DE Jaelan Phillips - The No. 1 defensive end in the country, and the highest rated defensive prospect nationally in the 2017 class is the crown jewel of the Bruins' class for a number of reasons. First, from a talent standpoint. Second, from a personality standpoint, actively recruiting for the Bruins (and even speaking at the Bruin Elite Camp). But most importantly, for sticking with the Bruins during a tough season, when schools wouldn't stop recruiting him and he wouldn't budge.
CB Darnay Holmes - Any other year, Holmes is likely the diamond of this class, and he still is one of the premier signings UCLA has pulled in over the last decade. The No. 1 cornerback in the country, Holmes was coveted by blue blood programs from coast to coast. There was a little more drama in the days leading up to his announcement, but even then, we've always felt he was headed to Westwood. He's one of the most dynamic playmakers the Bruins have brought in during the Jim Mora era.
OL Wyatt Davis - UCLA needed offensive linemen badly but never seemed to get enough traction with Davis, either before his commitment to Ohio State or in the final stretch when there were rumors he could be more open. But losing the top lineman in California, at a school the Bruins have had success at, stings, especially with good, college ready linemen not there for the taking.
WR DeAndre McNeal -- This is a crazy one. He was UCLA's top WR target, and was a silent verbal for a while. UCLA is pretty stocked at receiver, so it only needed one guy, and had missed on a number of others. So, it appeared McNeal would save WR recruiting for 2017. But he took an official visit to Florida Atlantic last weekend and flipped on NSD. McNeal feels he's an NFL prospect and has one more year to be NFL-eligible, so the thought is that he opted to be a bigger fish in a smaller pond, as opposed to possibly getting lost in UCLA's deep WR roster.
Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) St. Thomas Aquinas offensive lineman Zack Sweeney had only one other Power 5 offer, from Syracuse, when he committed to UCLA. But UCLA is banking on his experience playing at one of the premier programs in the country against top-flite competition being the bigger thing. Sweeney was a three-year starter on the STA offensive line and a two-time captain so if he can just get a little bigger, the jump won't be too much for him and he could end up being much like Jake Brendel was- a solid starter who the game wasn't too big for.
Had to Get:
Phillips and Holmes. This one was easy- they needed both of these guys at the positions they're bringing them in for. A pure lockdown corner was needed in Holmes and UCLA defensive backs coach Demetrice Martin had been recruiting him for nearly four years. With Phillips, beating Stanford head to head for a lock for Stanford admission, when Stanford has routinely beaten the Bruins in that department under David Shaw, was a much-needed victory. Plus, both of these guys are poster-boy types that will be the potential face of UCLA football for the next several years.
Signing Day Coup:
UCLA struck gold in landing Stephan Zabié and he immediately becomes their top offensive line commit in this class. With his size and skill set, and his high ceiling, he may be the most valuable offensive recruit in this class. To get an offensive tackle, from out-of-state, after striking out on so many West Coast prospects is big and he is an early feather in the hat of new offensive line coach Hank Fraley. In less than two weeks on the job, Fraley went into Texas' backyard and stole a kid they wanted. He's an upgrade over the offensive tackle they lost, Jaxson Kirkland, with Texas linemen being pretty good to UCLA in the past six-seven years.
UCLA was losing some longtime starters in the secondary so getting some immediate help there was important and they got that with Holmes, Elijah Gates, Jaylan Shaw, Quentin Lake and Morrell Osling. And that group provides a lot of positional versatility, which is a staple of Martin's secondary.
UCLA went 0-for-WR in the 2017 class. They tripped in Ty Jones last weekend, but he was always headed to Washington. They thought they were going to get DeAndre McNeal, but he announced for Florida Atlantic. That's the second time UCLA appeared to be getting McNeal and he spurned them. If he calls to be a grad transfer, UCLA should hang up. Some of the top receivers in the country were in UCLA's backyard and they didn't really try for them (namely Joseph Lewis). Yes, UCLA brought in a good number of receivers in 2016, but they still could have brought in a couple in 2017. When McNeal became their only realistic target and they lose him to a Sun Belt school, though, that is not a good look. Eric Yarber has offered over 20 receivers in the 2018 class, and fortunately for him, the 2018 receiver class is loaded in the West, even stronger than the 2016 class was. So there can be no excuses for Yarber in 2018 and he'll need to bring in at least three highly-regarded receivers next year.
Los Angeles (Calif.) defensive tackle Martin Andrus played for a former Bruin in high school in Eric Scott. His first offer came from the Bruins nearly two years ago. And he told us then that he grew up rooting for UCLA. Landing his commitment over offers from around the country was big because the Bruins needed a second defensive tackle with Greg Rogers. Meanwhile, Los Angeles (Calif.) Salesian linebacker Rahyme Johnson was the first player to commit to UCLA for the class of 2017, doing so in the summer of 2015. Though he would decommit and open things up, he came full circle and ended up recommitting to the Bruins. It's fitting, then, that the two longtime UCLA targets, both from Los Angeles, announced together, in a Bleacher Report video, showing them there new "home".
While he may not be as highly ranked as the other defensive backs in the class, and while his recruitment probably didn't have quite the drama as others, UCLA is getting a good one in Quentin Lake. And this is one that was a long time coming. The son of former Bruin great Carnell Lake, the younger Lake had long dreamed of playing for the Bruins. Even when UCLA didn't offer him in the spring, and USC did, he coveted a Bruin offer so he went to the Bruin Elite Camp and locked it down that evening, earning the scholarship. Before his senior season, Lake gave his childhood favorite and dream school his commitment. His father was one of the best defensive players to ever play at UCLA and was often overshadowed by others like Ken Norton, Eric Turner and Roman Phifer, just like he was a bit in Pittsburgh, yet was as important a player as any other defensive star. Should Quentin continue to follow that path of being overshadowed yet a big contributor, UCLA will have gotten an absolute steal in Lake.
While Rahyme Johnson was technically the first commit to UCLA in this class, his days as a decommit keep him from this list. In early March, Chatsworth (Calif.) Sierra Canyon offensive lineman Kanan Ray committed to the Bruins and signing on Wednesday, he went 11 consecutive months committed to the Bruins, the longest-standing commit in this class. He also was pursued by Oregon and TCU in the days after Adrian Klemm's firing but stuck with his pledge. Ray was also instrumental in recruiting a number of players in this class.
National and Pac-12 Ranking:
It looks like UCLA will finish with a top-25 national class, and top three in the Pac-12.
UCLA's also ranks 12th in the nation for star average, with 3.61 stars per signee.
It's also the highest-ranked recruiting class with under 20 commitments.
UCLA finished with a Top 25 class in a year they went 4-8 and missed a bowl for the first time under Jim Mora. Yet they still signed two of the top 15 players in the country, both ranked No. 1 nationally at their position, and had the third highest average star ranking in the Pac-12. While it's the lowest rated class that Mora has signed, considering how 4-8 seasons in Westwood affected recruiting in previous years, it could have been a lot worse. Still, there are some glaring holes- no receivers or running backs. A sleeper at quarterback. On the flip side, they have as good a defensive line class as any in the conference. An excellent secondary class as well. The No. 1 defensive end in the nation, and the No. 1 cornerback in the nation. The defensive side of the ball was definitely the winner for UCLA's class. UCLA also closed pretty well in the last few weeks, getting commitments from five-star Holmes, four-star Gates, four-star Zabie, and three-stars with upside line Isibor and Robinson-Carr. All in all, UCLA didn't fully capitalize on it being a very good year for talent in the west, but, coming off a 4-8 season and getting a top-25 class is a testament to how well UCLA can recruit.