Coming off the worst season at UCLA since 2010, the Bruin coaching staff has their work cut out for them on the recruiting trail.
Interestingly enough, though, they still seem to be in the mix, heavily, for some of the top prospects they've been targeting for almost a year and who have looked past UCLA's miserable 2016 season.
Perhaps they think they're the potential difference maker, or the key to getting the offense on track.
Whatever it may be, UCLA still very well could end up with a Top 20 class.
But they will have to hit the trail hard the next two weeks before the contact period ends in the middle of the month, and then hit it that much harder in mid-January through Signing Day.
While offensive coordinator Kennedy Polamalu was let go earlier this week, the other four remaining offensive coaches, Marques Tuiasosopo, Adrian Klemm, Eric Yarber and Rip Scherer, have all hit the road this week to do in-homes, swing by schools and prep for the official visit weekend.
Who UCLA hires as an offensive coordinator, though, will likely go a long way in determining how their offensive class ends up come February. A new OC could potentially have the power to hire new assistants, or retain a couple, and that fluidity could greatly impact this class.
UCLA has ten commitments heading into December, five on offense and five on defense.
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 two months until National Signing Day, we reset the offensive recruiting board.
QUARTERBACKS (1 or 2?)
After pursuing a couple of guys as their main targets for 2017 quarterback recruiting in spring and summer and missing on them, UCLA then landed a quarterback commitment for 2017 in Austin Burton. Burton isn't considered a big-impact prospect, so the speculation is that UCLA needed to bring in another, higher-impact quarterback prospect, but it's been sitting pat on Burton for months. The thought was whether any 2017 quarterbacks would emerge this fall, but none did. It seemed, then, the thought was, with two current true freshman in Matt Lynch and Devon Modster, and a deep and talented 2018 class, UCLA would probably wait until next year to bring in a pair. That said, with Josh Rosen's injury, and still some concern if he'll be fully healthy for 2017, UCLA could use another quarterback in this class for depth purposes. Going into next season, UCLA will have, outside of Rosen, four quarterbacks (including Dymond Lee and Burton) that will have never taken a snap in a college game. With neither Lynch or Modster taking the redshirt off after Rosen's injury, UCLA has no experience at quarterback outside of Rosen. And the likelihood remains anyway that Rosen could leave after the 2017 season, so either this year or next year, UCLA will likely need to bring in two quarterbacks. We still anticipate Lee moving to receiver, too. UCLA has shown no interest in recruiting Alabama transfer Blake Barnett in this class and he'd likely be ready to play by the Pac-12 slate next year. Especially with the uncertainty with Rosen, you'd think UCLA might kick the tires there a little more. And they still may, depending on who is hired as the offensive coordinator.
Austin Burton, Winter Garden (Fla.) West Orange- COMMITTED
Burton came out to UCLA in June and camped with the Bruins and was actually pretty good when he threw for Marques Tuiasosopo. He then committed to Boston College in early July when it looked like he wasn't going to get an offer from the Bruins. The day he committed to the Eagles, UCLA ended up offering. Burton is originally from Massachusetts but moved to Florida for his senior season. Interestingly enough, he's been out to California quite a bit, working with Body By Tra Athletics as part of their 7on team last year, but backed up K.J. Costello. He was intrigued by the UCLA offer and the fact the Bruins throw more than Boston College. So in August, Burton pulled the trigger and flipped to the Bruins and right now, he's the lone quarterback committed.
Tua Tagovailoa, Honolulu (Hawaii) St. Louis
UCLA tried with Tagovailoa early and were on the short list, but it always seemed like if he came to Southern California, it would be to USC. Then Tagovailoa took a trip to the South, visiting Ole Miss and Alabama, and committed to the Tide. But he still talked about taking visits to USC, so he was never 100% locked in with the Tide like you'd think. And then Jalen Hurts won the starting job, true freshman Jalen Hurts that is, and barring injury, will lead that offense for at least two more years. He's being hailed as a future Heisman Trophy winner. So Tagovailoa has to be looking at Alabama now as a place he may not start until 2019. On the other hand, the USC opportunity has dried up because Jack Sears flipped from Duke to the Trojans. And one of the main reasons Tagovailoa was interested in USC was because of then-USC quarterbacks coach Marques Tuiasosopo, who is now UCLA's quarterbacks coach and has continued to recruit Tagovailoa. Another of Tagovailoa's contenders before he committed to Alabama was Ole Miss, but they started Shea Patterson this year as a true freshman when Chad Kelly got hurt, so no immediate playing time there either. While Tagovailoa recently said he's done with his recruitment and locked into Alabama, there is still a chance, with Tuiasosopo being related to Tagovailoa and trying to flip him. Keep an eye on this one. A dynamic offensive coordinator, hired in time, could go a long way with Tagovailoa too.
