Kanan Ray and Jaelan Phillips

Pre-Signing Day UCLA Recruiting Trend Meter

Jan. 31 -- We look at how UCLA has done in satisfying its recruiting needs for the 2017 class a day before National Signing Day...

We started this football recruiting trend meter right after National Signing Day a year ago, and updated it (roughly) every month.

So, here it is, a day before National Signing Day 2017, and we'll take a look at how UCLA did in satisfying its recruiting needs for the 2017 class.

Of course, there could be some developments tomorrow, but this is how it looks going into Wednesday. 

#1 Priority -- Hold on to Jaelan Phillips  

Committed Jaelan Phillips is the nation's #1-ranked defensive end, and the nation's #3 overall national prospect.  He's the gem of the 2017 UCLA recruiting class. Keeping him was such a necessity, and just not for the p.r. hit UCLA would take if it lost him.  UCLA desperately needs an elite talent at defensive end, especially one who can pressure the quarterback, with Takkarist McKinley and Deon Hollins graduating and no clear option currently on the roster showing the capability of becoming a truly elite pass rusher.  We said that there is a recruiting pitch that UCLA could give to recruits about being the one missing puzzle piece -- well, in Phillips case it's about the closest to being true as it can be. But going back to the p.r. hit -- it would have been huge to lose Phillips on the heels of the 4-8 2016 season. Phillips, too, embodies the exact type of student-athlete UCLA wants to represent its program.  He's probably the most important -- and critical -- prospect UCLA has recruited in the Mora era not named Josh Rosen.  So the fact that Phillips enrolled early and is currently attending UCLA's Winter Quarter is perhaps the biggest coup of the 2017 recruiting cycle.   Give recruiters extraordinaire Angus McClure and Demetrice Martin a huge amount of credit in keeping Phillips in the fold. 



#2 -- Finish with Two Elite OL Recruits 

Things haven't gone well in OL recruiting since our last Trend Meter installment in December. UCLA lost the commitment of Jaxson Kirkland, the three-star tackle prospect Portland (Ore.) Jesuit, after it had already and missed on its top target, Aaron Banks from El Cerrito, and probably its second top target, Orlando Umana, from Sacramento, who committed to Oregon and Utah, respectively.  

UCLA OL recruiting has been going through a rough period, with the firing of OL coach Adrian Klemm a couple weeks ago, and new OL coach Hank Fraley having to hit the ground running to pull out a decent OL recruiting class. 

UCLA did get three commitments in the last month from three three-stars prospects.  It just got a commitment today from Sean Seawards, which was significant, since hometown ASU came in late for him; Jax Wacaser, a three-star tackle prospect, and Zack Sweeney, a three-star interior prospect from Florida, to go along with stalwart commit, Kanan Ray, the three-star prospect from Chatsworth (Calif.) Sierra Canyon. 

Stephan Zabié, the four-star prospect from Texas who officially visited UCLA, would just about half-save this recruiting need. But it's looking more and more like he'll stay local with Texas. 

We have maintained for many months that UCLA would have to finish off the recruiting class with two elite recruits -- we'll say four-star guys or higher -- and it looks pretty clearly, a day before Signing Day, that they'll fail at that. 

What could save it, however:  OL recruiting is probably not over since UCLA is going to get into the grad transfer market.  If it can pull out a couple of potential starters -- heck, just one good starter -- from the grad transfer market that would be really significant.  It could considerably boost UCLA's OL next year, and then also work as a bridge for some of the younger OLs in the program to develop, and then Fraley could re-establish OL recruiting with the 2018 class based on a good showing in the 2017 season.  Interesting, too, is how all of this stuff can balance out itself.  If UCLA were recruiting four+ stars, it could considerably inhibit its chances with them when it had to admit to those recruits it intended to get into the grad transfer market. The guys they have committed in 2017 aren't going to care about the grad transfer market since they know they're a couple of years away from contributing anyway.  We also know UCLA needs to win next year, and needs to have an effective OL to do it. So, really, given the state the UCLA OL is in, if it can get one or two grad transfers that could step in and start, that might be the best, most-immediate fix for UCLA OL recruiting, even moreso that bringing in four-star high school prospects in the 2017 class that probably wouldn't compete to start in the 2017 season. 


#3 -- Bring Home Holmes  

http://www.scout.com/college/ucla/story/1744036-darnay-holmes-talks-ucla... Man, it was touch-and-go there for a while. UCLA was the longtime leader for the five-star prospect, and then since November the thought was he was leaning to Ohio State after a great visit there.  Right around the new year the buzz started with USC, and no one really knew what he would choose going into the U.S. Army All-American Bowl Jan. 7th, when he had planned to announce. So, when he picked up the UCLA hat during the telecast of that game it was a big relief. 

