Bryan Addison (Kevin Carden)

UCLA Prospects at The Opening L.A.: Defense

Mar. 14 -- We now look at the UCLA defensive prospects at The Opening Los Angeles Sunday, including quite a few safety prospects...

Defensive Linemen

The recently offered defensive tackle Aaron Maldonado had an overall good day as a prospect, showing some considerable upside. He has a good DT body, at about 6-3, 300, and moves particularly well for that size. In the drills he was the standout among the 2018 DTs in terms of quickness and agility.  In the one-on-ones, he used that quickness to his advantage to get leverage on his blocker, but he didn't really know what to do with it, being very raw in his technique.  In other words, there's a good athlete for a defensive tackle in there, he's just going to need some coaching up and development.  What we particularly liked about Maldonado, too, was his hustle. He was the first back from the water tent, the first up in reps, and kept stepping up for more reps.  We've heard UCLA is doing really well with him at this point.  

Aaron Maldonado

A few weeks ago, Mykee Irving showed a bit of quickness at the Under Armour camp, but he looked a bit more slow-footed Sunday.  He's a big kid, at 6-3+ and 300+, and on the next level he's probably a run-stuffing nose tackle that takes on double teams and holds his ground. After two viewings, though, we're a bit skeptical about Irving, also since he only has one offer at this point -- from UCLA>

The 2019 elite prospect, Faatui Tuitele, flashed the most talent among the defensive tackles at the camp, exhibiting some explosion off the ball and craftiness in getting around his blocker. He's a top priority in the 2019 class on the DL, and he visited UCLA on his trip to the mainland.

Even though he was hurt and isn't cleared to play for another week, Jeremiah Martin was in attendance and talked to us for a while. Martin's a very friendly kid, who clearly likes UCLA and defensive line coach Angus McClure, but he said he wanted to check out a number of schools and probably not make a commitment until the middle of his senior season.  Physically he said he was 6-4 and 230, having lost a little weight during basketball season, but he had a good body with a good frame that could easily carry upward of 250 in college. 


It was a loaded linebackers group but, regrettably, most of the top-end talent are, to be candid, either USC commitments or USC heavy leans.  USC-committed Palaie Gaoteote from Las Vegas Bishop Gorman was perhaps the best all-around at the event, combining great linebacker size at about 6-2 and 235 and fast-twitch.  Right there with him was Santa Ana Mater Dei's Solomon Tuliaupupu, who is a bit slighter version of Gaoteote, but a great-looking prospect and a heavy USC lean.  Raymond Scott, the USC-committed linebacker prospect from Harbor City Narbonne, had a good day, but is smaller than advertised, at probably 6-0 and 205.  There was also USC-committed Bo Calvert, who tested well in the drills, especially for being about 6-4 and 215.  Merlin Robertson, who is a heavy lean to USC, got an invite to The Opening Final, and even though we thought that was a little bit of a stretch he looked good physically at probably 6-3 and 240.  Those are currently the top five-ranked outside linebackers in the west on Scout, all top 100 players nationally overall. So your question is: Will USC take five outside linebackers?  Probably, since they now run a 3-6-2 defense. But still, we could see USC dropping one of these guys, and probably Scott being the most likely.

Among the best on the day was Jack Lamb, the Miles Teller doppleganger from Temecula Great Oak.  He was about 6-4 and 220, and showed great fluidity in the way he moved and ran. He's a guy that has size, speed and will undoubtedly put on good weight and strength that he could enable him to play any linebacker position and stay on the field in the nickel.  He looked so good Sunday he earned an invite to The Opening Finals.  UCLA is doing well with Lamb and hopefully he's the cornerstone of its linebacker class for 2018. 

Jack Lamb

We're an Eli'jah Winston fan, since he fits the bill physically at about 6-3 and 225, and he plays hard and with an edge.  The question on him is whether he has the mobility to drop into coverage and we thought he did that pretty well Sunday.  It's a question of where he ends up in college; he's a good pass rusher, so he could get physically bigger and end up a linebacker/defensive end hybrid who mostly pass rushes, or he could project as a strongside linebacker with his size and strength.    

Defensive Backs

UCLA defensive backs coach Demetrice Martin has it pretty good with the 2018 class. UCLA is looking to take probably one cornerback and three safety types, and the 2018 class in the west is loaded with talented safeties, a good number of whom favor UCLA, and some were in attendance at The Opening Sunday.

There were truly two elite prospects at the camp, receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown and cornerback Isaac Taylor-Stuart, from San Diego (Calif.) St. Augustine.  Taylor-Stuart is what an NFL cornerback looks like in the 11th grade, at 6-1+, probably 180, and running a 4.43 40.  And it's just not the combination of size and speed, which usually enough for us to rave about someone.  He's great in coverage, so long but so agile.  He doesn't have that akwardness you see from most tall, skinny high school juniors; he's fluid and fast.  He also has great ball skills, and uses those and that length to just take away passing windows.  At this point in his recruitment, since he's a national target, it's fairly wide open, but we think UCLA is probably on the outside looking into his short list. Again, like we've said with St. Brown: Hopefully the Bruins have a big year in 2017 and elite prospects like St. Brown and Taylor-Stuart start seriously considering UCLA by National Signing Day 2018.

