Quentin Lake (Brandon Huffman)

UCLA Football Recruiting Reset: Defense

Sept. 15 -- Three weeks into the season, we reset UCLA's defensive recruiting board...

After a rough July, August seemed to bounce back for UCLA, with five commitments during the month.

Three of them were on offense, giving them five total on that side of the ball, with two being on defense, giving them three there on that side.

But still, there are only eight commitments at the midway point of September for the Bruins.

For a school that finished in the top ten of the Scout rankings on Signing Day three times in the last four years, the old adage 'It's a marathon, not a sprint" should apply.

The two defensive commitments in August were from defensive backs, position versatile DBs, in fact.  But they still need some help up front and at linebacker.

With just a little more than four months until National Signing Day, we reset the defensive recruiting board.


DEFENSIVE TACKLES (2)

It's one of the best defensive tackle classes in the West and UCLA is still heavily in the mix for a number of them and there are some national guys they're drawing attention from. UCLA would be happy with two standout DTs in this class, but if a third elite guy wanted to jump in the boat they wouldn't turn him down. 

Top Targets:

Greg Rogers, Las Vegas (Nev.) Arbor View

Rogers narrowed his list down to a top five, but everything we've heard indicates its really a top two, with USC and UCLA.  And both schools go back and forth as the favorite.  Where it once looked like he might make an early decision, we expect this one to drag out for a while, and he'll likely take visits elsewhere but we still think it will be a Los Angeles story for him.  He visited UCLA the week after The Opening and there was a thought he'd just visit UCLA. Then he ended up visiting USC and the Trojans may have edged ahead ever so slightly.  This will be one of the roller coaster recruitments between the two between now and Signing Day.  His official visit to UCLA will be for the USC game, but then he'll visit USC the following week when the Trojans host Notre Dame.

Martin Andrus, Los Angeles (Calif.)

UCLA has been doing well with Andrus, who plays at Los Angeles High School, where he is coached by former Bruin receiver and assistant coach Eric Scott. Andrus has said he was a UCLA fan growing up. Scott and McClure coached together, in fact, during the 2007 season at UCLA, with McClure coaching the tight ends and Scott the receivers, so there is that connection.  He visited UCLA unofficially in the summer and has visits set for Nebraska (this weekend), plus Michigan and Oregon and said he'll most likely visit UCLA and USC unofficially.

Popo Aumavae, Stockton (Calif.) St. Mary's

Aumavae can play on either side of the line, but most schools appear to be recruiting him on the defensive line and that is where UCLA is focusing on Aumavae playing. UCLA may not get a visit from Aumavae, but he is hoping for an Ohio State offer and if they don't offer, he won't visit so the Bruins will likely get that trip.  Oregon and USC are doing well with him in the Pac-12 and he's also interested in Ole Miss and Michigan pretty highly. He wants to play defense in college, though, which is what UCLA is recruiting him for, but a few other schools like him on offense, so that could help the Bruins.

Noah Elliss, Highlands Ranch (Colo.) Valor Christian

The son of the former Detroit Lions and Utah defensive lineman, Elliss was offered by UCLA in March and the Bruins have somewhat of a chance with him, though he too is a national recruit now. Originally from Utah, his father is now on the Denver Broncos staff, which prompted the move to Colorado, but the Utes have made him a heavy priority and have the legacy ties.  Elliss visited UCLA in June and enjoyed his visit. He also visited USC and then he's got national attention from schools like Ole Miss, Notre Dame and Nebraska.  And Michigan has a commitment from his teammate, Dylan McCaffrey, and are watching him.  Academics could be a sticking point for UCLA with Elliss and UCLA hasn't pursued him as hard because of that obstacle. 

