Holmes, Phillips, Zabie

Grading out the UCLA 2017 Recruiting Class By Position

Jan. 3 -- The BRO staff gives out its final grades for the 2017 UCLA recruiting class by position. Obviously there are some clear As, and then some others...

Here is our absolutely final look at the 2017 class -- well, until we evaluate them after fall camp. 

The Bruin Report Online staff -- Tracy Pierson, Dave Woods, and Blair Angulo, and guest contributor Brandon Huffman -- were all asked to grade out the recruiting for the class by position unit, and we averaged it together as a composite grade. 

Quarterback  --  


Huffman:  UCLA was wise to pivot from Tua Tagovailoa to Jack Sears as quickly as they did, but they let the Sears recruitment drag out too long and didn’t keep a third quarterback warm.  They were fortunate to land Burton for depth, but he’s still an unknown.

Angulo: Striking out on Jack Sears (twice) and several other targets despite some favorable selling points earns UCLA this grade, especially since Noel and Taylor Mazzone did such a poor job of setting up Marques Tuiasosopo for success.

Woods:  Austin Burton is a body who might turn out fine, but it's a miss considering the relatively weak depth chart and Josh Rosen likely leaving after this season.

Running Back -- 

Pierson:  On one hand, they believed going into the season they were deep at running back and decided to only pursue two elite prospects -- Najee Harris and Stephen Carr,  two-five stars.  As the season went on, it was apparent they probably needed a faster, quicker running back on the roster. Hopefully freshman Brandon Stephens steps into that role. But they get a poor grade here for 1) not realizing they needed a faster RB and then 2) missing on Harris and Carr, and then missing on their last-ditch effort to get a quicker running back, C.J. Verdell

Huffman:  A running back wasn’t crucial with Brandon Stephens and Jalen Starks signing a year before, and they at least got a visit from Najee Harris and Stephen Carr, but there didn’t seem to be a true Plan B after those two, who were always longshots anyway.

Angulo:  With five backs on the roster after the season, UCLA didn't really need a running back in this class yet still managed to draw official visits from two of the best in the 2017 class, five-stars Najee Harris (Alabama) and Stephen Carr (USC). 

Wide Receiver -- 

Pierson: Wide receiver recruiting had one job -- to get one elite big possession-type receiver. It tried with probably at least ten prospects, almost all of them out-of-state, which is always a bit of a stretch. Just because it worked when you go to Texas and get Adewale Omotosho in the 2016 class doesn't mean it's going to work again. It was just a massive mis-read on so many recruits that went elsewhere. And then to get beaten out by Florida Atlantic for DeAndre McNeal sealed this grade. 

Woods:  Obviously, not a huge miss given the number of receivers on the roster, but getting at least one or two impact guys would have been nice.

Huffman:  Like running back, receivers weren’t as crucial given how many they signed a year ago and how many redshirted.  But there didn’t seem to be any effort in to getable receivers early on (Bryan Thompson namely), and then late efforts were too late.  Plus, losing DeAndre McNeal a second time (and having DeAndre McNeal be so crucial in the first place), makes it worse.

Tight End -- 



Woods:  Jimmy Jaggers and Moses Robinson-Carr are two good gets, but both might end up offensive linemen down the road. Even still, as blocking tight ends, they add an element. Big question is how they'll fit in whatever scheme UCLA ends up running.

Huffman:  UCLA needed at least one tight end in this class, and ended up getting two of their top targets.  Jimmy Jaggers was a huge pickup for them, from a talent and depth standpoint but then adding Moses Robinson-Carr ended up being an added bonus.

Pierson:  UCLA's goal was to get two tight ends with the 2017 class and it succeeded. The only reason this grade isn't an A is because, well, to get an A you need a five-star prospect (at least that's our own completely arbitrary criteria we established).  UCLA wanted to fulfill the need of getting at least one  good blocking tight end, and it got two. And perhaps it was better that it got two blocking types. This was a case, unlike with running back recruiting when they didn't realize quickly enough in mid-season that they needed a smaller, faster running back on the roster, during the season with tight ends it looked like they'd could use two blocking-types, and got them.  Give credit to tight ends coach Rip Scherer, for first getting Jaggers, and then staying on Robinson-Carr for months after he was verbally committed to Oregon. And give Scherer credit for being the last offensive coach standing from last year's offensive staff (Kennedy Polamalu, Adrian Klemm, and Marques Tuiasosopo were fired and Eric Yarber moved on to the Rams). 

