We started this football recruiting trend meter right after National Signing Day a year ago, and updated it (roughly) every month, analyzing how UCLA was doing in satisfying its recruiting needs for the 2017 class.
So now, the day after National Signing Day 2017, we look at how UCLA did and give out the final arrows for the 2017 recruiting cycle.
#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
With the signing of Stephan Zabié, the four-star prospect from Texas, UCLA satisfied half of this need. We had set the bar as an "elite" recruit being a four-star prospect, and by getting Zabié, that's half of it.
UCLA did also get commitments from four three-stars: Sean Seawards, Jax Wacaser, Zack Sweeney, and Kanan Ray,and we're not saying these guys are chopped liver. It's not uncommon for three-star high school prospects to develop into Pac-12 starter-level players. It's good, too, that UCLA brought in four of them -- the bigger numbers of recruits the better chance you find a starter among them.
But Zabié has some considerably more upside with his unique athleticism. There will still be some uncertainty about him ultimately qualifying academically, but we've heard from good sources that it's likely.
As we said in our Tuesday Trend Meter, offensive line 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 OL coach Hank 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/1751890-darnay-holmes-at-ucla-si... 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. It was great, then to see him in the flesh on UCLA's campus before the media cameras Wednesday.
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
UCLA missed on its last two linebacker targets on NSD: Levi Jones, the elite prospect from Westlake (Tex.) who picked USC, and Mohamed Sanogo, the Texas inside linebacker prospect that opted for Ole Miss.
UCLA did get a signed NLI from Rahyme Johnson, the four-star from Los Angeles Salesian, and it was a good job of recruiting to get him back on board after he had committed and then decommitted. So, UCLA got half of this recruiting need, thus the sideways arrow.
Looking at the depth chart, it isn't depleted, but it's not brimming either, and two four-star-or-better linebacker prospects were really what it needed here.
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 signed NLI 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.
Getting just Burton makes the quarterback recruiting need for the 2018 class two four-star quarterbacks.
Austin Burton Highlights
#7 -- Elite Wide Receiver
This was the big surprise, and big disappointment of National Signing Day.
UCLA was leading for DeAndre McNeal, the JC prospect from Fullerton College, especially after his UCLA official visit two weekends ago. He visited Florida Atlantic this last weekend, and was then giving indications he was wavering after that visit, and then signed an NLI for FAU Wednesday.
From what we've heard, McNeal's mindset is that he has one year before he's NFL eligible, and he could be a big fish in the small FAU pond, but could get lost in the deep WR numbers at UCLA.
Even with that deep receiver roster, UCLA targeted one possession receiver for this cycle, and after watching the underwhelming performance of the receiver group for the 2016 season, it was definitely a priority.
#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.
#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, and it didn't aggressively pursue running backs besides two stretches, Najee Harris and Stephen Carr, two five-star prospects.
As last season transpired, though, we thought UCLA could definitely use a change-up kind of tailback to counter the bigger and slower guys it has on the roster. It went after four-star C.J. Verdell, from Chula Vista Mater Dei, who was verbally committed to Oregon, late in the cycle, and never really got traction. Verdell opted out of an official visit to UCLA on the last weekend and signed with Oregon.
-- 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.
BRO will give out its grades by position unit for the 2017 recruiting class on Friday...