RUNNING BACKS (1)
UCLA's running game this fall was pretty bad. In fact, Jim Mora called it awful. You'd think that running back recruiting might be a little better, with recruits clamoring to be the man in UCLA's relatively wide open running back rotation, but that hasn't been the case. They did get Najee Harris to take an official visit, so there is that. And now Kennedy Polamalu is out so UCLA doesn't have a running backs coach to recruit Harris or Stephen Carr, pushing the area recruiters on them (which isn't a bad thing) and Mora, in the case of Carr.
Najee Harris, Antioch (Calif.)
UCLA got an official visit from Harris in mid-November, which, lets admit, was a big deal, considering the train wreck UCLA's running game was. Harris has long been interested in the Bruins, and many have said for over a year, if he ultimately decided to stay on the West Coast, UCLA would be where he ended up. He even brought his mother down to UCLA with him, which he said was important. Now, that said, Alabama, where Harris has been committed since April 2015, had him on campus for the Iron Bowl win (UCLA had him for Oregon State...) and he spent much of the time with fellow five-star Dylan Moses. And Harris is supposed to visit Michigan officially next weekend (Antioch plays in the CIF-NCS finals this weekend). Throw in that he'll be a mid-year enrollee, and UCLA may not have an OC or RB coach by then, and it's a long shot they'll stay involved with Harris. But alas, they're still staying in the ring. In fact, UCLA assistant Angus McClure visited Harris Tuesday and reportedly the visit went very positively.
Stephen Carr, Fontana (Calif.) Summit
Carr is a soft commit to USC but it would be a surprise if he didn't end up there. UCLA won't give up, having signed six of his travel 7v7 teammates on Ground Zerio from a year ago. Carr was supposed to visit UCLA officially for the USC game but that visit didn't happen. Jim Mora, though, is expected to be in the Carr house for an in-home on Wednesday of this week and Michigan will be in later this year. Carr is a longshot, especially with no running backs coach, but Demetrice Martin has recruited other positions in the I.E. well and has a good relationship with Ground Zero, as does Mora, so they'll keep trying to get him in for an official visit.
Other Names to Watch:
Cyrus Habibi-Likio, 6-0, 205, Mountain View (Calif.) St. Francis
Marcus McElroy, 6-1, 200, Denver (Colo.) Mullen
UCLA receiver recruiting has always been a little different. No-brainers you think they'd go after, they don't. They often pursue out-of-state prospects too aggressively and then end up with the next tier from that state instead. The Southland has some good receivers and they rarely look at UCLA seriously. And when they do, and they sign them, they rarely play (see Howard, Theo). So to say receiver recruiting is curious would be accurate. And this year is no different. UCLA doesn't have a commitment from a receiver in this class, and it's absolutely uncertain if they'll get one this year. Of course, this could all change with a new offensive coordinator and a dynamic new scheme, but it might be too late in the 2017 cycle.
Joseph Lewis, Los Angeles (Calif.) Hawkins
The No. 1 receiver prospect nationally, the Bruins were one of the first schools to offer Lewis, a local product, which should have given UCLA and USC the hometown edge. But for whatever reason, Lewis and UCLA just hasn't materialized, with neither side really showing much interest in spring and summer. It's unfortunate, since we've heard Lewis might be the type that ultimately wants to stay close to home and fits the exact type of receiver UCLA is targeting for 2017. He's still mentioning UCLA but they're down the list a bit after Nebraska, Arizona, Oklahoma and Oregon as well as USC locally. Lately we've heard there has been more dialogue between UCLA and Lewis, however. And we've long maintained that if UCLA put more effort into Lewis, they'd have a legitimate shot. But it is probably too little, too late for him now.
Tarik Black, Cheshire (Conn). Academy
Black, a Connecticut product, has been one of UCLA's top targets and the Bruins have been on the radar to get an official visit. And that visit will happen this weekend, with Black coming in December 2nd for his official visit. He's already visited Alabama, Auburn and Michigan and there is a chance he'll visit Stanford next weekend, but this weekend, the Bruin staff has their chance to put their best foot forward with him.
