August Trend Meter on UCLA Recruiting

Aug. 31 -- There have been a few developments and commitments since our last installment of the Trend Meter, and UCLA's needs might be changing because of how the UCLA freshman class has fared in fall practice...

We established the primary recruiting needs for UCLA in the 2017 class back in February, right after National Signing Day.

We've updated the 2017 Recruiting Class Trend Meter each month since, and here's our August installment, how the trend has gone in the last month. 

One recurring theme this month is that some of these needs aren't seemingly as high-priority after seeing how the 2016 freshmen looked in fall camp.  UCLA's future depth projects out better at tight end, defensive tackle, and running back then we thought pre-fall camp.  In other words, even though it's early, how good and deep the 2016 recruiting class is shaping up to be could really resonant through to 2017.

#1 -- Offensive Tackles  

Even with getting a commitment in the last month, the arrow remains sideways and this remains UCLA's biggest recruiting priority for the 2017 class. UCLA got a commitment from three-star tackle Jaxson Kirkland, from Portland (Ore.) Jesuit, two weeks ago, and that really helps.  UCLA pulled it out; it looked like the Bruins were leading up until the last month when it seemed that Washington State had moved ahead for him. But UCLA ultimately won out.  Kirkland might not be a super-elite prospect but he's a guy that we think has a good chance to be a UCLA starter, and has already shown the capability of improving, particularly physically.  

That's now UCLA's second tackle commitment for this class, the previous one being Ronald Rudd, a JC tackle prospect, who committed in June.  Rudd, on one hand, is a good commitment since UCLA absolutely needs tackles, and Rudd might be far more ready-to-play as a JC prospect. But, we're unsure just how good he is, having not seen him in person in a game or camp environment.  Also, whether he qualifies academically is a question.  He was a non-qualifier out of high school, and those type of JC recruits traditionally have a hard time getting into UCLA.  The requirements demand certain classes, and ultimately, most of the time, they opt for the easier route, like to qualify for ASU, a school Rudd was considering.  We have, though, heard recently that Rudd has a good chance to qualify academically. 

Here's an interesting twist: The NCAA has changed its academic requirements for JC transfers, making it more stringent. One one hand, that's not good news. On the other, it might be.  Since JC recruits will now have to go through a more rigorous process at the JC to qualify, possibly that will assist them in getting admitted into UCLA. 

If you're talking JC OL prospects, there's Tramonda Moore, the prospect from Oklahoma who was an Army All-American as part of the high school national class of 2016.  He signed with Oklahoma State, but didn't qualify, and initially was going to try to qualify in one year with a combination of a heavy load of classes, including summer school and online classes, but we're now hearing that's a longshot and he'll probably take the conventional two-year stint at the JC.  Moore might have been the most gifted guy on this list up until this month but it appears he's now a 2018 prospect and not 2017.

It would be safe to say that UCLA is on top of the heap for Jalen McKenzie, of Concord Clayton Valley, but the feeling is if Tennessee (his father's alma mater and where his brother plays) gets involved, the Vols would be hard to beat.  Tennessee has a big class committed already so they might not have a scholarship for him, however. 

The Bruins are still not in serious contention for the nation's #1 tackle Foster Sarell, from Washington, and besides that, there really aren't any more offensive tackles on UCLA's recruiting board at this time. McKenzie is the remaining big target.  

We could, though, see UCLA getting involved with some other offensive tackle prospects between now and National Signing Day.  It could either be guys that decommit from other schools, emerge in their high school senior seasons or transfer from other programs. It wouldn't surprise us if someone like Massaman Bagayoko, an African import who's only played one year of football and has some mid-major offers this spring, had a big senior year.  It would have to be a pretty big name, though, to move the trend meter upward.

#2 -- A Big Offensive Line Class  

The arrow nudged sideways after UCLA got a commitment from Kirkland.  It now has three commitments in Kirkland, Rudd and Kanan Ray, from Chatsworth Sierra Canyon.  So, if the objective is to bring in five offensive line recruits for next fall then it looks pretty good with three commitments in August. 

But the operative word here is "big."  We don't just mean "big" as in size of class, but "big" in talent.

