Perhaps the most pressing football recruiting issue right now concerns the JC players UCLA is recruiting, since the JC signing period begins today, December 19th. Patrick Pierre-Louis, LB, 6-2, 225, Glendale CC, has essentially verbally committed to UCLA, but getting information on him, or being able to contact him has been very difficult. Sources from the JC ranks confirm that Pierre-Louis is a verbal to UCLA, but it's uncertain if he'll sign a NLI or will be enrolled in winter quarter. It's thought, though, that he'll be enrolled at least by spring quarter and be out for UCLA spring practice.
Information on the JC defensive tackle who visited UCLA, Ryan Boschetti, is even murkier. Boschetti is even more difficult to contact, with his JC coach working like a sentinel at the gate. It's known that Boschetti was considering other schools, but when he was on his UCLA trip, he told a number of other recruits who were also on their trips at the time that he was coming to UCLA. Another source close to the JC situation said he had heard that Boschetti was going to UCLA. He was apparently still supposed to be taking an official visit possibly to Arizona. So, there is only second-hand information at this point on Boschetti.
I'll continue to try to contact both Pierre-Louis and Boschetti as the JC signing period continues. Remember, both JC recruits would come to UCLA this year and go against last year's scholarship count…
…Which means that UCLA still would have nine scholarships remaining to give to the current high school senior class.
HANDICAPPING THE RECRUITS
Possibly the best way to go about predicting which prospects will fill those last nine scholarships is to provide a percentage of the chances of them coming to UCLA.
Antwuan Smith, WR, – 92%. Generally the feeling after his trip is that he's the best bet to come to UCLA. He'll probably take his trip to Oregon January 11th, but should decide soon after.
Alex Potasi, OL – 90%. Along with Smith, Potasi is a pretty sure thing. His two leaders are UCLA and Washington and after tripping to both, UCLA leads. Expect him to verbal to UCLA soon after his Cal trip on the 11th.
Wesley Walker, LB – 88%. Publicly he's saying UCLA is tied with Oregon and Stanford, while he's already visited both Oregon and Stanford. Privately, sources say he's told them that he's going to UCLA. You can probably expect him to verbally commit on his UCLA visit January 11th.
Rhema McKnight, WR – 60%. Even though he plays it pretty close to the vest and seems like he's looking elsewhere some close to the situation are pretty convinced he's going to UCLA. He tripped to Florida last weekend and no one has spoken to him since. He tripped to Oregon the week before, and he'll take more out-of-state visits. Expect him to commit late.
Aaron Miller, DB – 60%. UCLA leads and has a really good shot because it doesn't seem like he'll want to leave home, and wants to be in L.A., close to his mom. He'll probably hold out at least through his trip to USC on January 18th, and maybe Oklahoma on January 25th, so expect him to be a late commit also.
Winston Justice, OL – 60%. The most entertaining prospect of the season, Justice tells just about anything to anyone. Which is fun, isn't it? After his Washington trip, he moved them into a tie with UCLA and USC. But he doesn't even have a plan to visit USC, and there are many close to the situation that believe he'll commit to UCLA on his trip January 11th. The percentage for him might be a little low, but you have to figure in Justice's unpredictability here.
Willie Gaston, DB – 55%. It's UCLA or Houston, so you'd think UCLA would have an edge. But his brother goes to Houston and it's his home, so there are some strong ties to overcome. UCLA has a slight edge merely because of the fact it's a bigger program that Houston and he has yet to take his trip to UCLA.
Jarrad Page, S – 55%. This might be lower than what you would expect for Page, but Washington is a serious contender here, even though sources say UCLA is a strong leader. He'll visit Oregon State January 4th, Washington January 11th and Oregon January 18th. You can expect Page to make it at least through his Washington trip – and if he's made it that far, probably make it through his Oregon trip before he decides. By his Washington trip, the UCLA trip will have been almost a month ago and be fairly faint in his memory. And Washington is turning out to be a good trip for recruits this season, so watch out for Washington.
Mike Nixon, DB – 54%. It's hard predicting what Nixon will do since he hasn't spoken to anyone in quite a while. He had said for a long time that UCLA was his preference, and now that UCLA has offered you would think UCLA would be in the driver's seat, but Washington and Stanford are coming on strong, two schools that have recently been hard to beat for UCLA in recruiting.
Marcus O'Keith, RB -- 52%. With one last visit to Cal left, UCLA has a slight edge over Washington right now, merely because it's close to home and his teammate, Potasi, is leaning to UCLA. But we've heard that O'Keith isn't as sold as Potasi.
Glenn Ohaeri, RB – 50%. Probably the surprise here for most. You'd think Ohaeri would be in the 70% range, given the fact that it's really between UCLA and Cal. We've been discounting Cal for a while, but this could be the prospect that Cal wins. He's always liked Cal, even when they were winless, and his parents like Cal. The new coach Tedford, will sell Ohaeri on getting a chance at immediate playing time and the good running games he had at Oregon.
Trent Edwards, QB -- 40%. If it's between UCLA and Stanford, Stanford gets the edge since it was previously his favorite and his parents prefer him there.
Thomas Bachman, WR -- 40%. Another kid who has gone into hiding somewhat, the general feeling is that, the further away from his UCLA trip the more unlikely he's not a Bruin. Texas Tech has been on him a long time and is probably still on him hard. He said a while back he could commit around this time.
