With 14 scholarships already given out, UCLA has 11 more select rides to fill out its 2002 recruiting class.
So, even though it's still almost four months from signing day and still a couple of months from prime official trip season, UCLA is doing so well on the field, it's really being reflected in recruiting, with a definite upswing in the feedback from recruits about UCLA. So, UCLA is going to be getting a little bit pickier with its offers – and acceptance of verbal commits.
Here's a look at who are the prime candidates for the 11 scholarships left, and how it all could play out.
Positions that UCLA would ideally like to fill with the remaining 11 rides:
Quarterback -- 1:
There's one left and who's going to get it? A recent report has Trent Edwards now saying UCLA is his leader. Drew Olson has maintained that for a while. Ben Olson has BYU leading. UCLA is in third for Isaiah Stanback. It's a question of whether all of them will hold out until December to take visits. Stanback isn't a threat to commit early and will go through December trips, most likely. Olson will probably commit to BYU by the end of November. So, it's really a race to the scholarship between Drew Olson and Trent Edwards. Both Edwards and Drew Olson would like to hold out, but the feeling is that both would commit if they thought the other was about to commit. Drew Olson is probably the more likely to pop first, unless of course, Edwards just gets tired of this whole thing and commits. But the big odds are on either Trent Edwards or Drew Olson filling this scholarship.
Running Back –1:
The situation is drastically improving with Lorenzo Booker. Drastically. UCLA has probably drawn even with USC. If the season continues to go well, and USC continues to have a mediocre season, UCLA would be in the driver's seat. UCLA covets Glenn Ohaeri, who says it's probably between UCLA and USC> Ohaeri could play DB also. Narbonne's Marcus O'Keith attended the UCLA/Washington game and reports are that he told various people he's now favoring UCLA. If he could be convinced O'Keith could also come as an athlete. UCLA is also probably leading with Texas's Selvin Young. If UCLA doesn't get Booker, Ohaeri or Young they could possibly not take a running back.
Offensive Line – 2 :
One has already jumped in the boat with Robert Chai committing this week. UCLA's position with Winston Justice looks very good. Despite saying he still has USC as his leader, he's more than likely another of the OL commits. It's still thought that Nathan Rhodes is the favorite for the third OL spot, but he appears to want to go through the whole process and take a number of trips. The ride might not be available when he's through. UCLA is improving its chances considerably with David Beall from Washington. While Rhodes is good, UCLA would take Beall's commitment before Rhodes has decided and not flinch. UCLA is also doing really well with Stephen Berg from Arizona. Tony Ugoh from Texas will more than likely take an official visit. Alex Potasi from Narbonne, the former USC commitment, might be liking UCLA now. And there is another mystery OL that UCLA is considering seriously that not too many other programs have discovered.
Wide Receivers – 2 :
Rhema McKnight is at the top of the list, and even though he talks like he's wide open, UCLA is his long-time favorite and the word is that they still are. You can pencil him in has filling one of these spots. Antwuan Smith is also still looking very strong for the second WR spot. Smith could also come in as an athlete. If need be, UCLA could take Paul Williams here, or maybe think about using the second scholarship here for an athlete. While UCLA seems thin at WR right now on the field, if everything works out as it should, they won't be down the line. Junior Taylor is still expected to come to UCLA in spring. The good bets here, though, are McKnight and Smith.
Defensive Line – 2 :
Ideally they'd like to take two more defensive tackles. If an elite defensive end wants to come they won't hesitate. The word is that commit Kevin Harbour has been playing really well, but he could end up a defensive tackle. Right now UCLA looks very good with Fred Matua for one of the DT spots. He's been to both UCLA home games and has told a few people UCLA is going to be hard to beat. Inglewood's Keith Jackson would be ear-marked for the other DT spot. But if Haloti Ngata fell in love with UCLA on his official visit in December, there would be room for all three. Jackson could also be considered an OL. UCLA also looks to be doing better with the Hawaiian recruits, Jonathan Mapu (DT), Donny Mateaki (DE), and Brandon Ala (DE). The Bruins have also been steadily pursuing Utah's Jake Kuresa, trying to steal him away from USC, which has been his favorite for a while. Good bets are Jackson and Matua. But don't count out UCLA, with how hot it is right now, for Ngata. At defensive end, UCLA would love to bring in Pickryl, but wherever he goes he plans on coming in during spring and wouldn't count against this class. UCLA would love to also plug in Curtis Justus, the elite athlete from Oklahoma who is taking his official UCLA visit this weekend. There is also word that UCLA has a good chance with Loren Howard, probably the best linemen in Arizona. And keep Manuel Wright in the back of your mind. He intended to come to the UCLA/Washington game but couldn't make it because of the SAT.
Linebacker – 1 :
With two commitments in the fold, UCLA has one more to give here, and would really like it to be an elite prospect. The linebacking positions look to be thin over the next couple of years and a talented kid would be able to probably come in and contribute early. Zach Latimer is a guy UCLA will probably really step it up with. His parents went to Miami, so it's the Hurricanes, UCLA and Oklahoma. But UCLA has a legit shot. But after Latimer it gets sketchy. If Latimer goes elsewhere it could be filled by a kid like Bishop Amat's Wesley Walker, who likes UCLA quite a bit. With all the other positions having recruits that clearly have UCLA at or near the top of their list, and with not great talent on the west coast, this is the position that is probably the most worrisome.
Defensive Back – 2:
This one's pretty easy to call, too. Unless there is something that wrecks it, you can expect UCLA to get Aaron Miller, the best cornerback prospect in the west, who has had UCLA as his favorite for a while; and Jarrad Page, the playmaker from Northern California who probably projects as a safety and who also is a long-time UCLA lean. UCLA already has a commitment from a corner (Joe Garcia) and a safety (Eric McNeal), so Miller and Page would round out the DB class nicely. If either falters, UCLA has some other good possibilities. As mentioned above, Glenn Ohaeri could end up a DB, as could Marcus O'Keith. A good player from Tab Perry's high school, Milpitas, Jebiaus Brown, has UCLA as his favorite and is waiting on an offer. Another northern Californian that UCLA could be moving on is Vince Mays, from Sacramento. Then there are all the Texas kids that will more than likely take official visits – Vickiel Vaugh, Roshown Pope, Willie Andrews -- and Noah Strozier from Missouri. If UCLA gets Miller and Page, they could very well take another one of these guys. There could be a couple of other national DB recruits getting interested in UCLA. UCLA would love to get Darnell Bing from Long Beach Poly, and the word is that he's starting to get interested, but he still has to be considered a longshot. In other words, Miller and Page better snag those scholarships before official visit season or they might not be available.
Not Much Flexibility
As stated, there is some flexibility here in regards to position, but less and less in regards to numbers. There is room for a scholarship to go to an "athlete," which could be the one earmarked for a running back, or the second one pegged for a wide receiver or defensive back. It could be filled by just about any recruit projected for any position – as long as he's an elite prospect.
Also, along with Junior Taylor and someone like Pickryl, UCLA could also bring in some recruits this spring, and they would have four rides available to come in at that time. One is earmarked for Taylor, so there is some working room with the three scholarship available. These scholarships would count against the current freshmen class, not the 2002 class.
There are also some other recruits that are definite possibilities, but if they were listed here it could jeopardize UCLA's recruiting efforts, so they've been omitted – for now.