After losing Wyatt Davis, the five-star offensive guard from Bellflower St. John Bosco, to Ohio State in May, UCLA's going to have get at least two four-star prospects to make this a "big" class. 

We do continue to hear that UCLA looks good for its remaining big guard target, Aaron Banks, from El Cerrito. But we haven't necessarily heard that he's close to committing and, in fact, the feeling is that he'll take a few official visits.  He recently just unofficially visited Arizona, Michigan and Notre Dame, and he was buzzing a bit about Notre Dame, from what we hear.

Henry Bainivalu, from Washington, could take an official visit this fall but we're hearing just about no buzz on him and UCLA. 

We're really looking forward to seeing Kanan Ray, from Chatsworth Sierra Canyon. Ray hasn't participated in events this off-season, so we haven't been able to assess him.  He physically fits the part and he's been a great recruiter for the Bruins.  

There is a possibility that UCLA could get seriously involved with Grant Polley, a Texas guard prospect committed to Colorado.

Again, we suspect we'll see more names get added to UCLA's offensive line recruiting board between now and Signing Day.   But probably not too many. We think UCLA is going hard after Banks and McKenzie and not really looking to do too much else in offensive line recruiting.

For UCLA to get this arrow to even threaten to move upward it'd have to pull in both Banks and McKenzie, or any other equivalently talented prospects.   It needs some four-stars or better to even slightly give it a chance of being a "big" class. 

#3 -- A Pac-12 Starting-Level QB

The trend meter arrow has to stay down, when UCLA missed out on its #1 quarterback target, Jack Sears, from San Clemente, even though it got a commitment from Florida three-star prospect Austin Burton.

The focus for UCLA quarterbacks coach Marques Tuiasosopo has primarily been Sears this entire spring and summer. The word was that UCLA was leading for him early, but that changed in July and August.  It was interesting that Sears actually chose Duke over both local options UCLA and USC, both of whom were prioritizing him. 

Burton is probably better than many assume, since he hasn't received any hype.  He's a solid prospect, and one that belongs on the depth chart of a P5 school, but you'd have to say he's probably a bit of a longshot to win the starting spot after Josh Rosen leaves UCLA.  The 2017 UCLA quarterback recruiting plan now is to take two quarterbacks, another one in addition to Burton, and who they get as that second quarterback will completely determine whether UCLA's quarterback recruiting is considered successful in this cycle.

Austin Burton Highlights

There are some possibilities out there, but they're in situations that we can't divulge at the moment.  The pool of candidates will almost certainly come from 2017 prospects committed elsewhere or current college quarterbacks who look to transfer.  There is a slight possibility of some high school seniors emerging in their senior years, but that's less likely at this point.

Probably the one local prospect to watch is Villa Park's Nick Sipe, who has some tools, but he'd probably need to have a mind-blowing senior year to garner a UCLA scholarship offer.

It's a long way to National Signing Day, and things always happen. UCLA definitely needs something to happen for the program to bring in a quarterback class it can be satisfied with for 2017.  

#4 -- At least One Great Defensive Tackle 

UCLA is it in for the long haul with Greg Rogers, the nation's #6-ranked DT prospect, from Las Vegas (Nev.) Arbor View, and it's going to be an up-and-down recruitment against USC, so we'll just keep the arrow sideways. To satisfy this need, that of a "great defensive tackle," if UCLA doesn't get Rogers it'd have to bring in someone similar, and the possibilities are looking a little scarce.  We recently heard that UCLA might be second-tier for the nation's #7-ranked DT, Popo Aumavae, from Stockton (Calif.) St. Mary's. The word is that he doesn't intend to officially visit UCLA, but will unofficially visit with his entire high school team (who will be in SoCal to play Bellflower St. John Bosco). 

We're hearing it's looking less likely that UCLA will get the #4-ranked DT, Marlon Tuipulotu, from Independence (Ore.) Central, who is verbally committed to Washington, on its campus, like it was previously thought.

UCLA is still in the second tier for Jay Tufele, the nation's #2-ranked DT. 