Fred Matua, DL -- 40%. Schools outside of California are a longshot. So, if he likely picks between the L.A. schools, USC right now is thought to have an edge.
Brandon Gray, OL -- 25%. His percentage is only this low because more than likely UCLA won't get to him. But if offered, he'd come.
Keith Jackson, OL -- 25%. UCLA is in a mysterious steep decline with Jackson. We'll see if they have the desire to try to salvage it. Convincing him to take an official visit to UCLA is key to that salvation.
Hershel Dennis, RB -- 20%. He said recently that he was sure he'd go to Washington, Oregon or USC, then later said UCLA has a chance. But it probably isn't a very significant one. UCLA has going for it the fact that he'll trip to UCLA last.
Nathan Rhodes, OL -- 20%. Looking very unlikely at this point. It didn't look good a few weeks ago when he had UCLA as such an early visit and it seemed like he was moving somewhat down UCLA's OL priority list.
Justin London, LB -- 20%. There hasn't been an update lately on London, but to get him out of the east looks like a longshot.
Zach Latimer, LB -- 15%. UCLA is trailing Miami, Oklahoma and Colorado big.
The Potential Scenario: It's probably a good bet that Smith, Potasi and Walker will receive three of the last nine remaining scholarships. The three will probably commit by mid-January. Justice will probably commit by mid-month also. So, that's four. Gaston shouldn't wait too much after his January 11th trip to decide, and neither should Ohaeri or O'Keith. It's a good bet that UCLA gets one or two among those three. So, UCLA should probably have three or four left, say, heading into late January. Those could potentially be filled by Page, McKnight, Nixon and Miller, who all will more than likely be making up their minds late.
THE WAY THE POTENTIAL CLASS LOOKS (INCLUDING JCs)
Filling in the possible commits (going over the 25 limit) gives you a better look at how this class fills out from a position standpoint and what needs it fills. Possible commits are in brackets.
QB – Moore, Olson – Obviously a huge position of need. If UCLA had a solid quarterback situation right now, the addition of Moore and Olson would appear much better, since you could project them, with a redshirt year and some development time, as being very good eventually. But the idea that either or both of these two would be rushed into contributing next year makes the class of the two of them not as satisfactory. If UCLA gets Edward, who is more ready to come in and immediately compete, it would really go along way to filling UCLA's need at the position.
RB – [O'Keith], [Ohaeri] – Not really a position of need and if UCLA missed on O'Keith, Ohaeri and Dennis it wouldn't be a big blow since the position looks to be okay depth-wise for a while.
FB – Groves – With two senior fullbacks leaving, Groves is vital. In fact, it would seem someone else on the roster might be needed to make the move to fullback next year for depth.
TE – Lewis, Hair – Lewis looks to get immediate playing time here and battle Keith Carter for the #2 TE spot next year. With Carter, Lewis and Hair, it gives good depth at TE for a while.
OL – Chai, [Potasi], [Justice]. After UCLA got five commits last year on the OL, we kept saying this recruiting season is a good opportunity to go after the really elite. Chai is one of the best on the west coast. Justice probably is the best on the west coast. And then it might not be a bad idea to take a chance with a guy who has the physical tools in Potasi but needs development. A class of Chai, Potasi and Justice would be pretty close to perfect: Chai, the talented true guard type (which UCLA needed); Justice, the elite prospect, and Potasi to develop.
WR – [Smith], [McKnight] – A real position of need and without a commitment yet, the biggest worry of this year's recruiting. It helps that Junior Taylor comes in for spring, but UCLA still needs two WRs to come into the program next fall. Smith is solid, but McKnight is the potential star that you need to bring in at WR once a year. Just speculating, but with the number of prospects UCLA could get at DB, perhaps Idris Moss could move over to wide receiver.
DT – Niusulu, [Boschetti], [Matua] – Being a position of need with this class, if UCLA gets Matua, it would be considered a success. If it gets Boschetti, it would really help and be a solid class. If it just gets Niusulu, it would have to be considered a tough loss. Not that Niusulu isn't good – he's very good – but UCLA needs to get at least two DTs. Getting Boschetti with Niusulu only really gets you 1 ½ DTs since Boschetti is a JC transfer.
DE – Harbour, Patton, (Lewis) – Without anyone else really on the radar, UCLA did okay at DE. Harbour has the potential to star. But if Marcedes Lewis will play some substantial minutes at DE, then this is a great class at the position.
LB – Burgess, Joseph, [Pierre-Louis], [Walker]. If UCLA gets Pierre-Louis and adds Walker, it will help with numbers on the depth chart, but it remains to be seen if UCLA did anything toward really getting the elite talent it needs at the position. This is a situation that really only time will tell how these prospects will pan out. You would hope that one of the four, at least, would go beyond expectation.
CB – Garcia, Moss, Brown, [Miller], [Gaston] – It's a good class as it is, but if UCLA gets Miller, it's an excellent class. Gaston would be icing on the cake.
S – McNeal, [Page], [Nixon] – with McNeal alone it's good. If it adds Page, great. Throw in Nixon, excellent.
K – Medlock – Filled a need to keep the kicking/punting game solid for a while.