UCLA Football Recruiting Reset: Defense

Oct. 21 -- At the midway point of the season, we reset UCLA's defensive recruiting board...

UCLA was coming off a less-than-stellar off-season in recruiting, when it had a run of decommitments and previous leans picking other schools.

The theory was that a good season could garner UCLA some recruiting momentum.

We won't say that it's impossible for UCLA to still get some recruiting momentum, but currently at 3-4 it's looking like an uphill battle.

UCLA still has some big-named prospects it's still is doing very well with, however. If it can hang on to its current top commits, including five-star defensive end Jaelan Phillips, and bring in a class made up a 3-4 of the elite prospects UCLA still is seriously involved with, it should be a solid class, considering.

UCLA has just nine commitments at the midway point of October, and outside of Cassius Peat, a previous UCLA commitment from the 2015 class who flipped to the Big Ten but has come full circle, UCLA hasn't landed a verbal since mid-August.

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.

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


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. But they need to land at least one of them.

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.  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.  Rogers has already visited Arizona State, Colorado and Oklahoma so the Los Angeles trips are all that are left for the Under Armour All-American.


Martin Andrus, Los Angeles (Calif.)

UCLA has been in the mix for a long time 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 Oregon in November plus Nebraska and wants to visit USC and UCLA officially.


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 is likely to get an official visit from Aumavae.  He was at the Arizona game on an unofficial with some of his teammates too.  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 will take his first official visit this weekend, to Michigan and UCLA was on his top seven that he announced late last month so they would love to turn that into an official visit, but they still seem to be a big behind the other schools after him, namely Michigan, Ohio State and Utah.


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.  In fact, he told Scout in September that Stanford was his leader.  But he's still waiting to find out if he's been admitted into Stanford. He also told Scout last month that UCLA is very much on his short list and the Bruins want him to visit in either December or January, so UCLA is hoping he'll make his way to the Southland for a trip.


Xach Gill, Wake Forest (N.C.)

Gill continues to mention UCLA and is likely to head West for an official visit.  He's set to visit North Carolina the first weekend in November and told Scout last week that UCLA and Virginia Tech will also get visits, though those dates aren't set. Gill has cited his relationship with Angus McClure as a key reason the Bruins are still in the mix for him.


Brandon Pili, Portland (Ore.) Westview

Pili is a new name to the list as he was just offered this week. But his stock is on the rise.  Pili is originally from Alaska but moved to Portland for his senior year in hopes of getting college attention.  That's paid off handsomely.  He's been offered by Oregon State (where he visited last weekend), Colorado, USC and then the Bruins.  He was impressed with the Bruin and Trojan offers and will likely visit both officially before making his decision.  Pili is 6-4, 310, but can move.  Scout saw him at the Washington Rising Stars Camp working as a tight end and he was one of the more consistent pass catchers that day and could move pretty well for his size.

Other Recruitments to Watch:

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

Damion Daniels, Dallas (Texas) Bishop Dunne- Offered


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.  In last week's Scout 300 update, Phillips moved up to the No. 7 player in the country, which, if everything holds, would make Phillips the highest-rated player UCLA has ever signed in the Scout era.


Cassius Peat, Pima (Ariz.) College -- COMMITTED

UCLA has come full circle with Peat.  A longtime commit to the Bruins in the 2015 class, Peat ended up, on Signing Day, inking with Michigan State.  He played for the Spartans a year ago when they made the College Football Playoff, but then academic issues ended his time in East Lansing so he moved back to Arizona and transferred to a JC.  He's now at Pima, but he's yet to play in a game.  Peat was an outside linebacker when he was a commit to the Bruins, but is now at 275 pounds and probably somewhere between a defensive end and tackle at this point, probably a three-technique. He will have three to play three when he comes to UCLA and his plan now is to be there in time for spring ball and able to play next fall. There still is some considerable question whether Peat does ever make it to UCLA, so this commitment has an asterisk next to it.  We assume UCLA is recruiting like he's not coming, so if he does it's an added bonus. 


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.


Alden Tofa, West Jordan (Utah)

We long thought that Tofa would be the next player that UCLA would offer on the defensive line and that ended up being the case.  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 went to go see him when they played BYU and he was offered not long after. Tofa plans to visit BYU and Oregon for sure and UCLA is trying to lock in a trip with him.  He's also looking closely at Stanford and Utah.  The big question for Tofa will be if he plans to serve his LDS mission right away after graduating or not.


My-King Johnson, Tempe (Ariz.)

UCLA offered Johnson in late September after a good start to his senior season.  The three-star, who has offers from the in-state schools as well as USC, Oregon and Texas A&M, has already visited Oregon officially and even with UCLA offering late, they are very likely to get an official visit from Johnson.  He's also planning to visit Texas A&M and is hoping to take a trip to USC.


Odua Isibor, Phoenix (Ariz.) St. Mary's

UCLA offered Isibior earlier this month and the Bruins are hoping to get him in for a trip. Speaking of trips, he's taken one official trip: to Yale. So we know that academics are a big deal for Isibior.  He's also talked about trips to Arizona, California, Oregon State, Stanford and USC along with UCLA and said he wants to narrow that group of schools down to the four he wants to visit.

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


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.  In fact, they're hoping that Gumbs will take an official visit in December prior to the Army Bowl.