UCLA is still a contender for Xach Gill, the DT from Wake Forest (North Carolina), and the latest we've heard is he still intends to officially visit.

Someone to maybe watch is Texas prospect Deiontae Watts, the nation's #22-ranked DT for 2017, who plans to take an official visit to UCLA this fall. 

#5 -- Darnay Holmes  

We continue to hear that Holmes has UCLA as his clear leader, so the trend remains upward here.  Holmes has said he'll announce in late December, but it could be a case where there's some uncertainty all the way to Signing Day.  We still like UCLA's chances because of Holmes' desire to stay close to home and his relationship with UCLA defensive backs coach Demetrice Martin.  

With UCLA needing a lock-down type cornerback, and a big-named, attention-getting player like Holmes, the five-star is perhaps the class's crown jewel.  

#6 -- Two Tight Ends With the commitment of four-star Jimmy Jaggers, from Roseville (Calif.), to UCLA, the arrow moved from downward to sideways this month.

In trying to get two tight ends in 2017, getting one of them is, obviously, a big step.

But getting a second could really be a challenge, without many options out there remaining.

This priority might have changed, however. With how much potential the young tight ends on UCLA's current roster have looked in fall practice, UCLA might only need one tight end in 2017.  It could be, right now, UCLA is contemplating exactly that -- if it should expend recruiting time and energy to bring in a second tight end when the projected depth chart looks solid, UCLA doesn't have a great deal of scholarships to give away and, again, they probably aren't leading for anyone else.

And there could be the possibility of someone on the current roster eventually becoming a tight end. Among the candidates could be two freshman defensive linemen, Jake Burton and Marcus Moore, both of whom showed promise as tight ends in high school.  

#7 -- Second Starter-Level Defensive Tackle  

 We remain sideways on this. The need is high at the position; looking at UCLA's future depth chart, it could definitely use two starter-level defensive tackles in the 2017 class. It's probably one of the best recruiting years for defensive tackles in the west in recent memory, so this is the year to capitalize, too.  If UCLA can, indeed, snag Rogers, it would go a very long way to satisfying this need of a second high-level tackle. 

After watching fall practice, we feel a bit better about UCLA's future DT depth. Going into fall camp, we had thought that Osa Odighizuwa and Chigozie Nnoruka would end up as defensive tackles, and after seeing them and how they are physically, we can now pretty much confirm our projection was accurate. Odighizuwa is 285 pounds with very little fat on his body, and Nnoruka is probably about the same.  We could easily see them be on the Eli Ankou Defensive Tackle Physical Development Plan and end up 310-ish within two years.  If you take those two, who are both athletic but raw, to go with Boss Tagaloa, who lived up to expectation in fall camp, future DT depth isn't dire.  But you'd always like to be deep at defensive tackle, and can't get enough of them.

If we had to go out on a limb and guess who most likely will be a DT in UCLA's 2017 recruiting class we'd say Martin Andrus, the Los Angeles High prospect.  He slipped down the Scout rankings after some spring/summer appearances where he looked a little too small (We have heard he's gotten bigger and stronger since, however).  He could suffice as a second defensive tackle -- and potentially grow into a contributor.  The combo of any two of Rogers with Aumavae, Gill, Andrus, Watts or Dalyn Wade-Perry, an east-coast three-star DT who will take a UCLA official visit, would get the job done here.

#8 -- Elite Wide Receiver The arrow remains downward this month, with nothing happening in the last four weeks to even slightly nudge it sideways. 

At this time, there isn't a receiver prospect out there that UCLA is targeting that the Bruins lead for.

The emi-good, flip side of this is that UCLA is only is looking to bring in one receiver, and it does have a history of getting guys when they bring them in for official visits.  UCLA is hoping that strategy works for any one guy of the following: Tarik Black, the #1 receiver prospect in the east, from Cheshire (Conn.); and four elite guys from Texas -- Omar Manning, R.J. Sneed, a TCU commit, and two Oklahoma commits, Charleston Rambo and CeeDee Lamb. We're hearing it's less likely that UCLA will continue to recruit the nation's #1 receiver, local boy Joseph Lewis from Los Angeles Hawkins, with Nebraska appearing to be pulling away a bit. 