But then there was even some suspense around Holmes actually enrolling in class at UCLA. He was supposed to be in class Monday, Jan. 9th, but there was a transcript snag with the NCAA.  It took a week to get that ironed out, but when he walked into his first class he was signed and sealed a Bruin. 

Coming off the poor season, the key to UCLA's 2017 class is easily five-stars Phillips and Holmes.  We've said it before: the way McClure and Martin recruited in this class it was as if they were recruiting coming off a 10-2 season. I don't know if there are comparable recruiting achievements by any UCLA coach in the last 20 years compared to what McClure and Martin did with the 2017 class. 

 


#4 -- Get One Elite-Level Defensive Tackle  

http://www.scout.com/college/ucla/story/1730565-commitment-analysis-dt-g... got this one taken care of in November when McClure got a commitment from Greg Rogers

Rogers was UCLA's #1 defensive tackle target, the nation's #7-ranked DT prospect, from Las Vegas (Nev.) Arbor View.  It was a huge accomplishment, with UCLA getting an elite DE in Phillips and then an elite inside guy in Rogers. 

Again, getting Rogers away from USC was a huge recruiting accomplishment by McClure. 


#5  -- Two Starter-Level Linebackers  

It was essential that UCLA replenish the cupboard a bit with the 2017 class, and getting two starter-level linebackers was probably the bar of expectation.  

UCLA shot high, pursuing some of the elite prospects in the country, but missed on five-star Baron Browning and the #1 inside linebacker in the nation, Anthony Hines, both from Texas.

Ouch.  

http://www.scout.com/player/197695-rahyme-johnson?s=12

UCLA did get a commitment from Rahyme Johnson, the four-star from Los Angeles Salesian.

And it's been scrambling since, trying to invariably add to Johnson with Addison Gumbs, who ended up enrolling at Oklahoma early;  Levi Jones, the elite prospect from Westlake (Tex.), who tripped to UCLA but is looking like he's leaning elsewhere, and some late offers in Ellis Brooks, who committed to Penn State, and Mohamed Sanogo, the Texas inside linebacker prospect. Sanogo said he's down to UCLA, Ole Miss and Mississippi State, even though he didn't officially visit UCLA.

If UCLA gets Sanogo, we'll give this an upward arrow, since it would be two commitments from two four-star linebackers, and four-star prospects are considered future Power 5 starters.  

As you can see with UCLA recruiting, though, there is a trend to take less linebackers and more DBs, since UCLA's defense spends a great deal of time in nickel rather than its base defense.  So, in reality, there isn't that big of a need, given UCLA's current LB depth chart. And, as we reported a month ago, Mique Juarez has returned to the program, so that helps linebacker coach Scott White's depth chart considerably. Of course, there is always a worry if Juarez can stay in the program, and what kind of shape he's in by spring and next fall.  


#6 -- A Pac-12 Starting-Level QB 

We all have now seen this season what impact poor quarterback recruiting can have. With all due respect to Mike Fafaul, last season really emphasized how important it is to have a deep, talented quarterback depth chart.  And it's not just about depth; a program needs as many capable quarterbacks as it can manage to optimize its chances of finding a high-level starter.  

Even though UCLA has a commitment from Florida three-star prospect Austin Burton for 2017, the arrow has to stay down since we're completely uncertain if Burton satisfies this need.  

Burton is probably better than many assume, since he hasn't received any hype.  He's a solid prospect, and one that belongs on the depth chart of a P5 school, but you'd have to say he's probably a bit of a longshot to win the starting spot after Josh Rosen leaves UCLA.  

As we all remember, UCLA missed on its #1 prospect, Jack Sears (and even missed on him a second time when he flipped from Duke to USC) and since hasn't really found anyone else that fits the bill of a potential starting Pac-12 quarterback.  It was pretty much too late by the time new offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Jedd Fisch came to UCLA to get seriously involved with anyone else.

It's difficult to say that quarterback recruiting was anything but poor in this cycle with just Burton.

It makes it imperative that UCLA get two quarterbacks in the 2018 cycle.

This recruiting need for a starting-level quarterback is ranked #6 here since we're speculating that UCLA might be able to find a starter in the post-Rosen era among current true freshmen Devon Modster and Matt Lynch, Burton, and two quarterbacks from the 2018 class.  And because the five needs above it have now become even more critical.  

Austin Burton Highlights


#7 -- Elite Wide Receiver  

After watching last season, and the excruciating dropped passes throughout the wide receiver group, it became an even bigger priority for UCLA to bring in an elite receiver in the 2017 class. We had previously thought that receiver recruiting for 2017 would be a luxury type of thing, that UCLA was deep at receiver, but getting a legitimate Pac-12 level-starting receiver has now moved up the priority list for 2017. 

The arrow point sideways because there are some serious unknowns on whether this will be fulfilled by Wednesday.

