UCLA currently has a total of 20 scholarships to give to the 2005 class. It was 21 but sophomore long snapper Riley Jondle was granted one this season.
With 14 verbal commitments, that doesn't give UCLA a lot of scholarships to work with between now and signing day in February. But, as always, scholarships tend to open up. You very well could still expect UCLA to gain more scholarships for this class easily by next fall. So, UCLA very well could be planning to have more than 20 scholarships available, and recruiting accordingly.
So, here's a look at UCLA's recruiting needs, by position, and the most likely prospects to fill those needs.
Quarterback -- 1 Commitment, 2 Scholarships Earmarked
There is one scholarship open for a quarterback, and obviously that ride is earmarked for Ben Olson. The 6-5, 230-pounder who went to BYU as a freshman in 2002 and then on a two-year Mormon mission, is the Holy Grail right now for UCLA recruiting. It's a completely different picture of UCLA's future with or without him on the roster. In 2006, with him on the roster, UCLA looks like they would have to just find some talent at linebacker and have a couple of offensive linemen emerge. Without him, there is a huge talent gap at quarterback, projecting Patrick Cowan, a redshirt sophomore, and Osaar Rasshan, a redshirt freshman, as your only two scholarship quarterbacks on the roster.
UCLA, if they didn't get Olson, they'll rely on commitment Osaar Rasshan, the athletic but raw prospect from Pomona (Calif.) Garey. They also probably quickly opt for Chris Turner, the 6-3 senior quarterback at West Hills (Calif.) Chaminade, but Turner isn't someone who would likely take over the position by what would be his redshirt freshman year either. Olson is the big cheese. With him, UCLA's program under Karl Dorrell looks to have a solid future; without him, it looks like they would struggle from a talent drop-off in 2006. And that's not even taking into consideration the additional talent that an Olson commitment might attract.
Tailback - 0 Commitments, 1 Scholarship Earmarked
With the verbal commitment of Michael Houston to Texas, UCLA's prospects are getting thin. Mikell Simpson, the 6-1, 200-pounder from Harrisburg (Penn.) High, is probably UCLA's most high profile possibility. He did suffer an injury to his knee which made him sit out most of his senior season. He came to UCLA on his official visit last weekend, and he said before his visit that Alabama and Virginia were his leaders. Speaking to him after the visit, it sounded like Alabama would be difficult to beat. J.R. Hasty, the 5-10, 200-pound running back from Bellevue (Wash.) remains a real possibility. Hasty is considered a solid prospect, but not necessarily a world beater. It's a down year for running backs on the west coast and in Southern California in particularly, with the best one, Marlon Lucky, with academic questions (which, of course, didn't preclude him from committing to Nebraska). UCLA has been keeping a couple of RBs from California warm - namely Trason Bragg from Los Angeles Loyola and Kahlil Bell from Kenfield Marion Catholic. It will be interesting to see if the Bruins miss on Simpson and Hasty if they'll just not offer a running back at all.
There is also the possibility that Aaron Ware, who is committed to UCLA, could find himself at running back, even though it's thought he's more likely a defensive back.
Fullback -- 0 Commitments, ? Earmarked
With limited scholarships to give out overall, UCLA has been reluctant to offer fullback prospects. They did offer Mark Paschal from North Carolina. There was a rumor that Pat Roxas, the 6-0, 230-pound prospect from Orange (Calif.) Lutheran, had been offered, but we're relative confident that's not the case. UCLA is recruiting Roxas, though. They are also still recruiting George Hypolite from Loyola. Also, Ryan Moya, UCLA's most recent commitment, could project as a fullback/H-back type, at 6-2 and about 225. He's a very talented pass-catcher out of the backfield and athletic. Bottom line, if there isn't a truly elite prospect at the position, with Michael Pitre a redshirt freshman and a limited number of scholarships, fullback isn't a big priority. UCLA would like to find an elite guy, and possibly someone who could be capable of playing another position, like linebacker, if possible. Whether Roxas and Hypolite are offered could depend on how UCLA does recruiting at other positions in the next month or so.
