Jaelan Phillips is the highest-ranked recruit UCLA has signed since Scout has been in business. He's one of the freak-types, with NFL-type d-end size to go along with linebacker quickness, and great instincts. At 6-5 and about 250 as a high school prospect, and then given the head start he'll have being enrolled Winter Quarter and participating in spring practice, he should physically not be at a deficit by next fall. We fully anticipate that Phillips will easily be in the two-deep at the razor, rush end spot occupied by Takkarist McKinley, and we'll even go out on a limb and say he'll be the starter at the position when UCLA opens its season Sept. 2nd against Texas A&M in the Rose Bowl. No pressure, but we also expect Phillips to be the poster boy for UCLA football, since he's exhibited such great leadership already before even stepping on campus, and has already been a great representative of the University.
Without Phillips and Darnay Holmes, the 2017 UCLA class wouldn't be ranked in the top 30 classes in the nation, and wouldn't have much headliner talent. Holmes' recruitment was a bit of a rollercoast at the end, but he opted for his long-time favorite and enrolled early in Winter quarter and participate in spring practice. He's one of the quickest athletes in the country, and fast, too, running a 4.32 at the Opening last summer. Even though he has a ways to go in terms of his corner technique, we think his athletic ability will put him right in the mix to start at the one open corner spot vacated by Fabian Moreau next season. Holmes might even be a better receiver than a corner, and we fully expect UCLA's offense to design some packages to get the ball in his hands on the offensive side of the field.
If there was a guy who was probably UCLA's next most-prized recruit in the 2017 class behind Phillips and Holmes it was Rogers. Defensive tackles are tough to come by, and when an elite one is in your backyard you have to get him, and UCLA's defensive line coach Angus McClure locked in on Rogers early. It was a UCLA-USC battle until the end when he committed in November. Rogers is big kid, at about 300 pounds, but still easy could put on good weight. We see him more as a three-technique than a nose, with the quickness to rush the passer. He's still a bit raw in his technique, but he's probably the future running mate of nose tackle Boss Tagaloa. We could see him get in the rotation as a true freshman in 2017 and then compete be the starter as a true sophomore.
Gates is a key recruit for UCLA, being one of the premier cover corners in the west for 2017, and the Bruins needing it's starting corner of the future alongside Holmes. He has a good frame that could hold more weight, and has great short-area quickness and a great all-around knack for coverage and tracking the ball. It was a big coup getting him in the same class with Holmes, especially since he's known Holmes a long time and might have wanted to get out from under Holmes' shadow. But we wouldn't be surprised if Gates ends up contributing as much to the UCLA program as Holmes. Gates is also an accomplished kick returner and we could see him being used in that capacity at UCLA. He's talented enough to come in and compete immediately for playing time, and at least make the two-deep as true freshman.
You can never have enough starter-level defensive tackles, and it's especially hard to get that at UCLA, with the west notorious for being thin on DT prospects that have good enough academics for UCLA. So it was quite an accomplishment to get a tandem of top 15 national tackles in Rogers and Andrus. Andrus has some good explosion and aggressiveness, and will probably need a redshirt year to develop more physically, being about 6-1 and 280 at the moment. Where he plays will probably depend on which way his body goes, but right now he projects more as a three-technique.
Johnson had one of the more interesting recruitments for 2017, committing to UCLA early on, decommitting and going through the process and then recommitting in January. Most of the time when a recruit decommits he doesn't re-commit but Johnson is an exception. UCLA linebacker coach Scott White stayed on him and it paid off. Johnson is a tall, long prospect at 6-4 and 210, but has good quickness and mobility. He could plug in at various linebacker roles, as either the weakside LB or, if he gets considerably bigger, at the SAM. He's shown in high school that he could rush the passer, but he also displayed the ability to drop into coverage well in his senior season. UCLA has decent depth at linebacker for 2017, so we anticipate Johnson will redshirt as a freshman.