Offensive Line -- 






Huffman:  Considering the coaching change, it could have been a lot worse.  Adding Stephan Zabie on Signing Day helped immensely, being that he’s the only true tackle prospect.  Jax Wacaser and Sean Seawards are nice development guys and Kanan Ray stayed strong in his commitment. But losing Jaxson Kirkland hurt and they struck out on every top lineman in California. 

Pierson:  The way I look at grading these positions is that a three-star is a C, a four-star is a B, and a five-star is a A, and then you go from there, tweaking it a bit given needs, upside, competition, etc.  So, Zabie pushes the OL grade up a tinge, and actually getting four three-stars gives it a little extra score, too, since the more you get the better chance you have of finding a player.  

Woods: No immediate impact players in the group, in a year where that was probably a necessity. Must hit grad transfer market heavily to make this a win.

Defensive Line -- 





Angulo: Jaelan Phillips, Greg Rogers, Martin Andrus and Odua Isibor make up a really good group of defensive linemen and, from a recruiting standpoint, Phillips and Rogers were tremendous wins against some tough suitors.

Huffman: The No. 1 defensive end in the country, in fact, the No. 1 defensive recruit in the country, automatically makes this an A.  But then two four-star DTs in Martin Andrus and Greg Rogers, and a sleeper who just happened to be an Army All-American in Odua Isibor gives defensive line coach Angus McClure his best DL class ever, and it's one of the best recruiting achievements we remember in UCLA recruiting, given UCLA's 4-8 season. 

Woods:  UCLA did exactly what it needed to do, getting a big impact DE to take the place of Takkarist McKinley and a pair of very good DTs to help shore up the middle now that  Eddie Vanderdoes  Vanderdoes (and Kenny Clark before him) are gone.

Linebackers -- 


Huffman: It wasn’t a good year for linebackers in the West and a year after signing a very good linebacker crop there weren't going to be many linebackers in this class.  UCLA missed on a couple of Texans they coveted (saying as much about the lack of in-state talent as anything), but getting Rahyme Johnson back after he was the first commit in 2017 (committing the summer of 2015), kept them from not landing a backer.

Angulo: Rahyme Johnson was a good get given his upside, but UCLA came up short on several others, including Anthony Hines (Texas A&M), Baron Browning (Ohio State), Addison Gumbs (Oklahoma), Levi Jones (USC), Tayler Katoa (USC) and Mohamed Sanogo (Ole Miss).

Pierson:  The 2017 linebacker cycle didn't seem to have back-up plans, until very late in the game when it was scrambling after missing out on elite targets. It's great to shoot for elite guys like Browning and Hines, but a big part of recruiting is doing the work to keep back-up guys warm.  There's no telling what might have happened with Katoa or Sanogo if UCLA had been on them early, when they first emerged, and actively recruited them throughout the cycle.

Defensive Backs -- 






Woods:  Best DB class I can remember for UCLA. Darnay Holmes, Elijah Gates, Jaylan Shaw make up a great corner trio, and there's some solid under-the-radar types in Lake and Osling. Possibility for a guy like Holmes to shore up other positions (KR, PR, and WR) as well.

Angulo:  It was always going to be challenging for UCLA defensive backs coach Demetrice Martin to navigate the cycle given the presence of Darnay Holmes as a silent commit, so getting highly regarded corners Elijah Gates and Jaylan Shaw to buy in was a major coup.

Huffman:  Again, when you get the No. 1 prospect in the country at a position it automatically makes it an A.  Demetrice Martin made it pretty clear early on that his top two corners were Darnay Holmes and Elijah Gates, and he got them both. He got Jaylan Shaw before he blew up, which was some savvy scouting and evaluating, plus he added Quentin Lake, who we think will end up being an anchor for UCLA in the secondary. 

Pierson: Excellent recruiting job by Martin. The only thing keeping it from an A+ was not getting that pure safety type.  

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