Jay Tufele, South Jordan (Utah) Bingham

Tufele has a lot of Pac-12 interest and McClure and Marques Tuiasosopo, who recruits Utah, will prioritize him inside. He's the top prospect in Utah in this class, where Tuiasosopo made his biggest impact in 2015 when he was across town. Tufele has been offered by Ohio State and Michigan so he's gone national and he's also the focus of Utah and BYU.  USC has also been prominently mentioned with Tufele but McClure is still trying hard with Tufele and he was in Utah on the last day of the evaluation period at Tufele's school.  The Bruins appear to be on the outside looking in for Tufele, but it isn't because of effort.  In fact, UCLA will be checking Tufele out on Friday night when they're in town to play BYU

Marlon Tuipulotu, Independence (Ore.) Central

Tuipulotu pretty much shocked everyone when he committed to Washington in April.  He had been mentioning UCLA, USC, Michigan and Notre Dame most prominently outside of home-state Oregon, but an unofficial visit to Washington landed the Huskies a big verbal.  But UCLA hasn't given up on him and McClure was in Oregon on the last day of the eval period after seeing Tufele in the morning, making Central his final stop before the end of the eval period to see Tuipulotu.  UCLA is hoping that Tuipulotu will take an official visit at some point.  The talk about him moving back to Southern California turned out to be just that and Tuipulotu is playing his senior season in Oregon.

Dalyn Wade-Perry, Sparta (N.J.) Pope John XXIII

Wade-Perry has seven schools he's still considering, with UCLA and Stanford two of them, so he's open to leaving for the West Coast.  Defensive coordinator Tom Bradley visited Wade-Perry's school during the eval period and he cited the school's academics when pointing out why they made his top eight and he plans to get out to Westwood for a visit.  He's still waiting to find out if he's been admitted into Stanford but his coach also said to Scout last week that "UCLA is doing a very good job recruiting him."

Xach Gill, Wake Forest (N.C.)

Gill continues to mention UCLA and is likely to head West for an official visit.  He told Scout that UCLA, North Carolina, NC State and Mississippi State are the schools he talks with most frequently, speaking with the Bruin coaches weekly.  The home state schools, NC State and North Carolina, though, continue to be in a good spot for him.

Deiontae Watts, Plano (Texas) East

Watts has said that Oklahoma State, Texas A&M and UCLA are three of the schools he's looking at the closest and he intends to visit UCLA officially this fall. While it may be tough to pull him out of the Midlands, considering the wide array of offers he has from that region, UCLA is very much in the mix for him. 

Aubrey Solomon, Leesburg (Ga.) Lee County

Solomon could take an official visit to UCLA this fall, with the Bruins starting to get more involved with him and Solomon reciprocating the interest. He has a number of Southern schools on his short list, but UCLA and USC are schools that he's interested in at least checking out.

Other Recruitments to Watch:

Marvin Wilson, 6-4, 309, Bellaire (Texas) Episcopal- Offered

Damion Daniels, Dallas (Texas) Bishop Dunne- Offered


DEFENSIVE ENDS (2)

Like with tackles, this is a very good defensive end class out West, with the No. 1 defensive end in the country being from California. At one point, UCLA had commitments from the top two defensive ends in the West, but that changed in summer when Hunter Echols decommitted.  Still, the best defensive end in the class is Jaelan Phillips and he's rock solid to the Bruins. UCLA will look to bring in another defensive end or two and have moved on from the drama that Echols manufactured in his recruitment.

Top Targets:

Jaelan Phillips, Redlands (Calif.) East Valley- COMMITTED

Phillips, the No. 1 defensive end in the country, is another prospect that UCLA identified early and had been on for some time. His family is all Bruin and that ended up paying off huge when Phillips picked UCLA this spring.  He had blown up nationally, with offers from a number of SEC powers, including Alabama, and Stanford, who usually gets the better end against UCLA in head-to-head duals, was pretty confident that Phillips would head to The Farm.  Instead, he chose his childhood favorite and UCLA got him as he continued his ascension up the rankings, culminating with him moving in to the top spot after a very good week at The Opening, where he was a Final Five defensive lineman.  Phillips has been off to a torrid start as a senior and showing why he is the top defensive end in the country and is the crown jewel of UCLA's class not to mention he's endearing himself weekly to the Bruin faithful.

