Gerard Martinez

UCLA Football Recruiting Buzz

Sep. 30 -- There are positive developments on both offensive and defensive line recruiting, with some new offers out, and UCLA holds steady with some long-time leans...

UCLA doesn’t like to host too many official visit weekends during the season. The theory is that, with game preparation and the actual game, the coaches and players don’t get to spend nearly as much time with the recruits as they do if they officially visited in December or January.

But there are always a couple of weekends during the season when UCLA will host official visitors, and this year that’s shaping up to be the weekends of the Utah and USC games.  USC weekend will be the big one.

We already know about some visitors for the USC weekend: UCLA’s big defensive tackle target from Las Vegas, Greg Rogers; the East coast five-star cornerback, Lamont Wade;  five-star Texas linebacker prospect Baron Browning, and Rancho Cucamonga athlete Jaylon Redd, who recently verbally committed to Oregon.  While Texas five-star linebacker Dylan Moses has been saying UCLA would get a visit that weekend, we’re starting to here that he could be backing off visiting UCLA, however. It’s not a done deal yet, but that could be something developing with Moses.  Of course, if Moses doesn’t visit UCLA it’s essentially dropping UCLA from his list.

Expect over the next couple of weeks for UCLA to nail down the official visits for those two weekends. 

Just to get this out of the way at the top of this piece, we think it’s unlikely that UCLA is a potential landing spot for Alabama quarterback transfer Blake Barnett.  In talking to various sources, we think it’s unlikely UCLA pursues him and, from what we’ve heard, Barnett might be favoring Oregon, which he probably feels is a good fit for him, being a dual-threat type of quarterback. 

From what we gather about UCLA quarterback recruiting, it appears, as of right now, that UCLA is going to hold pat in the 2017 class with the commitment of Austin Burton, the three-star from Florida, and then probably take two quarterbacks in the 2018 class, which is a pretty good one in the west.  We’re continuing to hear that UCLA leads for the #8-ranked quarterback prospect in the 2018 class, Dorian Thompson-Robinson, from Las Vegas Bishop Gorman. He has said he could announce his decision as early as the end of his junior season and that bodes well for UCLA.  Even though Thompson-Robinson has looked very good playing receiver for Gorman this season because Gorman has 2017 five-star QB Tate Martell, we think he has the tools to be an elite quarterback.  Now, we reserve the right to change our course on 2017 quarterback recruiting, because we feel that, between now and Signing Day, UCLA could get interested in a 2017 prospect. But as of now, there doesn’t appear to be anyone on the radar the Bruins look to move on soon. 

The most activity and developments in UCLA recruiting recently are with the offensive and defensive lines.

With OL recruiting, we’re hearing that UCLA is doing well with one of its top targets, Aaron Banks, the nation’s #8-ranked offensive guard from El Cerrito (Calif.).  UCLA offensive line coach Adrian Klemm watched Banks play a couple of weeks ago, and sources close to the recruitment indicated that UCLA is right there for Banks.   We think that Notre Dame, too, will be a final contender, since we know he loved his official visit to South Bend. As we reported, UCLA recently offered emerging offensive line prospect Orlando Umana, from Sacramento (Calif.) Grant.  Umana was a bit of an under-the-radar guy, not being seen in many recruiting events during the off-season, but the Pac-12 has certainly discovered him.  He just officially visited Washington last weekend, and UCLA offered recently.  While there have been other schools on him longer, we’ve heard that he very much intends to officially visit UCLA. 

Umana, while he plays tackle in high school, more than likely projects as a guard in college, and is in kind of the same mold as Banks.  UCLA already has three offensive line commitments for 2017 (projected center Kanan Ray, JC tackle Ronald Rudd and tackle Jaxson Kirkland), and wants to probably take two more. While at least one of those probably needs to be a tackle, it’d be interesting if UCLA were able to get both Banks and Umana.  We feel that the Bruins would take both, but would still take a tackle-type, and just take six offensive line commitments.