Tight End -- 3 Commitments, 3 Earmarked
UCLA got an early commitment from Snohomish (Wash.) High's Adam Heater last spring. They recently just got a commitment from Logan Paulsen from West Hills Chaminade and Ryan Moya from El Dorado Hills (Calif.) Oak Ridge. It's very reasonable to expect that Heater, a 6-4, 250-pounder with a good frame and ability to put on bulk, could end up as an offensive lineman. UCLA has indicated that to him and he's aware of it. In fact, there are many recruiting experts that are already counting Heater as an OL recruit. Losing Marcedes Lewis and Keith Carter in the next two years, leaving UCLA with just J.J. Hair at the position as a senior in 2006, is a daunting prospect. So, UCLA wanted to sign two tight ends in the class of 2006. Paulsen is definitely one of them. He is about 6-4, possibly even 6-5, but pretty skinny, weighing about 220. He'll need those two years to gain some bulk to be able to play extensive minutes as a redshirt freshman in 2006. Paulsen, despite his thinness, is a great pass-catching tight end, with very good hands and route-running ability. He's also, by the way, a very good defensive end. The other option is Ryan Moya, who just verbally committed this week. Moya is also a very talented pass-catcher, also limited in his own way by his size. At 6-2 and about 225, he's a bit smallish for a Pac-10-level tight end. With good quickness and hands, though, he's an excellent pass receiver, but it would be a question whether he could pass block. Moya is so talented that you take him anyway, give him every opportunity as a tight end since UCLA needs them desperately. But if he doesn't pan out at the position, you have a talented 6-2, 225-pound that could plug in at other places, like fullback or even possibly linebacker. UCLA lacks the athlete in the 6-2 to 6-3, 225-240-pound range across the board, either as tight ends, fullbacks or linebackers, and Moya is exactly the type of exceptional athlete UCLA needs in that mold.
Erik Lorig, the 6-4, 245-pound prospect from Rolling Hills (Calif.) Palos Verdes Peninsula, is another option. Lorig has the size to play tight end in the Pac-10 right now. He's not as accomplished as a receiver as Paulsen or Moya, though. He does have good flexibility and quickness for his size, playing linebacker for his high school. It's thought he'll visit UCLA officially in December. He's another that could end up at another position, possibly defensive end or even defensive tackle, in college. At this point, with two true tight ends in Paulsen and Moya committed, Lorig would probably be continued to be recruited as an athlete.
Charles Brown, the 6-5, 250-pounder from Pomona (Calif.) Diamond Ranch, is another possibility. Brown, a very well-muscles athlete, is raw as a tight end, and many feel he projects down the line as an offensive tackle or defensive end. He had previously verballed to USC, but has since backed away from it because he wants a shot at tight end. UCLA, with the position wide open after Lewis and Carter leave, would probably give him one if he came to Westwood.
Wide Receiver -- Commitments 2, 3 Earmarked
UCLA has taken commitments - and will probably take more - from athlete types, guys who are hard to project at a position but are exceptional athletes enough that you take them and plug them in later. Gavin Ketchum, the 6-4, 200-pound player from Oak Park (Calif.) High, could be another. He is a very good possession receiver, with very good athleticism and pass-catching ability. He, though, very well could be better on the defensive side of the ball, as either a safety or a linebacker down the line. He'll be given a shot at receiver at UCLA and he is good enough to stick there. UCLA got a commitment from Jamil Turner, who is 6-1 and about 190, and from Spanaway (Wash.) Bethel. Turner was somewhat of a sleeper on the recruiting scene, not having any other Pac-10 offers, but he leads the state of Washington in receiving in his senior season. Our very own reporter, Brandon Huffman, saw him this season and thought he was a very good possession-type receiver, with exceptional hands and vertical, which allowed him to go after the ball very well. He's not a speed burner, though. Which leaves another space open for a big-play receiver like Jeremy Childs (6-0, 180), the receiver from Los Alamitos (Calif.) High, who is having a monster year, having caught close to 80 passes for 1,100 yards and 19 touchdowns. Childs isn't a speed burner either, but is very crafty and a good pass catcher.
With limited rides available, and UCLA having a solid number of receivers on its roster already, UCLA very well could hold pat if Childs decides to go elsewhere.
Other possibilities:. Corey Anderson, the 6-1, 180-pound athlete from Van Nuys (Calif.) Birmingham; Deon Tolliver, the skinny, 6-3 receiver from Long Beach Cabrillo, and Brandon Smith, a 6-2 speedster from Bakersfield (Calif.) West, who favors UCLA and has opened eyes during his senior season but could have academic issues; and Bryan Haith, 6-0, 174, from Upland (Calif.) High, who led all of Southern California with 1566 receiving yards on 86 catches, scoring 18 touchdowns. We know that UCLA has spoken with Anderson and Smith about official visits but they haven't been arranged yet. Haith attended a couple of UCLA's home games.
