battle a number of national programs who want the five-star on campus. Even when he was committed to Baylor, he was staying in steady communication with the Bruin coaches, however. We've heard Browning is one of those Texas kids who might not stay in the state for college, and that he has connections in Los Angeles, which all bodes well for the Bruins. At the least, UCLA appears to be getting an official visit, but we still hear that the Bruins are even higher on his list than being let on.
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 Rundown: While Rogers has a top six, it's more like a top two, UCLA and USC. The two have been battling neck-and-neck for the four-star for a long time and it will continue until he makes his decision. He visited both the week after The Opening and both schools feel like they have a better shot than the other for him. So while he'll visit a handful of schools, we're pretty confident in saying this is a two-team race for him.
The Timeframe: Rogers was initially planning to make an early spring decision, then, unsurprisingly, his recruitment blew up. Then it looked like a summer decision could come. But 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: Like with Holmes, UCLA will wait it out for Rogers, and will take him whenever he's ready to commit. They need defensive tackles and with some other targets already committed elsewhere, he is that much more important. So the Bruins will be patient and wait to move to the next tier of tackles (which isn't that strong for that matter), until much later.
The Recruit: Elijah Gates, Buena Park (Calif.)
The Rundown: Arizona seems to be where Thomas Graham is leaning and with UCLA still doing well with Darnay Holmes, that could be where Graham ends up. But UCLA has been on Gates for a long time and he's got no problem playing with Holmes or opposite him in the secondary, in college. Oregon is probably the toughest competition for Gates right now, though he does have an official visit to TCU set. But he also plans to visit Oregon officially. He told Scout last week, though, that UCLA is still on his real short list and Demetrice Martin is one of the coaches recruiting him the hardest and UCLA still has him very high on their board.
The Timeframe: Gates will likely wait a while until he makes a decision, since he too wants to take official visits, with one set and another all but set. And he does plan to take an official to UCLA too, so that will likely come later in the fall.
Other recruits it could affect: While Holmes is the top corner on UCLA's board, you can make a case that Gates is No. 1A. He is more likely to affect Elijah Hicks, who was offered by USC and possibly Graham too- if he commits before Graham is ready to and it still looks like UCLA will get Holmes, then its pretty unlikely Graham comes to UCLA. And Lake would come still no matter what and Shaw most likely would. So really, Hicks and Graham seem to be the most affected as well as Manning, who decommitted last week after a month of being a commit, when UCLA still was doing well with other corners.
The Recruit: Bubba Bolden, S, Las Vegas (Nev.) Bishop Gorman
The Rundown: Bolden was terrific at The Opening and made a big jump in the rankings, moving to the No. 1 safety in the West. The following week, he decommitted from USC, where he'd been a verbal to since December. And the Bruins are heavily involved with him. He's also listing Colorado and Arizona State and he and Alex Perry, his Gorman teammate, could end up playing together in college (those are the only two schools they're both considering), but Bolden also has ties to Los Angeles and the Bruins are trying to get him to play in Los Angeles, but just come up the road a bit.
The Timeframe: Having made an early decision once, its unlikely that Bolden will make an early decision a second time, so he'll probably take a handful of visits this fall and go through the process. He could announce at the Army Bowl in January or even closer to Signing Day.
Other recruits it could affect: UCLA's other safety target, Chaz Ah You, told Scout in May he's planning to serve his LDS mission right after graduation, and Ah You has been a priority for UCLA for over a year, and the Bruins would absolutely take both he and Bolden. But with Ah You more a 2019 recruit than a 2017 recruit, a Bolden commitment wouldn't really hurt Ah You's chances. That said, if Bolden headed elsewhere and Ah You does stick with his plan to serve his mission, UCLA could rekindle things with Josh Talbott of Long Beach (Calif.) Poly or pick things back up again with Trajon Cotton from Sacramento (Calif.) Inderkum.