One other situation to keep an eye on with offensive line recruiting: we’ve talked quite a bit about Tramonda Moore, the former U.S. Army All-American in the 2016 class who committed to Oklahoma State but then didn’t qualify and is now at a JC.  We’ve said previously that Moore was trying to slam all of his academics in to get his AA and be able to enroll at a four-year by fall 2017.  The last we reported was that it was probably going to be a longshot, and it’s still probably unlikely.  But we’ve heard more about Moore’s situation and think it isn’t out of the question that Moore completes the academics and is qualified to transfer for the 2017 school year. And we’ve heard that, as of right now, UCLA would be where he’d go.

With the turmoil that’s going on over at USC, especially with some conflicts in the offensive line ranks, whether USC offensive line commit Andrew Vorhees remains committed to the Trojans is perhaps something to watch. Vorhees, the offensive tackle prospect from Kingsburg (Calif.), was thought to be leaning to UCLA when he surprising committed to USC in June, so there’s a good relationship there with Vorhees and UCLA.  Of course, if USC rights the ship a bit between now and the end of the season much of the controversy will die down. But if USC ultimately finished with a poor season, you can probably expect more dysfunction to follow, and perhaps USC-committed recruits looking elsewhere.  We are confident that one USC commitment UCLA would absolutely have interest in would be Vorhees.

We mentioned that UCLA is looking for one more tackle type, with Rudd and Kirkland already on board, and the primary target right now is Jalen McKenzie, the four-star from Concord (Calif.) Clayton Valley. The word is that UCLA leads for him, but we still feel that if Tennessee or a Big Ten school offered and came in hard he’d have seriously wandering eyes. 

It appears that UCLA has stopped recruiting Henry Bainivalu, the OL from Washington.  But it recently offered Texas OL prospect Grant Polley, who is verbally committed to Colorado. 

On the defensive line, UCLA got a commitment from Pima Community College defensive lineman Cassius Peat, formerly of Michigan State. If you remember, Peat was the #166-ranked prospect in the nation for 2015 and was verbally committed to UCLA, but then signed with Michigan State on Signing Day in a bit of a surprise.  He redshirted his first year at Michigan State, and kept getting bigger. Heading into this season he was 275 pounds and looking like he was going to be a significant contributor as a redshirt freshman at MSU, but then he had to drop out due to academics.  He’ll now have to get his AA at Pima before he can transfer.  He unofficially visited UCLA for the Stanford game, and said he realized he should have stuck with his UCLA commitment.  He’s trying to fulfill his AA requirements to enroll in time for UCLA’s spring quarter and spring practice, but that might be tough to pull off.  There probably is a little question of whether he actually gets it all done in time to enroll by fall to 2017.  But if he does make it to UCLA, he should be a pretty good addition to the DL, and one UCLA could really use for 2017 – a guy with experience in a good college program – when it loses some significant numbers on the DL after this season. 

There have been a flurry of scholarship offers go out to 2017 defensive line prospects recently.  As we reported, UCLA offered Alden Tofa, the 6-4, 255-pound defensive end prospect from West Jordan (Utah).  UCLA defensive line coach Angus McClure saw him play in person when UCLA was visiting BYU, and then offered.  We’ve heard that the UCLA offer was a big one for him.  Tofa is a good student and has an offer from Stanford, but it’s contingent on him academically qualifying (like every Stanford offer).   He’s still uncertain whether he’ll take his LDS mission straight out of high school, play a year of college and then take the mission, or put it off until even later.

UCLA also recently offered two Arizona defensive end prospects, Odua Isibor, the 6-5, 215-pounder from Phoenix St. Mary’s, and My-King Johnson, the 6-3, 225-pounder from Tempe.  