James Robinson, Lakeland (Fla.)
Robinson is somewhat of a newer name to the list but a name UCLA fans should get to know a bit. He has a top five of Alabama, Florida, Oklahoma, Ole Miss and UCLA. He was a player we really liked at The Opening, and it isn't like UCLA hasn't gotten a big-time, playmaking receiver from Lakeland before (granted, it was 20 years ago in Freddie Mitchell and he was at Kathleen in Lakeland, but still). Robinson will visit UCLA on January 14th, the first visit weekend after the contact period resumes. He'll then visit Alabama and Ole Miss the next two weekends. This weekend, Oklahoma will host Robinson. Ole Miss seems to be in a good spot with Robinson, but the Bruins are trying.
DeAndre McNeal, Fullerton (Calif.) College
McNeal may be a familiar name to many because UCLA was on his very, very short list in the 2015 class, before he and teammate Malik Jefferson picked homestate Texas. UCLA recruited McNeal heavily in high school, seeing him play the weekend the Bruins played Texas in Arlington. He visited the weekend before he committed to Texas, but cited the distance (as did Jefferson), as a factor. But after spending a year at Texas, he left the program and is in Southern California, playing at Fullerton College. He's had a good year for Fullerton, helping them to a spot in the JC State Championship game and UCLA offered him earlier in November and the Bruins may end up with McNeal when it's all said and done.
Next Tier to Watch:
Jamire Calvin, Los Angeles (Calif.) Cathedral
Calvin is our pick for smaller receivers that UCLA should stay on and eventually offer. But Calvin has never really been a priority for the Bruins and he was planning to camp with them but had a 7on7 tournament for school that kept him from it. Should he get an offer from UCLA, it likely wouldn't be until late in the process, and that is likely too late for Calvin. That UCLA has lost commitments from three Cathedral players this cycle also probably keeps them from offering.
Bryan Thompson, Moreno Valley (Calif.) Rancho Verde
Thompson comes from the same program current offensive lineman Poasi Moala and Tevita Halalilo came from and he played with Halalilo as a sophomore. He's the type of receiver, physically, that UCLA is looking for and was one they watched in the spring but right now, Oregon and Boise State appear to be the leaders for Thompson, who has yet to get an offer from the Bruins. He did attend a UCLA practice in San Bernardino but there never has been much serious consideration from the Bruins.
Kevin Davis, Oak Hills (Calif)
Davis got an offer from UCLA in the spring and while he hasn't been much of a priority for them, he actually did pretty well at the camp and could find himself more seriously recruited by the Bruins come fall. He's tucked away deep in the desert, so he's still a bit under the radar despite being a three-star, but he's performed well on the camp circuit. In fact, he plays for Jaleel Wadood's uncle on the 7on circuit and that's what got him on to the Bruins radar in the first place.
Other Recruitments to Watch:
Alex Cook, 6-2, 180, Sacramento (Calif.) Sheldon. The talented three-star prospect was thought to be leaning to UCLA but then verbally committed to Washington. UCLA continues to recruit him.
Hezekiah Jones, 5-11, 185, Stafford (Texas)- Offered
Gary Theard, 6-2, 190, Upland (Calif.)
TIGHT ENDS (1-2)
One of the biggest pluses in a season that lacked them on offense was the emergence of Caleb Wilson for UCLA at the tight end position. As a redshirt freshman, Wilson started to be utilized in the offense more down the stretch. He and Austin Roberts will be back for a couple more years, to help offset the loss of Nate Iese. So whatever offense UCLA runs in the future, you have two tight ends that can play the position. And UCLA got one commitment already from Jimmy Jaggers to ensure at least one in this class. But they wouldn't be opposed to a versatile pass-catching tight end to go along with Jaggers.
Jimmy Jaggers, Roseville (Calif.)- COMMITTED
Jaggers has been one of UCLA's priorities for over a year, the Bruins having offered him in June 2015 at their 7on tournament. He's taken a number of visits to UCLA but it looked like he was headed elsewhere, namely across town. Yet in early August, Jaggers ended UCLA's wait for a tight end and committed to the Bruins, their highest rated offensive commitment in this class.