Aliki Vimahi, Kahuku (Hawaii)

Vimahi camped with UCLA but just happened to be at a position that looked to be a logjam with Phillips and Echols.  But with UCLA moving on from the Echols drama, the Bruins moved on to Vimahi and gave him an offer not long after he started his senior season.  And Vimahi was thrilled to get the offer, even if he had to wait and the Bruins have a very familiar face that is Vimahi's coach, former Bruin defensive lineman Vae Tata.  Vimahi may take a few official visits before he makes his decision, but the Bruins are doing well with him already.

K'lavon Chaisson, Galena Park (Texas) North Shore

Chaisson was very good at The Opening and was on the Scout Super Team Defense.  He has a top ten that includes UCLA and he comes from the same school that current Bruin Najee Toran prepped at (of course, also the same school that Zach Whitley is from).  While UCLA may have a little more work to do, the Bruins are hoping to bring him in for an official visit.

Potential Offerees

Alden Tofa, West Jordan (Utah)

Tofa is a player that could be the next to land a UCLA offer and it's an offer we think should happen sooner rather than later. We loved Tofa at The Opening Seattle and he's the top pass rusher in the state of Utah with a number of Pac-12 schools on him and UCLA is supposed to go see him this weekend when they're in Utah.

http://www.scout.com/player/196135-my-king-johnson?s=12

My-King Johnson, Tempe (Ariz.)

UCLA has been showing interest in Johnson, who has offers from the in-state schools as well as USC, Oregon and Texas A&M.  UCLA is late to the game because of the situation with Echols but could possibly try to get into Johnson's schools of interest. 

Other Recruitments to Watch:

Both Epenesa (Iowa) and Malone-Hatcher (Michigan), are committed to Big Ten schools, but there has been some communication with UCLA and the Bruins have continued to stay in touch. Epenesa is cousins with former Bruin Seali'i Epenesa as well as distant cousins with current Bruin Jacob Tuioti-Mariner.

A.J. Epenesa, Edwardsville (Ill.)- Offered

Corey Malone-Hatcher, St. Joseph (Mich.)- Offered


LINEBACKERS (3)

In the 2016 class, UCLA landed the West's top two insider backers in Lokeni Toailoa and Krys Barnes and of course, signed the top outside linebacker nationally in Mique Juarez.  It landed Scott White the Pac-12 Recruiter of the Year award too. Of course, now, UCLA is uncertain of the longterm status of Juarez, so they're still recruiting backers hard. 

Top Targets:

Rahyme Johnson, Los Angeles (Calif.) Salesian

Johnson was UCLA's first commit in the 2017 class, committing back in the summer but then opened things up in spring. He's a pretty good athlete with good size and he's looked solid this spring on the 7v7 circuit and fluid in coverage. Nebraska had made a big impression on him, though, and a visit there in April was followed not long after by a decommitment from UCLA.  But now it looks like things could kind of be coming full circle, with Johnson having been to a UCLA practice this fall and now talking about visiting UCLA officially and Scott White never really stopped recruiting Johnson and the Bruins are back in the mix for the four-star.

Addison Gumbs, (OLB), Oakland (Calif.) Stellar Prep

After looking like he would commit to UCLA for much of the spring and into the summer, Gumbs eventually committed to Oklahoma in the summer.  But as we reported when he committed, this one isn't over yet.  UCLA continues to recruit Gumbs and will keep recruiting him.  He'll enroll in college early, graduating in December, so they have to expedite things a bit but they're not quitting.

Baron Browning, (OLB), Kennedale (Texas)

Browning was a commit to Baylor but opened up things and UCLA is very much in the mix for him. 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. He never did unofficially visit this summer but appears set to visit this fall.  In fact, what we're hearing is this could be an Ohio State-UCLA battle for Browning.

