We go unit by unit on how UCLA is doing so far in the 2018 recruiting cycle.
In determining which way our Trend Meter arrows should point, we also took into consideration the recruiting needs we established for the 2018 class back in February (updated for May): UCLA 2018 Recruiting Needs.
Despite UCLA being pretty much done with quarterback recruiting, there are a few minor issues remaining to discuss in quarterback recruiting for 2018. Issue No. 1: Does UCLA take another QB? In our February story, we said UCLA needed two four-star quarterbacks. But since offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch got the big fish in Thompson-Robinson, UCLA looks like it's going to stand pat. We've heard, too, there was a possible understanding that, if Thompson-Robinson did commit to UCLA, the Bruins wouldn't take a second quarterback. While UCLA could certainly use as many potential chances to find its next quarterback after Josh Rosen leaves, and getting a second quarterback in 2018 would do that, we feel pretty confident about Thompson-Robinson. UCLA absolutely, though, needs a big-time QB recruit in the 2019 class.
http://www.scout.com/college/ucla/story/1773079-commitment-analysis-dori... No. 2 issue: Will Thompson-Robinson stick? If UCLA is not taking a second quarterback, then it wouldn't necessarily have to keep recruiting quarterbacks, unless it feels it needs some insurance with Thompson-Robinson. And if UCLA made the deal not to take a second QB then Thompson-Robinson would have to hold up his end and sign in February. We've heard that Thompson-Robinson is very secure in his commitment, having known he wanted to go to UCLA for some time, and even turning down other big-time programs to commit to UCLA. The recent decommitment of Matt Corral from USC opened up the possibility of USC pursuing Thompson-Robinson, but he told us this weekend USC interest wouldn't change his UCLA commitment.
UCLA will, though, continue to recruit Tanner McKee, the nation's No. 4-ranked quarterback prospect, since he's going on his Mormon mission right out of high school and is essentially a 2020 recruit. It's a great idea, and hopefully Fisch's offense will be a major selling point by the time McKee returns from his mission, and then he wants to stay close to home. BYU is the biggest competition right now, and probably in two years.
No. 3: Will DTR live up to the ranking in his first year as a high school starter? We're pretty confident he will. He lacks game experience, having backed up Tate Martell at Bishop Gorman for two years, but we we think he still has shown in 7-on-7 that he has a great feel for the position, to go along with a very strong arm and excellent athleticism. He looked great at the recent Elite 11 camp and made the group of 11 quarterbacks who will go to Beaverton for The Opening Finals.
RUNNING BACK (2)
In our February story about recruiting needs for 2018, one need was "a fast, elusive, minimum four-star running back." UCLA has since got a commitment from A.J. Carter, a 6-0, 220-pound back who is currently a three-star prospect. So, if we continue to honor our previous need, Carter doesn't satisfy it. It's funny, too, that since DeShaun Foster became UCLA's running back coach back in January, Foster has clearly shifted focus to big, hard-running tailbacks similar to his own size and style as a player. We've seen it before; if you remember, when Eric Bieniemy was UCLA's running back coach under Karl Dorrell he pursued prospects similar to himself also. There's nothing wrong with it, and we're willing to give Foster the benefit of the doubt in his evaluation ability. But given the current roster at tailback and Carter's commitment, it does seem like the UCLA backfield could use an infusion of some speed. UCLA absolutely intends to take two running backs in the 2018 class, so there's still a chance, but most of the prospects Foster is still pursuing aggressively are big-back types, like Demetrious Flowers, Chris Brown, Andrew Van Buren or Devon Lawrence. We know that Foster and UCLA are going hard after Flowers, and we like Flowers, and he is a four-star, and probably the fastest among Carter, Brown or Lawrence, but he's still probably a 4.6 to 4.7 type. We've also heard he could have academic issues. Brown has been, and still is, a big target, and he's probably even more desirable since he could end up a linebacker on the next level, and UCLA is recruiting him for both positions. He is, though, also a big back. It will be interesting to see if UCLA hangs onto Carter; in recent years, early out-of-state commitments have tended to end up going elsewhere. Foster and Carter have a great relationship, though, and Foster was in Many, Louisiana, to see Carter during the May evaluation period.