Josh Falo, Sacramento (Calif.) Inderkum
Falo is a very good receiver but needs to add more weight, still being a little slight of build. We loved what we saw from him in the spring and summer, especially at The Opening Finals. Blocking isn't his forte, but he's such a big weapon as a receiver, that it doesn't detract from him. Oregon is doing really well with him right now and you can't count Colorado out- both of his older brother's signed with Mike MacIntyre, one at San Jose State and another currently at Colorado. Alabama offered him during the summer at their camp too and that wowed him. He visited UCLA for the Spring Showcase. Every time he's named a new list, UCLA has been on it, so they're still on the list of possibilities but we feel not a top option.
Tyler Johnson, Gilbert (Ariz.) Highland
Johnson has a Bruin offer amongst a host of other offers, including both the in-state schools in Arizona and he has national offers that intrigue him from Florida and Michigan State. The Bruins are in the mix for him, but Johnson isn't a huge fan of the recruiting process. In fact, he told Scout in July that he may announce where he goes at his high school graduation...which is four months after Signing Day. His father played at Michigan State and the Spartans are high on his list.
Carson Terrell, 6-5, 225, Lehi (Utah)
Terrell had UCLA coaches at his game the weekend the Bruins played BYU and that ended up netting him an offer from UCLA. The offer was a big one for Terrell too, who had been mostly looking at the in-state schools. But the Bruin offer has them right in the mix for him along with Oregon State and BYU and they'll likely get a visit from him after the season.
Other Recruitments to Watch:
Moses Robinson-Carr, Antelope Valley (Calif.)
Not long after Krommenhoek committed to USC, Robinson-Carr spurned the Bruins and committed to Oregon. He'd given several indications that he was looking to leave California, but the Bruins were his runner up so they're going to keep trying with him and play up the local angle. That Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich was let go this week and UCLA was the runner-up and someone they coveted likely means they'll turn up the heat on Robinson-Carr again.
Erik Krommenhoek, 6-5, 237, Danville (Calif.) Monte Vista
Krommenhoek is a Bruin legacy and UCLA offered him in April. USC, where several other family members went, offered in May and in June, a week after camping with the Bruins, Krommenhoek committed to the Trojans. UCLA continues to recruit Krommenhoek and we expect they'll continue to do so through the fall but so far, Krommenhoek doesn't appear to be wavering at all on his commitment to the Trojans.
Other Names to Watch:
Sire Woods, 6-4, 215, La Mirada (Calif.)
OFFENSIVE LINE (5)
UCLA needs offensive tackles and a big recruiting class for 2017. It's missed on a few big targets, but it also has three commitments. As of right now, UCLA would ideally like to finish off the class with at least Banks and potentially one of the out-of-state prospects. How it closes out between now and Signing Day in February, particularly those two prospects, will determine whether the 2017 offensive line recruiting class is a successful one. There is also a potential development with another offensive lineman currently committed to a Top 25 program that UCLA is working on.
Kanan Ray (C), Chatsworth (Calif.) Sierra Canyon- COMMITTED
Ray can play either tackle spot or even center, and has tremendous position-versatility, a Klemm calling card. Ray got an offer from UCLA not long after Signing Day and the Bruins were able to get past his offer from his childhood and family favorite, Tennessee. He took an unofficial visit in March and not long after that trip, was ready to end his recruitment and he committed that same week. He's actually UCLA's longest tenured commit now, nine months solid to the Bruins. Ray will likely come in and play center. He was recently named to the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.
Jaxson Kirkland (OT), Portland (Ore.) Jesuit- COMMITTED
Kirkland was offered by UCLA in the spring and that was an offer he had been hoping to get. Kirkland is a big-bodied tackle who can play either tackle spot, but might be better suited for the right side. Kirkland visited during the early part of summer and the visit went a long way with him. He got to spend time with Connor McDermott and that left a big impression on him. Kirkland committed to UCLA in August, one of two offensive commits that week, with the quarterback he'll come in with, Austin Burton, committing days later. Kirkland has had a big season with Jesuit, anchoring what several Oregon natives are calling perhaps the best offensive line in state history. He said he remains solid to the Bruins, but could visit Washington State and Utah next month officially.
Ronald Rudd (OT), Chaffey (Calif.) College- COMMITTED
Rudd visited UCLA in June and was offered on the visit. He then committed to UCLA just a couple days later and he's a big pickup for the Bruins who need tackle prospects badly and guys that can come in and play right away. Rudd was a non-qualifier out of high school, but looks to be on track to graduate in December. He reportedly didn't have a great year at the JC, and now he's setting up visits with other schools, so there could be a situation that UCLA might have other guys it prefers and opt to give his scholarship to someone else. Rudd very well could end up signing with UCLA, but we wouldn't be surprised if he didn't.