UCLA was leading for DeAndre McNeal, the JC prospect from Fullerton College, especially after his UCLA official visit two weekends ago.  He visitd Florida Atlantic this last weekend, and he hasn't been heard much from since, even though he had said previously he was going to commit either Monday or Tuesday.  He did send one Scout recruiting expert a cryptic message that he might not commit until Friday.  He got offered by Missouri this week, and we're unsure if that has had any impact.  

There is also Ty Jones, the Utah prospect verbally committed to Washington who took a surprise official visit to UCLA last weekend.  He's gone underground since the visit but most bets are on Jones sticking with his UW commitment Wednesday. 

UCLA doesn't look like it has a great chance with Bryan Thompson, from Rancho Verde, who took an unofficial visit to UCLA last weekend. 

And that's really the only WRs left on the 2017 recruiting board. 

If UCLA gets McNeal or Thompson, we'll probably still keep the arrow sideways, since we wouldn't call them clear-cut "elite" prospects.  If it pulls out Jones, the arrow will go up. 

http://www.scout.com/player/182714-deandre-mcneal?s=12


#8 -- Second Starter-Level Defensive Tackle  

http://www.scout.com/college/ucla/story/1716313-midseason-clips-of-dt-ma... When Martin Andrus, the Los Angeles High prospect, committed to UCLA in early January it sealed the deal on this recruiting need.  Andrus, the four-star prospect who is the #14-ranked DT in the national class of 2017, had a great senior season, garnering more offers from the likes of Michigan, Stanford and LSU.  With Andrus and Rogers, UCLA defensive tackle recruiting absolutely was a big win in this cycle. 


#9 -- Big, Physical Safety  

Defensive back recruiting got complicated here in the last couple of weeks.  UCLA has commitments from five DBs, and it's an excellent class, but not one of them is considered a classic safety type.  We think Quentin Lake, from Santa Ana Mater Dei, who is ranked as a cornerback, has a pretty decent chance to get bigger physically and grow into a safety. We really like Lake, and think he's a bit under-appreciated as a three-star. Morrell Osling is also considered a corner prospect, but at 6-1+ and a long body, there's a chance he, too, could develop into a safety.  Neither, really, though, satisfies the need for a "physical" safety, but we like both Lake and Osling and their upside, so the arrow stays sideways.  

http://www.scout.com/player/204067-quentin-lake?s=12


#10 – A Second Defensive End  

http://www.scout.com/college/ucla/story/1747235-ucla-commitment-analysis... As we said above, UCLA defensive line recruiting is on a completely different level, at both defensive tackle and defensive end. With the commitment of the #1 defensive end prospect in the nation, Jaelan Phillips, UCLA wanted to add a second DE, and it had the luxury to pursue someone who might not quite be there yet but has tremendous upside.

It found that guy in Odua Isibor, the 6-5, 235-pounder from Arizona, who committed earlier this month. 


#11 A Fast, Elusive Running Back 

There wasn't much going for UCLA in this recruiting cycle for running back recruiting.  It is deep on its depth chart, so it wasn't aggressively pursuing running backs, and it didn't have a good showing on the field last season.  

It was trying recently with four-star C.J. Verdell, from Chula Vista Mater Dei, who is verbally committed to Oregon.  It had an official visit arranged for last weekend, but he opted for an unofficial visit to Oregon, so that seals that Duck deal. 

Of course, the big one remaining with just a slight bit of uncertainty is Stephen Carr, the five star prospect from Fontana Summit who is a long-time verbal commitment to USC. He unexpected visited UCLA officially last weekend,  and there have been persistent rumors about him and UCLA. But we're skeptical, and would be stunned if he didn't sign with USC Wednesday.  


Honorable Mentions:

http://www.scout.com/player/198203-elijah-gates?s=12

-- More Pac-12 Level Cornerbacks

If we're going to give arrows to the Honorable Mentions, this would be a big up arrow. UCLA just got a commitment from an elite four-star corner, Elijah Gates, from Buena Park. You add Gates to Morrell Osling from Antelope Valley and long-time commit, four-star Jaylan Shaw from Corona Centennial, and that's some considerable cornerback talent coming in with Holmes.  

-- Second Tight End

http://www.scout.com/college/ucla/story/1746207-commitment-analysis-te-m... This would be another arrow up, with UCLA getting Antelope Valley's Moses Robinson-Carr in the last month to go along with Jimmy Jaggers, the four-star from Roseville who is already enrolled at UCLA.  We didn't necessarily think UCLA needed a second tight end in the 2017 class, with the promising youngsters currently on the depth chart and Jaggers. But tight ends coach Rip Scherer kept on Robinson-Carr when he was committed to Oregon, and then swooped in when Oregon replaced its head coach. Robinson-Carr could possibly end up an offensive tackle in college, too, which makes him that much more valuable to UCLA. 


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