WIDE RECEIVER (3-4)
We said in February that UCLA needs at least three four-star receivers in the 2018 recruiting class, and they took a first step in accomplishing that in getting a commitment from Philips. We like Philips quite a bit, and that's a good first commitment. It's still a long way from getting at least two more four-star-or-better receivers, but we like UCLA's chances, given the receivers they're doing well with at this point. We have to qualify the "four-star" designation a little with the 2018 class, first. There is absolutely a great amount of receiver talent in the west for 2018, but we tend to question whether some of the guys who have four stars at this time should. Even given that, UCLA still looks goods for some legitimate four-star prospects like Devon Williams, Khalil Shakir, and Devon Cooley. And this is with UCLA having an unproven offense. Imagine if offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch's offense looks good this fall? Perhaps some guys higher up on the receiver ranking food chain might get seriously interested, like the nation's No. 1 receiver, Amon-Ra St. Brown. St. Brown did visit UCLA's spring practice and hung out with receiver coach Jimmie Dougherty. Corral's decommitment from USC can't hurt UCLA's chances with St. Brown, since Corral at USC was absolutely an attraction for St. Brown. We're hearing that Dougherty is coming off very well in recruiting, and if he has a good passing offense to sell after this season we think he could potentially bring in UCLA's best receiver class in years.
We were tempted to change the arrow to sideways, though, since the last time we did this a month ago the list of four-star WR targets has dwindled some. But there are still some good signs from four-stars out there.
It's unusual for a prospect who has an offer to participate in a UCLA camp. But Cooley told us he's going to work out for UCLA's Elite Camp Friday because he wants to reinforce to Dougherty and the UCLA coaches that he should be a top priority. We think that's a sign that Cooley still has UCLA at the top of his list.
If UCLA could get a second four-star prospect, and we suspect they will, and probably fairly soon, Dougherty would then be able to hold off on getting that third receiver commitment and wait on some bigger fish.
TIGHT END (1)
We moved this arrow from down to sideways this month. That's mostly based on two things we're hearing: 1) what was a very good unofficial visit from John Fitzpatrick, the 6-6 Georgia prospect with a sister who's a current UCLA undergrad. The FitzPatricks spent quite a bit of time with the coaching staff at the end of last week, and FitzPatrick could decide soon. And 2) Even though we're skeptical, we've heard UCLA has a real chance with the nation's No. 3 tight end, Mustapha Muhammad, who unofficially visited UCLA last week.
And this is all with UCLA's current tight end depth chart being incredibly deep -- and young. Getting Michigan transfer Devin Asiasi really solidified it, and "solidified" might not be a strong enough word. Getting Asiasi when UCLA did -- after the 2017 class signed -- was really fortuitous since it didn't scare away 2017 signees Jimmy Jaggers and Moses Robinson-Carr. Bottom line, the tight end position is pretty loaded for the forseeable future. While UCLA wants to bring in a tight end with the 2018 class it's not make-or-break, given the current depth.
We've even heard that UCLA could, by the time Signing Day rolls around, ultimately have another shot at Brevin Jordan, the nation's No. 1 tight end who had UCLA as a long-time leader but verbally committed to Miami this spring.
OFFENSIVE LINE (5+)
With the commitment of Chris Bleich, the former Penn State commit, Monday night, UCLA now has three commitments for the 2018 class. The two commitments of Dickson and Bleich in the last week make this arrow just about tilt upward but it barely remains sideways, mostly because, while we like the class so far, UCLA still needs to clearly upgrade the talent level of the OL and just not bring in big numbers. And while we like all three of the commitments, McDonald and Bleich are just three-star level prospects.
Make no mistake, McDonald, Dickson and Bleich are a solid preliminary haul. Dickson is the jewel of the class so far, since we think he's a four-star equivalent. Don't get fooled by him not having any Scout stars just yet; he's a very good tackle prospect, with very good athleticism for his size. He'll have to keep on a very straight-and-narrow academic path to qualify for UCLA, but he has shown every indication he's on that path.
