Football Recruiting Analysis: Defense

Here's the detailed look at UCLA's recruiting on defense, analyzing its depth and needs position-by-position, and projecting what recruits UCLA could have the best chance with in the class of 2005...

With currently only 15 scholarships to give to the class of 2005, with UCLA already having four commitments and with a bigger need generally on the offensive side of the ball, the defense doesn't have a great deal of scholarship opportunities.

Here's the recruiting analysis of the offense that we published yesterday: Offense Recruiting Analysis

DEFENSIVE END (1 Ride)

UCLA is young at defensive end, with currently only one player that is a junior or older. So, by the 2005 season, they'll still be fairly stocked, with six defensive ends currently on the roster still on it by then.

In 2005, Kyle Morgan, the JC transfer, will be a senior and probably a starter. Fighting for that other starting position will be Kevin Harbour, who would be a junior, Bruce Davis, a sophomore, Justin Hickman, a junior, and current incoming freshman Brigham Harwell, who could be either a sophomore or a redshirt freshman. There is also converted offensive lineman/fullback Nikola Dragovic, but it'd be surprising if he developed into a significant contributor. So, there's good depth for the next couple of years, with five players you'd have to think will make up a solid two-deep.

But there are some questions. Morgan, Davis, Hickman and Harwell have yet to play a down for UCLA. Harbour is just as much unproven, and will be coming off ACL surgery. So, even though there are good numbers for the next couple of years, it's still uncertain how good those numbers are.

So, UCLA is in the market for more insurance. One elite defensive end would really fit the bill. Because they have good numbers at defensive end, and a general shortage of scholarships, UCLA has been very selective about the scholarship offers that have gone out to recruits.

Four junior recruits have received offers: Will Powers from San Mateo (Calif.) Serra: Clinton Snyder from Spring Valley (Calif.) Monte Vista; Averell Spicer from Rancho Cucamonga (Calif.) High and Nick Reed from Mission Viejo (Calif.) High. All are considered either very good to elite talents. The Bruins are thought to have the best chance with Spicer and Snyder. Now, if two of these guys wanted to come to UCLA, they would undoubtedly take them. Our omniscient Charles Brown from Pomona (Calif.) Diamond Ranch, who we've mentioned with the tight ends as well as the offensive tackles, also garners a mention here, since there is a possibility he could end up a defensive end.

DEFENSIVE TACKLE (1+ Rides)

UCLA has fairly deep numbers at defensive tackle, also, for the next couple of years.

Projecting to the 2005 season, C.J. Niusulu would be a senior and Kevin Brown a junior. Junior Lemau'u would be a junior, and if Thomas Patton returns he would more than likely be a junior. Noah Sutherland was moved to defensive end during spring, but it was only because the defensive end numbers for spring practice were thin. It's thought that he'll ultimately be a defensive tackle, and he'd be a sophomore in 2005.

So, that's still fairly young depth at tackle. Then you have two incoming freshmen, Kenneth Lombard and Chris Johnson.

So, again the question isn't about number of bodies, but even moreso at defensive tackle it's about talented bodies. After Niusulu, Brown and even Lemau'u, there are questions about who can play effectively at this level. But because of how many players they already have at the position, with the shortage of scholarships, UCLA just can't dedicate many scholarships to defensive tackle for 2005. UCLA took commitments from Lombard and Johnson and they believe they're good enough to warrant scholarships. If Lombard and/or Johnson can show in the next two years that they're up to the task of being potential starters, then UCLA's in very good shape. But if neither show that capability, even as soon as this fall, UCLA might be scrambling to find more scholarships for defensive tackles pretty quickly. Because talented defensive tackles, generally, after quarterback, are the most difficult to find among any position on the football field, especially, for some random reasons, those that have academics that can get them admitted to UCLA.

How many UCLA does take at tackle could depend on Patton. But if two elite prospects wanted to come, UCLA wouldn't turn them down.

At the top of the list is Rudy Odom from Mandeville (Calif.) Fountainebleu, and Matt Reynolds from Provo (Utah) Timpview. UCLA would probably have a tough time getting either. Russsell Tialavea from Oceanside (Calif.) High is considered worthy of offering but is going on his Mormon mission out of high school. There are a number of others on the cusp of potential offers, but for some it depends on academics and other considerations, or the coaches just need to be more convinced. Definitely one to watch is Fevaea'i Ahmu from San Diego (Calif.) Serra, who could be among the best in the west. Also, keep an eye on Brandon Sesay from Atlanta (Georg.) Douglass. Mike Iupati from Anaheim (Calif.) Western could be another.

LINEBACKER (2+ Rides)

It's the position on defense where UCLA definitely has some recruiting needs.

It's not that UCLA will have anyone graduating soon, which they won't. All three projected starters this year – Spencer Havner, Justin London and Wesley Walker – will be juniors. And they'll be intact as the probable three starters for 2006.