Dylan Moses, Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy

Moses was at once committed to LSU, then opened it up not long after leaving Baton Rouge for IMG.  Earlier this summer, he announced five official visits and UCLA will be getting one from Moses in November when the Bruins host USC.  Moses will also visit Alabama, Miami, Ohio State and Texas and will likely take some unofficials to his native Baton Rouge to visit LSU.  While he may be a long shot, the fact that he's taking an official visit to UCLA and already has it scheduled, rather than just saying he wants to take one, is a positive step.  But we still think he ends up back home and will pick LSU.

Levi Jones, (OLB), Austin (Texas) Westlake

Jones visited UCLA in March and raved about the visit and his time spent with Jim Mora. He's a Texas native but he's talked about moving to the West Coast for college.  UCLA and USC both had him on campus and both are pursuing him and the Bruins are hoping to get him in for an official visit.

Will Ignont, (ILB), New Market (Ala.) Buckhorn

Ignont left IMG Academy after a brief stay and is now in Alabama so that makes it a little more difficult for the Bruins, especially with Auburn and Georgia in heavy pursuit but he's been listing UCLA as a school he's still considering.  In fact, he talked with high praise about the Bruins at The Opening.  He cited his relationship with Scott White and the comparisons he's been given to Myles Jack as reasons for interest and said he will definitely take an official visit to UCLA.  Ignont is also looking closely at Florida State, LSU and Michigan.

Anthony Hines, (ILB), Plano (Texas) East

The No. 1 inside linebacker in the 2017 class, Hines named a top ten that had only one school from West of the Rockies: UCLA.  He's talked about taking an official visit to UCLA, but the feeling is still that he'll be tough to pry out of Texas.  But UCLA would absolutely welcome him for a visit and will continue to keep recruiting him.  He was at UCLA's opener, though he was there as a guest of Texas A&M, where he was taking an official visit.

Next Tier to Watch:

Lamin Touray, (ILB), Mission Hills (Calif.) Alemany

Touray is one of the better inside linebackers in the West, but his size has slowed down his recruitment with Pac-12 schools.  He committed to Nevada, but we think if some Pac-12 schools got involved and offered, he'd take a look.  He's coached by former Bruin James Washington, the new head coach at Alemany and his linebacker coach is four-year Bruin starting linebacker Reggie Carter.

Richard Cage, (OLB), Corona (Calif.) Roosevelt

Cage actually looked pretty good at UCLA's Elite Camp this past summer and at least got himself on the map a little more for a senior year watch.  While it may be a matter of numbers that ultimately keeps him from getting an offer, he's definitely a Pac-12 level prospect.  And he's a Ground Zero product too, so if UCLA offered late, they have that going for them should they pursue him after others.

Other Names to Watch:

Kenneth Murray, (OLB), 6-2, 215, Missouri City (Texas) Ft. Bend Elkins- Offered


CORNERBACKS (3+)

UCLA has some needs at cornerback. In the last several years, they've been missing that true elite lockdown cornerback. It might be one of the biggest priorities in the 2017 class. They also generally needs corners, with many of the DBs on the roster more safety-like. They're doing well with the West's top corner in Holmes and, given these needs, he may very well be the most important defensive recruit in this class.

Top Targets:

Quentin Lake, Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater DeiCOMMITTED

The of a former Bruin, Lake is the son of UCLA great Carnell Lake, who also coached the Bruins secondary with Rick Neuheisel before going back to the NFL to coach. Lake is one of the best defensive backs in the state and has positional versatility too, much like his father, who was a Pro Bowler at both safety and corner in the NFL.  He was offered by UCLA at their Elite Camp after an excellent showing, just a week after USC offered him.  But the Bruins were the childhood favorite and the longstanding ties landed his commitment.

Jaylan Shaw, Corona (Calif.) CentennialCOMMITTED

Shaw was one of the biggest revelations this spring after being a backup last fall.  Of course, he wasn't a backup for talent reasons, but more because the Centennial secondary was loaded (three Pac-12 signees and a fourth going to Boise State).  But he still played quite a bit.  Now he's starter at one corner spot for the Huskies this fall and has looked very good early on in the season.  He had double digit offers, including from UCLA, who offered after their Elite Camp and from USC, who offered the week before.  But UCLA was always the school he wanted and he committed to the Bruins in early August.