McDonald and Bleich are on the higher end of three stars. Bleich is a big kid with some considerable strength and decent athleticism. What we particularly like about them is their potential position versatility, possibly being able to play tackle and guard. We personally think both are guards on the next level, and we think UCLA has recruited them as guards. They look like tackles and play like guards, essentially. It's probably a result of UCLA going the bigger route in its recruiting of OLs for 2018, wanting to bring in bigger OLs than have previously been in the program. Dickson is 6-6, while Bleich and McDonald, who could be guards, are 6-6 and 6-5, respectively.
UCLA is going big in size and big in class. We've been saying UCLA could take upward of six OLs in 2018, and it looks like it's on its way to doing so. And it will probably be prioritizing tackle types for the remainder of the recruiting cycle.
One other immediately possibility is LSU transfer Willie Allen. Getting Allen, a former four-star high school tackle prospect out of Louisiana, would be another considerable boost to UCLA's OL recruiting. Allen is probably a better prospect than any 2018 tackle prospect UCLA currently leads for. He took an official visit to UCLA and one to Baylor. Allen, too, would have advantages over a 2018 prospect, immediately coming to UCLA and spending the next year (a redshirt season because of the transfer) at UCLA. We've heard there might be some academic hurdles, but we've also heard UCLA was leading at this time for him.
With or without Allen, we think UCLA should now, with three prospects committed, be focused on tackles, like we said, but also four-star-or-better quality. We think UCLA has a good chance to do that. It's still a long way to Signing Day in February, with so much that could happen that could boost UCLA's chances of it -- namely new OL coach Hank Fraley recruiting for an entire cycle, potentially UCLA's OL looking improved this season, and the opportunity for immediate playing time for those super-elite types. If UCLA's OL looks good on the field, it could have vastly improved shots at guys like Penei Sewell or Rafiti Ghirmai, who could clearly envision early playing time at tackle in 2018. A guy who UCLA clearly wants is Will Craig, the four-star tackle prospect from NorCal, who we've heard UCLA is doing well with. He would really go a long way toward giving UCLA the upgrade in talent it needs in the 2018 OL class and get that trend meter arrow up.
It will be interesting to see what UCLA does with the three-star types it's been recruiting, like Marco Brewer, Max Barth or Miles Owens, who we've heard have UCLA at or near the top of their lists but probably aren't close to making a decision. Perhaps UCLA would have room for one more three-star in a six-man class.
DEFENSIVE TACKLE (2-3)
In our February piece we said UCLA's need here was to get a true nose tackle in the 2018 class and, after, watching spring practice, we have to say that's even moreso. UCLA's current DL roster is very good, if not excellent, but it could absolutely use a true trench-eating, space-filling, double-team-consuming nose tackle. Even with two excellent tackle recruits coming in with the 2017 class, Greg Rogers and Martin Andrus, you wouldn't say that either of them clearly are nose tackles.
Since our trend meter installment a month ago, UCLA got a commitment form Liu, and we were tempted to shift the arrow upward. Perhaps we're being a bit too picky now that defensive line coach Angus McClure has spoiled us with his excellent recruiting in recent years, but we don't see that elite true nose tackle among Maldonado and Liu. Maldonado looks like a three-technique while Liu is probably a nose tackle, but not really a super-elite version.
The type we're talking about is UCLA target Keondre Coburn, the 6-1, 325-pounder from Texas, or Trevor Trout, the 6-3, 320-pounder from St. Louis. UCLA is in good shape with Coburn and Trout, and both will probably officially visit. We're not saying UCLA has to get Coburn or Trout or its DT recruiting is a failure, but we do think UCLA needs to get a guy of that type for it to clearly be a successful DT recruiting year.