Isibor is a bit of a sleeper -- a long athlete, maybe even 6-6, and a basketball player, so he has good feet and quickness.  His frame could easily hold weight, and he has some big upside, but would need some development time in college to get bigger and also hone his game, which is still pretty raw. It had been thought that Arizona was the leader, but the Wildcats just got a commitment from another local DE, Jalen Harris, and they have limited scholarships overall left.  Hometown Arizona State is right there, and Oregon, Texas A&M, USC and others have offered.  Isibor is a good student and  UCLA’s academic reputation could be a factor.

Johnson is similar to Isibor, not as long, but probably pushing 6-4ish, with a good frame that could add weight and good lateral quickness.  He just visited Oregon, and the Ducks are in his top three along with USC and Texas A&M. He has family, including his mother, in the state of Washington, so that might give Oregon an advantage.  He camped with USC and bonded with their defensive line coach, Kenechi Udeze, and Texas A&M has been on him a long time.  We have a story coming on Johnson, and his reaction to the UCLA offer, later today.  

A couple of things to know here.  UCLA is late on recruiting many of these DEs because of the commitment and then decommitment of Hunter Echols.  Hopefully in McClure’s pitch to them there is this explanation on why UCLA is late in their recruitment, they understand and give UCLA and McClure a chance.  Also, you might notice that Texas A&M is involved with both Isibor and Johnson, and that’s the doings of Noel and Taylor Mazzone, UCLA’s former coaches now at A&M, who always had deep connections to the state of Arizona.   

It’s probably safe to expect UCLA will get official visits from Tofa, Isibor and Johnson, along with one from Aliki Vimahi, the defensive end from Kahuku (Hawaii) that UCLA offered right after Echols decommitted. Defensive tackle Popo Aumavae, from Stockton (Calif.) St. Mary’s, unofficially visited UCLA this weekend, and attended the UCLA/Stanford game.  Despite UCLA losing in the last minute, it was still an impressive game and atmosphere for a recruit to see, and we’ve heard Aumavae – and his family – were impressed. They even tailgated at the Rose Bowl.  Aumavae, too, was impressed with the UCLA team behind the scenes, from what we’ve heard. This is good news for UCLA, that looked like it was slipping a bit in the Aumavae recruitment, mostly to Oregon, but also to Michigan and USC. 

UCLA’s big target at defensive tackle, Las Vegas Arbor View four-star prospect Greg Rogers, just took his official visit to Oklahoma and, from what we hear, was impressed. The Sooners lost to #3 Ohio State, in a game the Buckeyes dominated, but the big-game atmosphere must have certainly be something to see. He has a couple of weeks of visits coming up, with Colorado this weekend and Arizona State on Oct. 8th (for the UCLA game). He’ll then finish off his official visits with UCLA for the UCLA/USC game Nov. 19th and USC when they play Notre Dame the week after.  Visiting UCLA and USC in that order, with USC last, isn’t an indication of where Rogers is leaning, but more a natural desire to take his official visits during two big-game weekends. But the scheduling might very well have an impact; Remember, Rogers is the guy who tends to be leaning toward the last school he visited or even talked to, and because of the schedule of those two games, he’ll get USC last.  Again, a program meltdown across town would certainly help UCLA’s chances here.  He’ll announce his decision Dec. 10th. 

We're hearing that UCLA is strong with Martin Andrus, the defensive tackle from Los Angeles High.  And we've heard that UCLA is still pretty solid in getting official visits from east coast DTs Dalyn Wade-Perry and Xach Gill

We continue to hear that it’s likely one-time UCLA linebacker commit Rahyme Johnson from Los Angeles Cathedral will end up back with UCLA.  The word is that he wants to go through the process, take official visits, but that he still wants to be at UCLA. He's visiting Nebraska this weekend. 