UCLA needed tight ends with its new, multi-look offense, and especially those that are block-first types. When it was looking a little bleak for UCLA 2017 tight end recruiting last summer, UCLA tight ends coach Rip Scherer snagged Jaggers, and it was a big get since Jaggers was exactly the type of tight end UCLA needed, given its current depth chart of more catch-first types of TEs. Given that, it will be interesting to see if Jaggers can compete for playing time. UCLA did redshirt Jordan Wilson last season, and if there's a guy on the roster who could fulfill the block-first TE need it'd be him. Plus, UCLA also will bring in Moses Robinson-Carr with the 2017 class, and he's also a blocker type of tight end.
One of the biggest potential weaknesses of the 2017 class was possibly OL recruiting. Yes, UCLA had commitments from some solid three-stars, and they very well could end up starters at UCLA in a few years. But there wasn't a guy among them that scouts feel had some elite upside. Enter Zabie, who had been kind of the forgotten guy in Texas because he was ineligible to play his senior year at Westlake. But it turns out he looks fairly good academically with the NCAA, so there was a late rush in his recruitment. Most thought it'd be Texas prevailing, but UCLA's Jim Mora and OC Jedd Fisch visited him, and he fell "in love," as he put it, with L.A. on his official visit. Zabie might still have a little work to do to qualify academically, though. He's only played one year or organized football, being a basketball player before that, and he has excellent athleticism and feet. We're projecting him as UCLA's left tackle of the future, but he'll have to get in college-capable physical shape and get develop some technique before he sees the field. He's almost certainly a redshirt candidate for 2017.
Shaw is one of our favorites in this class, for many reasons. We like it that he came to UCLA's camp in June, put on a show, was offered and then committed shortly after that. We like that he has some great physical and athletic tools, being both very fast but also strong and physical. We like that he had a great senior season, one that earned him a fourth star on Scout. And we like that he's never wavered in his UCLA commitment. He's also a tireless worker, who puts in a great amount of time working on his body and his game. If there's a guy in this class we think might be under-rated and a future starter and star it's Shaw. He might not be able to come in and immediately compete for the open starting corner spot as a true freshman, but we wouldn't be surprised if he's in the two-deep by September.
Ray was UCLA's first verbal commitment for the 2017 class and held on to that commitment all the way to National Signing Day. Ray has battled some injuries in his career so far, but has worked his way back, to the point he was named a U.S. Army All-American as a senior. He held his own pretty well as the Army game and practices, which was a very good sign. He has good mobility, but will need to get bigger and bulkier. There was some thought that he might project at center for UCLA, but after his performance his senior season and at the Army game he looks more like a guard because of his ability to run and move. He'll almost certainly redshirt for 2017.
Robinson-Carr was one of those commitments that, after you ponder it, was really a key one for UCLA's recruiting class. UCLA wanted two tight ends in the class, and did that when it got Robinson-Carr. It was also a matter of UCLA staying on him after he verbally committed to Oregon, but then pivoted to UCLA with the Oregon coaching change. That's just a good thing -- too see a coach like Rip Scherer stay on a recruit and see the perseverance pay off. As we said above in our capsule on Jaggers, UCLA could have some room in its TE rotation for someone who can block, and Robinson-Carr could have a chance to be that guy. He's big, at 6-5, and pretty wide, at a good 250. He's not a great, natural pass catcher, but athletic. In fact, many see him potentially growing into an offensive tackle, if his body continues to get bigger and thicker. With UCLA needing both blocking tight ends and tackles, Robinson-Carr was a great pick-up.
Lake's recruitment is the kind of story you like to hear: A kid who grew up a fan of UCLA, being the son of UCLA great Carnell Lake, and then fulfilling his dream of being a Bruin. We'll go on record and say that Lake, given not just his talent but his work ethic and character, is a future leader of UCLA's football program. He has some positional versatility that plugs in well to today's types of offenses -- with the cover skills to play corner, the size to play safety (with those cover skills) and then potentially that size and ranginess enabling him to be that mini-linebacker type. It's going to be very interesting to see what role Lake ends up fulfilling and it's going to take him some bulking up and development in a college program before we probably know.