DEFENSIVE END (2)
UCLA's current DL depth chart looks, well, fantastic at this point in time. It has young talent inside and outside, and four-year talent as well as NFL-level. McClure brought in the No. 1 defensive end in the nation in the 2017 class, Jaelan Phillips, along with an athlete with some considerable upside, Odua Isibor, and that had to be one of the best DE classes in the west and possibly the country. It also got a nice surprise this spring when redshirt freshman Marcus Moore looked like a potential impact player in practice. Of course, though, you're only as good as your last recruiting class, so McClure needs to keep it going in 2018, and that means at least one elite defensive end. UCLA doesn't have a commitment from a defensive end yet, but the arrow is sideways because it's looking good with three four-star prospects, the nation's No. 18 DE, Elijah Wade, No. 24 Jeremiah Martin, and Abdul-Malik McClain, the No. 29-ranked DE in the nation. The arrow would probably go up if it got any two of those three, and if UCLA just got Wade or Martin. We're hearing, too, that UCLA will probably be a serious contender for the No. 13-ranked DE from Maryland, Eyabi Anoma and No. 19 John Waggoner, the prospect from Iowa, since we're hearing he wants out of the midwest. Wade and Waggoner are strongside types and Martin, McClain and Anoma are razors. So, right now, DE recruiting looks good.
Linebacker recruiting is in a bit of a different place than it was just a few years ago, at UCLA and throughout college football. With defenses having to play nickel more often than their base, most of the time there are only two linebackers on the field. It makes it very important to get linebacker prospects who can cover, particularly drop into coverage easily. More and more programs are recruiting for a safety/linebacker hybrid type, too.
Programs, UCLA among them, are still looking for three types of linebackers, Mikes, Sams and Wills, but they don't necessarily need many Sams and probably more Mikes and Wills.
http://www.scout.com/college/ucla/story/1780277-ucla-lb-target-winston-h... UCLA linebacker coach Scott White has shifted a bit in his recruiting strategy, looking for more "outside" linebackers who can cover. And, after getting just one linebacker in the 2017 class, Rahyme Johnson, UCLA will look to sign three linebackers for 2018, and that might end up being one middle linebacker type and two Wills, or guys with some position versatility.
The commitment from Isaiah Johnson makes more sense once you understand all this. Johnson has primarily been a wide receiver in high school, or occasionally a rush end on defense. He's rated as an athlete on Scout, and White took him as a Will linebacker, with the athleticism to drop into coverage but also with a body and frame that could get quite a bit bigger. He's currently 6-2.5, about 205 pounds and athletic (35-inch vertical). He's actually been described as similar in body and style to Curtis Robinson, the Stanford linebacker.
With Johnson committed, White will look for one inside guy or prospect who could play both inside and outside, like Jack Lamb and/or Eli'jah Winston, and then a pure Will-type, like DaShaun White. A guy high on UCLA's list is BYU-committed Brandon Kaho, who also has versatility enough to play probably all three linebacker spots. What these four guys do -- Lamb, Winston, White and Kaho -- will determine the success of UCLA's 2018 linebacker recruiting, or guys who could be added later in the cycle that are talent equivalent. From what we hear, UCLA is doing well with three of them (Lamb, Winston and White, while Kaho is verbally committed to BYU). With Johnson a three-star, it's pretty key that the other two LB commitments be four-star level, and the only other guy on this list who isn't four star is White, and we've heard he's under-rated as a three-star.
Note: There were indications as recently as a few weeks ago that UCLA was doing really well with Reggie Hughes, but Hughes verbally committed to ASU Monday.
In our recent story, UCLA Class if Today Were Signing Day, we said that UCLA's class, right now, would be Johnson, Hughes and Winston and that's a good class -- two four-star prospects and a three-star that might be under-rated, with some considerable position versatility among the three. But (and this is a testament to how quickly recruiting can change), Hughes committed to ASU and we've heard that the UCLA unofficial visit of Lamb and his family late last week went exceptionally well. Lamb's sister goes to UCLA, so that helps, and we're hearing UCLA is where his family wants him, even though we had recently heard that Washington might be the leader. Lamb might make a decision soon, and if UCLA gets him to go along with Johnson, the trend arrow is completely going up. It then gives UCLA linebacker coach Scott White the luxury of getting selective with who else he'd take to finish the class.
On the other hand, if UCLA misses on Lamb and one of Winston or White, it could be slight panic time.
It could be UCLA opts to offer Francis Bemiy, the sleeper prospect who caught White's attention at UCLA's camp last week and might have the most upside of anyone mentioned here, or M.J. Cunningham, the three-star from Oregon with offers from Orego State, Utah and Washington State.