The nation’s #2 outside linebacker, Baron Browing from Kennedale (Tex.) is playing out the entire recruiting process, and plays his card pretty close to the vest.  He’s visiting Michigan this weekend, and has visits to UCLA (Nov. 18th) and Ohio State for the OSU/Michigan game the weekend of Nov. 25th.  The feeling is that it’s between UCLA, Ohio State and hometown Texas, so the Bruins are going up against some pretty formidable competition – the recruiting juggernaut of the Buckeyes, and hometown blueblood UT.   We know he also talks with Notre Dame and wouldn’t be surprised if he visits there. The thing here is – Browning has scheduled his announcement for Nov. 29th, right after he visits UCLA and Ohio State on successive weekends.  It’d be a bit odd if he scheduled his announcement without having a strong feeling of where he’s going, and he hasn’t been to UCLA’s campus in a long time, compared to having visited the other schools on his list in the off-season. 

If there was one out-of-region linebacker prospect we think UCLA has perhaps the best chance to get it’s Will Ignont, the nation's #9-ranked inside linebacker from New Market (Al.) Buckhorn, who has really started off his senior season with some big performances.   Right now his list of favorites include UCLA, Ole Miss, Auburn and possibly LSU, and he’ll probably visit UCLA after the season.   You always have to consider it tough to pull an Alabama prospect out of the state of Alabama when you’re recruiting against Alabama or Auburn, and Auburn has recruited him for a long time.  But we've heard Ignont might be a kid that wants to get away, especially to an environment like Los Angeles.  

As we’ve been maintaining, from what we hear the recruitment of Addison Gumbs, the four-star prospect from Hayward (Calif.) Stellar who was considered a long-time UCLA lean but picked Oklahoma over the Bruins in August, might not be 100% completely over. We wouldn’t be surprised if Gumbs ended up officially visiting UCLA. Not too much has changed with defensive backs recruiting.  There were some rumors floating around that the lead UCLA has had for five-star cornerback Darnay Holmes from Calabasas might be loosening up a bit.  A couple of weeks ago he switched up his visit schedule, postponing visits to Nebraska and Michigan, and opting to officially visit Ohio State in November, so rumors swirled that the Buckeyes had supplanted UCLA.  We’re not going to ever say that a program like Ohio State or Michigan couldn’t wow Holmes on an official visit to the point that it overtakes UCLA for his affection, but as of right now we’re still hearing UCLA is the leader.  He’s put off taking official visits until November, then the plan is to go see Ohio State, Michigan and Nebraska and more than likely he’ll officially visit UCLA.  Nebraska has connections with Holmes’ high school and 7-on-7 teams, and that has gotten him to already unofficially visit Lincoln. He plays for Keyshawn Johnson’s 7-on-7 team and, of course, Johnson’s son, Keyshawn Johnson, Jr., a Calabasas wide receiver, is committed to Nebraska, along with Calabasas teammate, quarterback Tristan Gebbia.  UCLA has, almost miraculously, maintained its lead for Holmes, even amongst all of that pressure to push him to Nebraska, so fending off Ohio State might not be as tough as it seems.    

We have heard, though, that Ohio State offering the West’s #1 safety prospect, Las Vegas Bishop Gorman’s Bubba Bolden, could change up his recruitment.  It was thought to be UCLA, Arizona State, and Colorado, but now with the offer from OSU – and Oregon – it’s a recruitment far too difficult to handicap without Bolden having taken any official visits. Bolden is close with his Gorman DB teammate, Alex Perry, and both seem to be bonded about potentially doing the package thing to ASU or Colorado.  UCLA DB coach Demetrice Martin has built a pretty strong relationship with Bolden, and he went to watch him in one of Martin’s first opportunities to see prospects play, so that’s a good indication of how Martin views Bolden (Martin also has seen Holmes).   Bolden has said he intends to visit OSU and Oregon, and not too long ago said he wanted to visit Florida.  We’ve heard that he has a UCLA visit as a priority, and with ASU and Colorado serious contenders, it’s going to be interesting to see who gets Bolden’s official visits.