Baron Browning, (OLB), Kennedale (Texas)

Browning has consistently mentioned UCLA as a legitimate contender for him.  He's set to visit Westwood the weekend of the USC game.  Browning has already visited Michigan officially and will visit Alabama this coming weekend.  And he's locked in a visit to Ohio State the week after USC. That leaves him with one more trip and the in-state schools, Texas and Texas A&M, are trying to get him in.  There has been more buzz he's leaving the Lone Star State but you can't count out the Texas schools for him.


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.  Scout's Midlands staff, though, said he's the hardest to read of any recruit in Texas and his camp isn't giving anything up one way or the other so it's difficult to gather who is actually leading for him or really going to get a trip.  LSU, Texas, Oklahoma and USC are also on his short list with the Bruins.


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

Ignont is originally from Alabama and after a short stay at IMG Academy in Florida, he's back in Alabama, which has given Auburn the homestate edge.  Alabama was his leader for a while, but that doesn't look to be happening.  LSU and Michigan are also in the mix for him but the Bruins are entrenched in his top four and will get a trip from him.


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

The No. 1 inside linebacker in the 2017 class, Hines will visit UCLA this weekend after saying for months that he would in fact visit Westwood.  It will be his fourth visit after trips to Texas A&M, Penn State and Florida. Ohio State is likely to get the last official visits and then TCU and Texas will likely get unofficials from him.  The Bruins have stayed in the mix for him for a long time and they'll get their last great shot this weekend when he comes in for the trip.


Nathan Proctor, (OLB), Indian Head (Md.) Lackey

UCLA just recently offered Proctor, the No. 10 outside linebacker in the country, and that's given them a legit chance with him.  Penn State, Maryland, Virginia Tech and Pittsburgh have been the schools most prominently featured with Procotr, but the offer from the Bruins have them in the mix to make a late surge.  He'll take an official visit and the Bruins would love to steal him from back East.

Next Tier to Watch:


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


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 need 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.  In the recent recruiting rankings update, Shaw was moved to a four-star after a terrific start to his senior season.


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 and we would be surprised if he ended up elsewhere.


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 visited Nebraska, Notre Dame and Arizona and will visit Arizona State this weekend with Oregon getting his last visit in November.  UCLA may be on the outside looking in for him, but they're probably fine over that with Shaw and Lake and leading for Holmes.


Jaylon Redd, Rancho Cucamonga (Calif.)

Redd is another guy UCLA went in on early but he committed to Oregon last month.  That doesn't mean his recruitment is completely done, with Redd still planning to visit UCLA in November.  We'll see if he takes that visit, but if he does, than that tells us UCLA is still very much in the mix to flip him.  


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. The three main schools on him have been Oregon, TCU and UCLA and he'll visit all three plus he's also planning to visit Cal, where two of his teammates are committed, but it's really an Oregon-UCLA battle for him.  Gates had Demetrice Martin at his game in late September and he's still a priority for the Bruins.


Elijah Hicks, La Mirada (Calif.)

Hicks had long been thought to be staying in the Southland with either the Bruins or Trojans, so it was somewhat of a surprise when he committed to Notre Dame earlier this week.  UCLA will probably keep recruiting him because they still want him, but they'll have their work cut out now that he's an Irish verbal.


Lamont Wade, Clairton (Pa.)

The No. 1 corner in the East and No. 3 nationally, the Bruins are set to get an official visit from Wade the weekend of the USC game.  Wade visited Tennessee last weekend and plans to visit the two in-state schools, Penn State and Pittsburgh, in November.  In fact, he'll visit Pitt the weekend after his trip to Los Angeles. Wade is set to decide the week before Christmas and UCLA is hoping to make a big impression on that visit.  Tom Bradley, the former Penn State assistant, has been the point man on Wade's recruitment.

Other Names to Watch:

Javelin Guidry, 5-10, 175, Murrieta (Calif.) Vista Murrieta

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

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


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 one or two elite safeties, it will take them.  Lake probably projects at safety, too, so UCLA definitely has the opportunity to be selective with safeties in 2017. 

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 then got off to a great start to the season, against a high profile schedule, and more national programs have gotten involved, like Michigan, Oklahoma and Ohio State.  In fact, the Buckeyes probably have the edge with him now, with three of his teammates committed to Ohio State and that's weighing more than his friendship with Alex Perry, when it looked like Colorado or Arizona State could get the package deal.  UCLA is still trying with Bolden but they'll have to go toe to toe with the national programs.

Next Tier to Watch:


Josh Talbott, 6-0, 180, Long Beach (Calif.) Poly

The three-star Talbott is a solid prospect, and someone UCLA would probably have gone hard after in previous years, if it weren't for how deep UCLA's current DB roster is and the guys it already has committed and is doing well with in the 2017 class.  UCLA is still recruiting Talbott, but going all-in on him is Oregon, Colorado and Washington State.  


Trajon Cotton, 6-1, 180, Sacramento (Calif.) Inderkum

UCLA was the leader for Cotton for spring and summer, but cooled a bit on him after that, especially after it got the commitment of Lake, who probably projects at safety.  At this point, Cotton has moved on some, with Oregon, Nebraska and Colorado all getting official visits and looking like more likely destinations for him.  


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.

Other Names to Watch:

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

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

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