Sweeney was a late recruitment for UCLA and, let's be candid -- a guy that wasn't greatly recruited when UCLA needed some OLs for the 2017 class. He comes from one of the best high school programs in the country, Ft. Lauderdale (Fla.) St. Thomas Aquinas, with so much D-1 talent there he might have been overlooked a bit. He had a very good senior season, and UCLA noticed him when they were recruiting his teammates. He clearly favored UCLA as soon as the recruitment started and he committed on his visit. Sweeney will have to bulk up, currently at about 265, and physically he projects to the center spot, also with the kind of intelligence and feel for the game to be the captain of the OL. The word on him from sources at the high school is that he's a tough kid who works hard and is an over-achiever, so maybe that's the profile of UCLA's future starting center.
When Hunter Echols decommitted, UCLA went looking for a second defensive end to complement Phillips, and once it got on the trail of Isibor it was pretty much over. He might have one of the few best physical upsides in the class -- tall, long and very athletic. He throws down alley-oop dunks on his high school basketball team. On the field, he clearly has some quickness but will just need to get physically bigger and strong, and almost certainly destined for a redshirt year in 2017. But we really like Isibor's upside, and think he could be the future running mate of Phillips.
Burton came out to the west coast to compete with a California 7-on-7 team last summer and, without knowing who he was, west coast scouts were impressed with his size and arm strength. He then verbally committed to Boston College, but UCLA got on him quickly and when it struck out with other 2017 QB prospects, it offered Burton, who the committed. We have to admit, we're uncertain about how good Burton is. We do like his size, and he looks mobile on tape and in person, and has a nice, natural throwing motion. We're a little wary, though, when he wasn't really pursued by any big-named programs. We can't see him immediately overtaking Devon Modster or Matt Lynch in the quarterback hierarchy behind Josh Rosen next season, and will almost certainly redshirt. He's supposed to enroll in Spring quarter to participate in spring practice, and we're eager to see how he stacks up against Modster and Lynch, and see if there's a chance he could complete to be the starter in 2018.
Osling was a verbal commitment to Colorado, and UCLA got on him fairly late in the recruiting process. But it was clear that UCLA defensive backs coach really liked Osling, offering him and recruiting him aggressively in the last month. When he took his official visit it pretty sealed the deal, especially since the DB coaching situation at Colorado was in limbo with the DB coach moving on to Oregon. Osling is 6-1+, and isn't lightning fast, but athletic and with very good instincts. He's compared to current UCLA starting corner Nathan Meadors, a tall, rangy type that blossomed late and whom Martin got on late in the recruiting cycle. With the depth at corner looking pretty formidable, especially with the guys coming in with him for the 2017 class, Osling is a certain redshirt candidate, needing to take a year to get physically stronger. It will be interesting to see if he ends up the second coming of Meadors, or grows into a safety.
Seawards, along with Sweeney, was a late addition to UCLA's recruiting board for 2017. Seawards had a good senior season, and that got him noticed by various programs late. He verbally committed to Boise State and then UCLA offered. He officially visited UCLA, decommitted from Boise State and looked destined to commit to UCLA -- but then hometown ASU offered. He ended the suspense when he verbally committed to UCLA Tuesday. He's a big boy, a road grader type, at 6-3 and 315+, the type of guy UCLA hasn't had in its interior OL for a while and will need it if it wants to have a power run game. He appears to have decent mobility for his size, but is just an okay athlete. We tend to root for the underdog three-star type of recruits, and we've heard that Seawards has a good work ethic. The hope is that he's more than just a body for depth and can bring some big-body physicality to UCLA's interior line within a couple of years.
Wacaser has already paid dividends, being key in getting his high school teammate, Seawards, to commit to UCLA. Wacaser, as a player, has always been considered a good athlete but there were questions as to his upside physically, if his frame was wide enough to go from being 260ish in high school to around 300 pounds in college. He's already put on some weight since his high school season, so that's a good sign. He's definitely a long-term project, but the athleticism and foot quickness is impressive