Darnay Holmes, Calabasas (Calif.)

Holmes is the West's top defensive prospect in 2017 and is arguably UCLA's top uncommitted defensive target in this class. The Bruins offered him when he was a freshman and have prioritized him for years. His father and Demetrice Martin grew up together in Pasadena and played together as youth. Holmes has plans to visit Michigan, Nebraska and Ohio State in November while also still somewhat considering USC.  But UCLA continues to be in a pretty good spot for him.

Thomas Graham, Rancho Cucamonga (Calif.)

Graham was offered by UCLA early in his sophomore year but then he committed to USC just at the beginning of last summer. Since then, he's decommitted fully, after softening his commitment in February, and UCLA is staying on him.  He's focused on four schools: Arizona, Notre Dame, Oregon and UCLA and the Bruins are very much in the mix for him.  He'll visit Notre Dame officially this weekend.

Jaylon Redd, Rancho Cucamonga (Calif.)

Redd is another guy UCLA went in on early and the Bruins made his top eight.  Oregon sounds like the team to beat for him, but he cited his relationship with Demetrice Martin as a reason the Bruins continue to be on his short list and the Bruins still are pursuing him.  He was actually supposed to visit UCLA last weekend but pushed his official visit back to November for the USC game.  Interestingly, he still maintains he'll announce on September 25th, but will visit Oregon and UCLA after he announces.

Elijah Gates, Buena Park (Calif.)

Gates has been one of the best players the entire spring and UCLA offered him in February and are doing well with him. He visited unofficially in March and enjoyed his time with Martin and Jim Mora, saying that was a big deal for him to get to spend time talking with them. The Bruins should be on his real short list throughout his recruitment but Oregon is making a serious push for him and he's also planning to visit TCU officially in September and could visit Michigan as well. He told Scout that UCLA, Oregon and Notre Dame have been recruiting him the hardest.

Elijah Hicks, La Mirada (Calif.)

Hicks said that when he narrows his list down to a top ten this fall, UCLA and USC are locks to be on it.  Also likely to be locks are Northwestern and Notre Dame, both schools he's scheduled official visits with.  He's an excellent student and likes the academics at UCLA and he's also hoping that Stanford offers soon.

Lamont Wade, Clairton (Pa.)

The No. 1 corner in the East and No. 3 nationally, it may be tough for UCLA to get a commitment from Wade, but they're at least going to get an official visit from him.  Wade told Scout at The Opening that he'll visit UCLA officially and he'll be out in November the weekend UCLA hosts USC.  The five-star also has official visits to Tennessee, Penn State and Pitt scheduled.  Wade has been recruited by Tom Bradley, who's got longstanding ties to Pennsylvania.

Next Tier to Watch:

Javelin Guidry, Murrieta (Calif.) Vista Murrieta

Guidry has an obvious history with UCLA, with his father and uncle both having played for the Bruins in the 1990s. Guidry doesn't have an offer yet, but he camped with the Bruins last summer. He was the DB MVP of The Opening Dallas regional in March.  Guidry actually committed to Houston while he still lived in Houston, but they moved back to the Southland and he'll play at Vista Murrieta.  We also know he covets a Bruin offer and if UCLA did offer, they'd have an excellent chance to flip him, but right now, he doesn't seem to figure into their plans.

Other Names to Watch:

D.J. Brown, 5-11, 160, Fairburn (Ga.) Creekside- Offered

Tayari Venable, 5-11, 175, Rancho Cucamonga (Calif.)


SAFETIES (1-2)

Getting a big, physical safety is definitely one of the ten most important recruiting needs for UCLA this year. As we’ve said a few times, UCLA’s lack of size at safety in 2015 was a factor. So they signed two physical safeties in 2016 but still need more depth. UCLA needs cornerbacks, but if it can get two elite safeties, it will take them. 