But after those three graduate, what happens? With every other position, we've been projecting the depth chart for the 2005 season, but with the linebackers, the significant year would be 2006, after Havner, London and Walker have all graduated. With the loss of Xavier Burgess, UCLA currently has just three bodies, and they're highly unproven. JC transfer Dan Nelson would be the remaining middle linebacker, and he'd be a senior in 2006. William Snead is currently the back-up at strongside backer, and he'd be a junior. Aaron Whittington, the weakside backer, would be a junior. But there are questions whether Nelson, Snead and Whittington are starter caliber. Generally the word is that the coaches are high on Snead and like Whittington. But Whittington is still a bit scrawny.

There is also incoming freshman Fred Holmes, but it's uncertain just how much of an impact player he can be.

By 2006, the simple issue is that the linebacker unit will be the thinnest on the team, and UCLA needs at least more bodies, and ideally some elite bodies, to replace London and Havner.

And unless UCLA has some really exceptional unknown sleepers on the line, linebacker recruiting is a bit of concern.

The four best linebacker recruits in the west for 2005 are Ryan Reynolds from Las Vegas (Nev.) Bishop Gorman, Rey Maualuga from Eureka (Calif.) High, and Luthur Brown and Adrian McCovey, both from Lakewood (Calif.) High. All four are leaning heavily elsewhere. UCLA might have the best chance with McCovey, since USC might not offer him. UCLA has also offered Zach Follett from Clovis (Calif.) High, but he's leaning heavily to USC, even though the Trojans could also not offer him. Chris Jeske from Joliet (Ill.) Catholic is another that UCLA has offered.

There are also a number of players who are on the offer cusp, and good senior seasons and/or good showings at UCLA's camps this month could garner an offer.

CORNERBACK (1 Ride)

UCLA probably has the most depth at cornerback than any position on the team.

But again, it's a question of just bodies over talented bodies.

In the 2005 season UCLA will have Glenn Ohaeri as a senior, Marcus Cassel as a senior, Jebiaus Brown as a junior, Mil'Von James as a junior, Joe Garcia as a junior, Trey Brown as a sophomore, and incoming recruits Rodney Van, Byron Velega and Michael Norris as probably redshirt freshmen.

That's nine bodies. But the question is: Among those bodies, who's talented enough to have a big impact as a starter? Among the younger guys and incoming recruits, you might expect Rodney Van to be a considerable talent. Everyone else hasn't yet proven it while being at UCLA or will have to prove it when they arrive this fall.

So, again, UCLA has good numbers, but questions about talent level. And, like with the defensive tackles, that can be limiting when it comes to recruiting since you have so many scholarships dedicated to one position but still need more available to find those big, impact players.

With those numbers at the position, though, UCLA will be limited to probably taking just one cornerback. Especially with the prospect of Aaron Ware possibly finding his future at cornerback as opposed to running back (even though he very well could be suited for safety).

There's good news with the class of 2005, though. There are quite a few talented cornerback recruits that like UCLA. Probably atop the list is Syd'Quan Thompson from Sacramento (Calif.) Grant; and Cary Harris from Sherman Oaks (Calif.) Notre Dame. Grant Crunkleton from Denver (Col.) Mullen, Kevin Thomas from Oxnard (Calif.) Rio Mesa, and Gardner McKay from Los Angeles (Calif.) Crenshaw could be close to getting offers. In fact, McKay, who is a heavy Bruin lean, is believed to be coming to UCLA's one-day camp, and if he gets an offer from the camp, could commit.

SAFETY (1-2 Rides)

The safety positions aren't as deep as the cornerback positions when you project a couple of years down the line, but perhaps more talented. On the 2005 roster will be Jarrad Page as a senior, Eric McNeal as a junior, and Chris Horton and Dennis Keyes as sophomores. McNeal has proven that he's a potential starter and Horton and Keyes have gotten great reviews in practice. But if, say, Page decides to put his name in early for the NFL draft after next season, UCLA will be talented, but thin, and in need of some reinforcements. And they'll need them anyway by the 2006 season.

UCLA is looking good on the safety recruiting front, with many elite-level recruits having UCLA high or at the top of their list. Among those that UCLA has offered are Robert Kibble from Houston (Tex.) Westfield; Reggie Smith from Edmond (Okla.) Santa Fe; Sean Smalls from Richmond (Virg.) Huguenot; Will Harris from Covina (Calif.) Charter Oak; Shawn Oatis from Chino (Calif.) High, and Patrick Trahan from New Orleans (Louisiana) St. Augustine. UCLA looks to have a very good shot at Kibble, Smalls, Harris, and Oatis, at least.

There are also potentially elite prospects emerging, like Brett Johnson from Henderson (Nev.) Green Valley, who is a long-time UCLA fan.


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