He's not necessarily an "elite" receiver, but we should probably mention that Isaiah Hodgins from Walnut Creek (Calif.) Berean Christian decommited from Washington State and there's a possibility UCLA could get seriously involved. He's a four-star prospect, and maybe not quite on the level of the other guys listed above, but he is a legit 6-3 and the bigger-type of receiver UCLA currently lacks on its projected depth chart.

#9 -- Big Physical Safety  

After last season this became a big priority -- a big, physical safety -- and UCLA continues to look good for the two top big safeties in the west.

Bubba Bolden, the west's #1 safety prospect from Las Vegas Bishop Gorman, a decommitment from USC, probably has UCLA and ASU leading for him.  Bolden is close with a teammate, Alex Perry, who might influence Bolden that way, but UCLA defensive backs coach Demetrice Martin has done a very good job of staying on Bolden through it all.

Not too much has changed with Chaz Ah You, the west's #2 safety from Utah. UCLA still looks good for him, even though an offer from Stanford would change it all, but we're hearing that's probably unlikely.  Ah You intends to go on his Mormon mission out of high school, which is actually good for UCLA. Spots are tight for Martin, and if Ah You could defer his UCLA admission to 2018 it'd work out better.

The Bruins have a commitment from Quentin Lake, from Santa Ana Mater Dei, who is considered a cornerback at this point, but we think, as he gets bigger, he'll grow into a safety. At the very least, he's the type of versatile swing guys that Martin likes.

What would be an absolutely slam dunk in satisfying this need is if UCLA gets Bolden to go along with Lake, and Ah You commits but goes on his Mission so he then comes to UCLA in 2018.

Bubba Bolden Clips

#10 -- Two Starter-Level Linebackers  

With one of UCLA's top linebacker targets, and a guy long considered a UCLA lean, Addison Gumbs, from Hayward (Calif.) Stellar Prep, committing to Oklahoma this month, the ararow goes downward.  

Losing Gumbs is a pretty big blow, at least for now.  Especially with the uncertainty surrounding the status of Mique Juarez, the UCLA freshman linebacker.  UCLA probably intended to bring in two linebackers in the 2017 class, and if you penciled in Gumbs they would have only needed one more guy. So now you erase Gumbs, and then possibly erase Juarez, who has a good a chance of not returning to the UCLA program as he does to return.  That would be now another guy -- and an elite guy -- the unit is down.  So, this need could very well go from "two starter-level linebackers" to three.  

We continue to hear that UCLA has a real chance with Baron Browning, the nation's #2 outside linebacker from Kennendale (Tex.), but it's going to be one of those five-star kind of recruitments where it could go either way. And we've all watched five-star linebacker prospects from the South indicate pretty clearly UCLA is where they want to be -- and then opt elsewhere. 

There is a list of other elite national linebackers other than Browning that coach Scott White is seriously involved with and has a chance to get. There's Dylan Moses, the nation's #1 outside linebacker prospect from Florida; Levi Jones, the four-star from Texas; Anthony Hines, the nation's #1 inside linebacker, also from Texas; and four-star Will Ignont from Alabama. As of right now, the plan is that all of these prospects will officially visit UCLA this season.  We think the best bets for UCLA are Browning and probably Ignont, with Hines and Jones being longshots.

If you're skeptical about UCLA pulling linebackers from the South, and even more than one, then you might be a little worried about linebacker recruiting. 

But UCLA is still involved seriously with former UCLA commit Rahyme Johnson, the four-star from Los Angeles Salesian.  He visited UCLA's campus recently and acted very familiar.  Nebraska is the biggest threat right now, and a legitimate one.  

We fully expect UCLA to continue to recruit Gumbs. When you were the former, long-time leader, and it's more of a local school, you probably still have a shot, especially for a recruit who seemed a bit shaky in his decision. 

It will be interesting to see just where linebacker goes from here, then. White has shown that he's a big-time recruiter, and we'll see if he can again work some magic and get one -- or maybe two -- out-of-state elite prospects.  And if some back-up West-Coast options emerge in the next couple of months. 