The West’s #2-ranked safety, Chaz Ah You, from Provo (Utah) Timpview, still has UCLA at the top of his list, but there are some things to play out here to get UCLA to the finish line of National Signing Day. First, it’s still uncertain if Ah You will take his LDS mission. UCLA has told him they’re fine with it.  Then, while UCLA is the long-time leader, it’s pretty well-known that Ah You covets a Stanford offer, and if the Cardinal did extend one it could threaten that UCLA lead.  So far, Ah You has an official visit to Oklahoma State planned, and beside UCLA and Stanford, will probably visit Washington.

UCLA looks to be holding steady with Elijah Gates, the four-star cornerback from Buena Park, and Elijah Hicks, the three star cornerback from La Mirada.  Both have looked very good in their senior seasons.  Hicks, as we've maintained, looks like he's under-rated as a three-star.  

When it comes to offensive skill positions, there isn’t that much more for UCLA to do in 2017 recruiting:

• Like I said above, they look to be standing pat at quarterback

• At running back, the current roster looks pretty well stocked for the future and perhaps the only guys they’re aggressively recruiting are the two homerun, five-star prospects Najee Harris and Stephen Carr, who are longshots since they’re committed to Alabama and USC.

• They have a commitment from a four-star tight end, Jimmy Jaggers (UCLA coaches McClure and Rip Scherer are expected as his game tonight), and are still looking for a second tight end. They recently offered Carson Terrell from Lehi (Utah), and are still pursuing some other longshots like Josh Falo, the four-star from Sacramento Inderkum. But given that the current roster looks better at the position than previously thought before fall camp (that is, redshirt freshman Caleb Wilson and true freshman Jordan Wilson both look like they’re going to be significant contributors), there isn’t necessarily still the dire need to take two tight ends in the 2017 class.  From what we hear, offering Terrell really shook up his recruitment, since he had offers from the likes of BYU, Oregon State and Utah State. But we wouldn’t be surprised if UCLA held pat with Jaggers for 2017, or took a real developmental type late in the recruiting cycle as the second tight end.

• UCLA intends to take only one receiver in 2017.   They’re looking for a bigger-type of wideout, and right now aren’t necessarily leading for anyone.  It appears they’ll bring in a number of them on official visits, some that are already committed elsewhere, and see if they can snag one.  Among those types, we’ve heard that UCLA might have the best chance with R.J. Sneed, the 6-2, 180-pounder from Texas who just decommitted from TCU.  The word is that Ole Miss could be stepping into the TCU void, too. 

One thing that hasn't been pointed out enough -- that Darnay Holmes has a very legitimate chance to be a two-way player. He is an excellent receiver; if he were ranked as one as a high school prospect, he'd probably be considered elite at that position also.  Because of that talent, we could see him getting more than just an occasional rep on offense during his college career. 

Joseph Lewis


Here’s something interesting in regard to receiver recruiting.  The nation’s #1 receiver prospect, Joseph Lewis from Los Angeles Hawkins, has never shown much interest in UCLA.  It could be, too, that Lewis was getting showered with attention from many big-time programs from around the country.  Lewis, in fact, recently said he’s going to take his five official visits to Alabama, Oklahoma, Nebraska (this weekend), Arizona and Oregon.   So that was consistent with the lukewarm relationship we’ve heard about between UCLA and Lewis.  The theory too, was that Lewis, if he were going to opt locally, it’d probably be for USC.  But lately we’ve heard that UCLA and Lewis have been talking, more than they ever have.  A big difference is that Lewis is now acting more open to UCLA.  We wouldn’t go as far to say that UCLA is really making in-roads with Lewis, but it’s something, at least.  People close to the recruitment have said that Lewis might be the type that takes in all the national attention but then ultimately doesn’t want to leave Los Angeles.  And right now, UCLA might look like a better option than USC. Lewis might think UCLA doesn’t have any receivers that are currently lighting the world on fire, and that UCLA’s passing game is just missing him to make it work.  We’ll see if the relationship between UCLA and Lewis develops.  

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