Top Targets:

Chaz Ah You, Saratoga Springs (Utah) Westlake

Ah You is the top skill prospect in Utah and some in the state have said he's one of the better skill guys the state has produced in a long time. The Bruins have long been a contender for him along with Stanford and Oregon but he has ties to a couple other programs, his uncle having played at Oklahoma and now on staff at Vanderbilt while his father is on staff at BYU. But still, we've heard he wants to carve out his own niche for college and the Bruins are on his very short list.  If he gets admitted into Stanford, though, that could make the Cardinal the team to beat.  But for now, Ah You said that Stanford, Notre Dame and UCLA were the ones standing out to him.  Ah You said he's very likely to take his LDS mission right after he graduates, so it may not be until the fall of 2019 that he ends up on a college campus.

Bubba Bolden, Las Vegas (Nev.) Bishop Gorman

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 high 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 wild card in there is Ohio State, who just recently offered and has commitments from three of his teammates already in this class.

Trajon Cotton, Sacramento (Calif.) Inderkum

Cotton had his recruitment take off during the offseason, with double-digit offers, but is getting set to whittle his list down and the schools most likely on that list are Arizona State, Colorado, Nebraska, Oregon, UCLA and Utah.  He has official visits set for Nebraska and Oregon in September and October respectively and he also said Colorado will for sure get a visit.  He also said he'll likely take an unofficial visit to UCLA, being the lone in-state school on his list, having visited twice previously.

Josh Talbott, Long Beach (Calif.) Poly

Talbott was an early offer recipient from UCLA along with Oregon, but he told Scout in the spring that the schools standing out to him were Texas A&M, Florida, Oklahoma, Oregon and Washington State. He's another that UCLA may not have room for and they don't seem to be prioritizing him at this point but he's still showing interest in the Bruins.

Other Names to Watch:

Chris Wilson, 6-0, 186, Hitchcock (Texas)- Offered


ATHLETES

UCLA mostly has a pretty good idea where it projects the prospects on its 2017 board, but there are a few exceptions who have some versatility. Given UCLA's overall penchant for using guys two ways during Jim Mora's time in Westwood, you could probably expect all of these players below to move around a bit if they came to UCLA.  

Top Targets:

Sione Lund, Salt Lake City (Utah) Brighton

Heimuli-Lund committed to Stanford around Thanksgiving last fall, but was offered by UCLA earlier in the spring and is legitimately interested in the Bruins. He's not a slam-dunk for Stanford admissions, though that's what he's aiming for- he'll actually attend a more academically rigorous academy in Utah, but they don't have a football team, so he'll continue to play for Brighton. But because he's not a lock for admissions, he's already putting back-up plans in place, and Marques Tuiasosopo has been recruiting him. He visited UCLA and raved about the trip. UCLA likes him as a power back in their offense, but he's also a very good linebacker, which is what Stanford likes him for. So wherever he ends up, his positional versatility as a jumbo athlete will give him options.  Lund said he'll be visiting UCLA officially this fall and UCLA is staying on him in case he doesn't get admitted into Stanford.  He did say recently he's thinking more and more about serving his LDS mission right out of high school.

Terrance Lang, Pasadena (Calif.) Maranatha

Lang was offered in late April after playing on the same 7v7 team as Angus McClure's son (TMP Elite) participated and McClure got to see him.  He's a big kid, and schools recruiting him as a defensive end, but we think he could end up a pretty good athletic left tackle.  He was a basketball player first so he's still a bit raw from a football standpoint, but he's got a ton of upside.  USC is the school he most often talks about and seems to be the heavy leader for him, but UCLA will continue to pursue him.

Other Names to Watch:

Bruce Judson, 5-10, 171, Cocoa (Fla.)- Offered

Jordan Genmark-Heath, 6-1, 210, San Diego (Calif.) Cathedral

Tayler Katoa, 6-2, 215, Layton (Utah)


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