The Trip Turns it Around for Velega

The cornerback from Long Beach (Calif.) Poly, <b>Byron Velega</b>, was a bit skeptical about UCLA going into his official visit this weekend, but he's turned around. He talks about how UCLA has shot up his list and the time frame for a decision...

Byron Velega, 5-10, 180, Long Beach (Calif.) Poly, said he was definitely leaning elsewhere before he took his official visit to UCLA, but now everything has changed.

"It definitely changed my mind," Velega said. "At first, going in, I didn't know what I thought. I wasn't negative or anything. I didn't go in thinking, ‘I don't want to be here.' I went in positive. To see what they have to offer. But man, I really liked the place. California was leading before this trip, but now Cal and UCLA are even."

Velega, who had 62 tackles, four interceptions and 21 breakups on the season playing opposite UCLA commit Rodney Van at the other Poly cornerback position, has already visited Cal, and has two more visits arranged. He has plans to officially trip to Oregon on January 9th and then Washington State on January 16th.

But Velega said he wasn't too sure if he'll get to those visits. "I"d like to see what those two other schools have to offer. But I don't know. I might not make it. Right now, Cal and UCLA look pretty good." Velega said he'd take the entire holiday period (which is also the dead period in recruiting) to let it all settle in and not think too much about it. "But then, after January 1st, if I know where I want to be, I could commit."

What was it about UCLA that turned him around? "Well, first they hadn't offered me. They had recruited me before, even before my season, but I didn't take it too seriously. But on this visit, after I saw practice, and saw how everything is going, that's what changed my mind. I saw the style of play of their corners, and the technique that (defensive back) coach (Gary) DeLoach teaches. So at practice, I was also really impressed. I mean, I know at USC they must be pretty high and all, but I'll tell you, UCLA was amped up But I also got to talk to coach (Karl) Dorrell this morning. He offered me then. And he really has a plan. He's really confident. I know he took a lot of heat this year, but that team is on the rise. The players are confident, too. They weren't complaining about anything, but really positive. What Coach Dorrell said to me really impressed me, with his vision. I can tell you, even if I don't go to there, teams better watch out for UCLA."

Velega also said that UCLA satisfies all of the biggest factors that he's looking for in a school. "The three things are being able to play early, going to a place I feel I can get better, and then getting a good education. I think UCLA is probably the best for those three, probably better than Cal. I feel pretty confident I could play early at UCLA."

Also on his official visit was his teammate and friend, Rodney Van. The fact that Van is committed to UCLA could have a bit of an influence, too. "It doesn't really influence me that much, but I've thought about it. Rodney was the one who first told me, ‘You have to come with me on the visit.' I didn't really want to at first, but when we went on the trip, we were talking about it. ‘What if we went to UCLA together?' We'd be roommates and stuff like that. So, it's a little bit of an influence."

Velega has a 2.8 GPA and scored a 970 on his SAT.

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