UCLA got a pretty good haul in cornerbacks for 2017, signing four: Darnay Holmes, Elijah Gates, Jaylan Shaw and Morrell Osling. Perhaps Osling ends up a safety but still, it's a good haul -- and UCLA was already pretty deep at the position. It actually proved to be even deeper than we thought after watching spring practice, too.
We said in February the recruiting need at cornerback is to get Tyreke Johnson, the then five-star prospect (He's now a four-star) from Florida, for a few reasons. Defensive backs coach Demetrice Martin, with the depth on the roster, has the luxury of stretching for that elite, five-star type of cornerback in 2018 -- to make five-star bookends with Holmes; also Johnson had UCLA as his long-time leader all through his junior year.
Well, things are getting a little more complicated for Johnson, as we expected, and other schools are hitting him hard. Florida, in particular, is coming on strong and, because of proximity, he's been able to visit Florida's campus a few times. Martin did fly to see Johnson as soon as he was able during the spring evaluation period.
But now there's another development: Martin offered Johnson's cousin, Tyrese Ross, a three-star safety prospect from Georgia. And we're hearing that offer went a very long way for Johnson.
Even if UCLA doesn't get Johnson, we like the idea of Martin stretching for that elite corner in 2018, given the depth he has. A guy who had UCLA as a long-time leader, California transplant Bookie Radley-Hiles (who now plays in Florida), the No. 8-ranked corner in the nation, verbally committed to Nebraska, but we've been told by people close to him that they don't think he's a good match for Nebraska and they expect him to decommit sometime between now and Signing Day. UCLA was his other finalist, and we expect the Bruins to be involved until the end, especially since he's the ex-teammate and close friend of Holmes. UCLA hasn't really been seriously considered by the No. 1 corner in the west, Olaijah Griffin, and the word is that UCLA's depth -- and Holmes -- have scared him away a bit. It's the same with elite prospect Isaac Taylor-Stuart.
We saw D'Angelo McKenzie, the three-star prospect from NorCal, and we liked him, and even though he's not considered a super-elite type like Johnson, he'd be a very good get, especially, again, given the UCLA cornerback haul for 2017.
There's also the realistic possibility that UCLA does, indeed, get Johnson.
This will be fun to watch between now and Signing Day, mostly because Martin is really playing with house money because of his talented depth chart.
You know you're recruiting well when you lose a commitment and the trend arrow stays up.
If we're talking about playing with house money, Martin is absolutely doing that with safety recruiting for 2018. The recruiting needs we established for the position in February were: 1) get three safeties and 2) get a hard-hitting one. Martin has already satisfied No. 2 (We haven't seen committed Cam'ron Jones play in person but on tape he looks like he satisfies the need of a big hitter, and Stephan Blaylock is a pretty big hitter himself.) and, even though Jhevon Hill decommitted, it looks good that Martin will satisfy Need No. 1.
We had written for a while that Hill could decommit, mostly because it was looking pretty loaded on the UCLA DB depth chart, and that happened a few weeks ago. It's not a bad thing since Jones and Blaylock are better prospects, UCLA would be fine standing pat with just them, and it gives Martin the luxury to now try to go out and get another elite prospect with his third safety.
There's so much safety talent out there for 2018, it would be smart to go deep with this class. And sitting on two four-star commitments, Martin can definitely try to stretch with safeties. The Bruins are trying hard with one of the best overall prospects in the west, Talanoa Hufanga. One of the best players on the spring circuit has been Bryan Addison, who has said he really likes UCLA (even though we might project Addison more as a receiver; we're undecided at this point. He's exceptional either way). There are other guys, like Aashari Crosswell, Treshaun Harrison and Julius Irvin that UCLA has a legit shot to get -- all four-star prospects.
Like we said above, perhaps the best use of that third safety scholarship is opting to take Tyrese Ross, Tyreke Johnson's cousin, if it gets them Johnson. With the depth at safety, it would absolutely be a good move to take Ross to get Johnson, especially since Ross is no slouch in his own three-star right.
It has to be said that Martin is easily one of the best recruiters in the west, and it looks like he's continuing his DB recruiting excellence with 2018.