There's another way to look at the possibility of Juarez not returning to UCLA; it absolutely helps with the recruitment of the elite outside linebackers on this list. 

Baron Browning Clips

#11 – Defensive Ends 

Jaelan Phillips (Gerard Martinez)

No matter what, even with no substantial developments in the last month and the arrow remaining sideways, you always have to remember that UCLA has a commitment from the #1 defensive end prospect in the nation, Jaelan Phillips, from Redlands East Valley. The biggest development in the last month is that UCLA offered Aliki Vimahi, the four-star Hawaii prospect that was hankering for a UCLA offer. Vimahi had done the work to stay in contact with UCLA DL coach Angus McClure, and then, with UCLA already filled up in its allotment of DE commitments back in June (with Hunter Echols being committed at the time), Vimahi came to UCLA's camp to try to impress the coaches. He's a guy that might not be ranked as high as Echols (Echols is the #13 DE; Vimahi #43), but with a different set of intangibles he very well could end up the more productive college player. With UCLA offering Vimahi, UCLA is easily the leader for him, and we think the odds are that he commits sooner than later, to snatch the spot while it's open. 

There are a few other options out there, and some of them, in pure McClure style, are committed elsewhere, so we can't share their situations in case it would jeopardize their UCLA recruitments. There also could be a transfer looming. 

#12 -- More Pac-12 Level Cornerbacks UCLA made some big strides toward fulfilling this need when it got commitments from Jaylan Shaw of Corona Centennial and Lake in the last month.  While they aren't necessarily star-studded, we like both of these pick-ups quite a bit. Shaw, we think, is a Pac-12-level starter, but just hasn't gotten the hype since he had to sit behind a loaded Centennial secondary last year.  And Shaw is a very good football player, who will come in pretty advanced and refined, and have the flexibility of playing safety, too, as his body gets bigger.  

We continue to hear UCLA is doing well with Elijah Gates, the four-star from Buena Park, and Elijah Hicks, the three-star from La Mirada, who might be a bit under-rated.  We know that Gates also really likes Oregon, but the Ducks might not have a spot for him (UCLA semi-target Jaylon Redd could commit there and fill them up for corners), so UCLA, being local, could end up being the better option, as long as there's a spot for him in Westwood.  We continue to hear that UCLA is one of the few favorites for Hicks, but with connections to USC (his best friend is USC freshman Jack Jones) and Notre Dame showing serious interest, he could any direction.  We're hearing more and more that Thomas Graham, from Rancho Cucamonga, is favoring Arizona, where he'd be able to come in and start more readily.

Oh, yeah, there's still that guy UCLA is leading for -- Darnay Holmes, the nation's #1 corner and #8 prospect overall.

In other words, it looks good for cornerbacks.  UCLA already has Shaw, and if UCLA doesn't get any more besides Holmes, it also has Lake, whose primary position right now is corner.

If Martin gets Holmes, Shaw, and Lake, it'd be a great class, and if it adds one of Gates or Hicks, it absolutely satisfies this need, in a big way.   

Quentin Lake

#13 Elite Running Back It seems that it's looking less likely that Najee Harris, the #1 overall prospect in the nation, will decommit from Alabama, and if he did, the more likely flip destination might be one of the big Big 10 programs. UCLA appears to be falling into the pack for him. 

It's not a surprise. When we heard that UCLA would be his flip destination for months, we always took it with a big grain of salt. 

This need, too, is looking less pressing with how the two UCLA freshman backs looked this fall, Brandon Stephens and Jalen Starks

It would be good, though, to keep the running back talent flowing into the program. 

If we had to guess at this point, we'd say the most likely scenario we could envision happening is that Sione Lund, the athlete from Utah who is committed to Stanford, end up as a real option for UCLA at running back. We're hearing that it's unlikely Lund academically qualifies for Stanford, but that he's still a good student and wants to go to a prestigious university, and that UCLA might be the call for him. He's in the mold of the type of running back UCLA coach Kennedy Polamalu likes, bigger (6-1, 220), who likes to run downhill.  We know that Lund has been in consistent contact with UCLA, too. 


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