Aaron Banks (OG), El Cerrito (Calif.)
Banks is NorCal's best line prospect and while he plays tackle for El Cerrito (where he played with Adarius Pickett as a freshman), he'll likely slide inside in college. Banks has always mentioned UCLA and the Bruins were by to see him this week and hope to get him down to campus in the next two weekends for an official. He had initially said he wanted to take an unofficial visit to UCLA, but now that may end up being an official. He's visited Notre Dame, Michigan and Oregon and had to cancel a trip to Nebraska. He'll graduate in December and wants to be on a college campus in January and UCLA is turning it up for him.
Orlando Umana (OG), Sacramento (Calif.) Grant
Umana is one of those late emergers, and the Pac-12 is jumping on board. UCLA just offered him earlier in October and he already has visited Washington, with plans to visit Arizona and Utah. UCLA, though, has a connection with Umana, with Adrian Klemm playing with his offensive coordinator at Grant at Hawaii, so the Bruins are in the mix for him and hope to get him in this weekend or next for an official. Klemm and Angus McClure both were in Sacramento this week and will be back next week.
Jax Wacaser (OT) Scottsdale (Ariz.) Saguaro
Wacaser has been one of the biggest risers in the West in this class and UCLA offered him earlier this month. They were expected to be in his home this week too and are hoping he visits one of the next two weekends. Wacaser may need a redshirt year but has made a big jump as a player from his junior to senior year and a number of Pac-12 schools have picked it up with him as a result, including the two in-state schools.
Jerry Drake Jr. (OG), Palm Beach Gardens (Fla.)
Drake was offered by UCLA last week and Klemm is going by this week to see Drake and hoping to get a visit from him next weekend. Drake has already visited South Carolina and Tennessee and will visit Oklahoma this weekend for their rivalry game with Oklahoma State. UCLA is a little later in the process for Drake but he's shown interest in the Bruins and very likely will visit.
Joshua Fedd-Jackson (OG), Montvale (N.J.) St. Joseph Regional
Fedd-Jackson was also offered last week by UCLA and the Bruin offer intrigued him. He's yet to take an official visit anywhere, but told Scout he's hoping to soon take one to Westwood, potentially as soon as December 9th. Boston College and Illinois are the other two schools on Fedd-Jackson the hardest. If Fedd-Jackson doesn't visit next weekend, he said he's planning to take one in January. There could be academic issues that preclude him from getting admitted to UCLA, however.
Jalen McKenzie (OT), Concord (Calif.) Clayton Valley
The four-star tackle from the Bay Area is coming off a knee injury that he suffered on the second play of the first game of the season, but he is now 100% and after a strong showing at The Opening Oakland, Arizona State offered and Klemm was back in the Bay and reconfirmed the offer to McKenzie. McKenzie's mom attended UCLA while his father went to Tennessee, where his older brother, Kahlil, is a sophomore. He had always mentioned UCLA as a school he was interested in, especially having an offer, but then would talk more about schools that haven't offered. So both Arizona State and UCLA could be in the midst of rerouting from McKenzie and letting him chase the offers he doesn't have rather than spin their wheels when there hasn't been as much serious interest reciprocated.
Tramonda Moore (OT), Independence (Okla.) Community College
Moore was a U.S. Army All-American in 2016 that UCLA recruited who ultimately signed with Oklahoma State -- but ultimately didn't qualify. We previously have said he's trying to get enough credits at the JC to get his AA to be eligible for next fall, but it looks like he'll have to go two years and enroll at a four-year in 2018. We've heard UCLA will have a very good chance with Moore.
Recruitment to Watch:
Grant Polley (OG), Denton (Texas)
Polley is a commit to Colorado and seems to be pretty solid but he told Scout's Colorado site that he may still take a couple of official visits and the Bruins, which offered in the summer, could be one of the schools to get a visit from him. Adrian Klemm has had success flipping linemen from Texas and Polley looks like a candidate to do the same. The four-star guard is one of the best players in the Lone Star State. It's looking more and more, however, that Polley is locked down for Colorado.
Next Tier to Watch:
Zack Sweeney, OG, Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) Aquinas
While Klemm is down in Florida checking on Drake, we've heard he could swing by St. Thomas Aquinas to check in on Sweeney, a versatile lineman who could play guard or center in college. He doesn't have a UCLA offer yet, but it could be a matter of Klemm seeing him in person.