If there's a safety on our UCLA wish list it's Bryan Addison, the prospect from Gardena Serra.  He doesn't look necessarily like he should fit at safety physically, at about 6-3 and a skinny 175, but he might have the best instincts and ball skills of any safety in the 2018 class in the west. He is a pure ball hawk.  He also is surprisingly good in coverage. He's not blazing fast, but he's so long and at the point of attack he makes it difficult for a receiver to get a good bead on the ball.  You can't envision it, since he looks like a small forward, that he'd be able to stay with smaller, shiftier receivers, but he does.  He's a talented kid with tremendous upside, given he has room to put on 25 pounds of muscle and get even faster.  He has said UCLA was a childhood dream school, but we know USC and others are hitting him hard.

The 6-3, 180-pounder Jhevon Hill from San Bernardino Cajon, who verbally committed to UCLA, is similar in style to Addison -- being that long ballhawk type.  He doesn't have the instincts of Addison, but he had a good day at the camp, showing good range in being that center-fielder type of free safety.  He was a little slow in coverage and struggled to stay with the top receivers, but that's not what he is -- he's a free safety that will go over the top and lock down the last half of the secondary.  He also looks really young, like he's still growing and stretching out.  Given that UCLA is leading for so many top safeties, you might wonder about taking Hill so early, but Martin plans to take three safeties, and Hill is a guy who is close in upside to just about anyone in the west, and he'll be solid in his commitment through February. 

Jhevon Hill

Probably the 2018 prospect with some comparable instincts to Addison is Julius Irvin, from Anaheim Servite, who has a UCLA offer.  He doesn't necessarily do one thing tremendously well, but he checks all the boxes.   He's not overly fast but he's very smart and is good in coverage.  In one-on-ones, he identifies routes really well, like he almost knows what's coming, and he makes the game look easy for him. We;ve heard UCLA is looking good for Irvin.

Aashari Crosswell is a position-versatile type of guy that Martin loves. At about 6-0 and with a good frame that could add good weight without losing athleticism, he's a great safety prospect, but he also moves so well  -- looking really quick in the drills with great footwork -- that he could play just about any position in the secondary.

Another exceptional safety prospect is Ely Doyle, and he had a very good day at The Opening.  He's a physical player, and is able to disrupt receivers at the line of scrimmage, and then is solid in coverage.  He uses his hands and body well, and then when the ball's in the air he has a great feel.  With every performance, Doyle's stock continues to rise, and at this time we know he has UCLA at the top of his list.

Ohio State commitment Jaiden Woodbey showed well Sunday. He's a big kid, a legit 6-2 and probably 210ish, but even with that size he showed he could cover in space against smaller receivers.  In fact, he took it as a personal challenge to match up against the top receivers in the one-on-ones.  He's such a big kid, we actually think his future might be as a linebacker, since he's only going to get bigger. Perhaps he grows into that linebacker/safety hybrid type, but plays more in the box than in the back.  Even though he's committed to OSU, we're including him here because we've heard he could be open to other schools.

One of UCLA's top receiver targets, Chase Williams worked out exclusively at defensive back at The Opening, and did just okay. He's a big kid, at 6-2 and 180, moves well and, of course, has good ball skills.  He wants to be a cornerback, in fact, and, after watching him, though, we still think he was a better receiver prospect than defensive back.  Perhaps there are some schools telling him they prefer him at defensive back and that's the reason he worked out there Sunday. He did visit USC last week and maybe they told him they want him as a DB.  We know UCLA is recruiting him as a receiver. At this point, we think USC might be slightly ahead of UCLA for Williams.

The elite prospect didn't participate that much Sunday, since he was still coming back from an injury he suffered in the Under Armour camp a few weeks ago.  We're pretty certain Nike told him to come out, participate a little and he'd get an invite to The Opening, which is entirely deserved. We're hearing he's leaning to USC.

UCLA's 2019 committed safety prospect Chris Steele looked very good at the camp, following up a good showing at Under Armour.  He's a safety but he can cover, with quickness and speed and very good technique, especially for a sophomore in high school.  He's one of the top DBS in the west for 2019.

UCLA just offered Greg Oliver, the 2019 cornerback prospect from Las Vegas Bishop Gorman a few weeks ago, his first, and he made that offer look like a smart one. He's not the biggest guy, but he was physical and tough in coverage, and had a bulldog mentality.  He wanted to go against every top receiver at the camp in the one-on-ones.

A guy to perhaps watch is Kamren Fabiculanan, a long, lanky corner prospect from Westlake Village Westlake. He's interesting, with so much length, but showed the capability of running with most of the receivers he was covering.  He's pretty tall, at probably 6-2, and he might fill out and be more of a safety, but he has some cover skills and that makes him intriguing.  Fabiculanan has offers from BYU and San Jose State so far. 

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