Offensive Line -- 1 Commitment, 3 Earmarked
Projecting a couple of years down the line, to the season of 2006, offensive line is a recruiting concern. Even after taking so many prospects last season, it's still a concern. By the 2006 season, UCLA will have lost starters Steven Vieira and Paul Mociler to graduation this year, and starters Mike McCloskey and Ed Blanton, as well as sometime-starter Robert Cleary, to graduation next year. In 2006, those left on the roster that we know can play will be 2006 projected senior Robert Chai, who will fill either the center or one guard spot, and guard Shannon Tevaga, who will be a true junior that year. Other than that, the other three positions, and the back-up positions, are wide open. The UCLA coaches like Brian Abraham, the true freshman tackle, quite a bit, and he probably projects as a starter in 2006 as a true junior, if not next year as a true sophomore. The two remaining spots are uncertain, with some players having to emerge by then. Probably one who is a good candidate is UCLA's current commit, tackle prospect Aleksey Lanis, the 6-5, 310-pound prospect from Los Angeles (Calif.) Crenshaw. Chris Joseph, the freshman who was lost for the season with a knee injury, is thought to be another who will compete at the tackle position. The other OLs on the roster are P.J. Irvin, the current redshirt freshman; Marc Villafuerte, the JC transfer who is redshirting and will be a sophomore next year; and true freshmen Aaron Meyer and Tony Lee. It's believed that Meyer will have a shot at the guard position. Villafuerte is running as mostly a tackle with the scout team, but it's unknown where he could end up. Lee is working as a tackle, but is very raw and needs to put on some considerable weight. If UCLA can get just one among Meyer, Lee, Villafuerte and Irvin to pan out by 2006, it would be good. Scott Glicksberg and Nathaniel Skaggs moved to defensive tackle during the season, but Glicksberg could make the move back to the OL.
UCLA losing the commitment of Jesse White, an elite interior OL prospect, was significant. He would have projected as the center of the future after McCloskey, and given UCLA another potentially elite talent in this class besides Lanis in UCLA's OL future.
As stated above, tight end commit Adam Heater very likely could end up on the OL. He's about 6-5, and 250-ish, and would bring good agility and quickness to the OL.
But UCLA definitely needs a couple more OL recruits in the 2005 class, to ensure that they'll have some talent to plug in for the 2006 season.
While Charles Brown, if he commits to UCLA, will be able to try his hand at tight end, he very well could end up as an offensive tackle. He's a real possibility for UCLA and, in fact, recent reports have UCLA as co-leaders for him with USC. He'll visit UCLA officially this weekend.
Duke Robinson, the 6-5, 315-pounder from Atlanta (GA.) Washington, is a possibility, but his academics will have to be in order for him to officially visit UCLA. UCLA would probably be running behind Georgia and Oklahoma anyway.
A real possibility is JC OL Charles Owens, formerly of Long Beach Poly, who is currently at Compton College. Owens is a great-looking physical specimen, at about 6-4, and 315 pounds. He is very close with UCLA defensive tackle Kevin Brown, who has been trying to get him to UCLA since Brown came a year ago. Owens has been dominating at Compton College, and UCLA would love to get him, it's just a matter of him qualifying academically.
UCLA is trying hard with Matt Reynolds, the #8-ranked OL in the country, from Provo (Utah) Timpview, but he's almost certainly a lock for BYU.
Paul Duncan, the 6-5 tackle prospect from Dallas (GA) East Paulding, took an official visit in November, but UCLA looks to be a longshot for him.
Arturo Rodriguez, the 6-5, 295-pound prospect from Las Vegas (Calif.) High, is a real option. UCLA went out to see him play a few weeks ago and he could take an official visit in the next month or so.
UCLA could also be getting interested in another Long Beach Poly player, 6-6, 270-pound Justin Brown. UCLA was recently out at Long Beach Poly to take a long look at him. He's attractive because of UCLA's Poly connections, with many Poly grads on UCLA's roster, and the fact that he's a good student, with a GPA over 3.0 and a 1200 SAT.
Andrew Ramer, the 6-4, 280-pounder from Temecula (Calif.) Chaparral, could be an interior line prospect UCLA could offer. He's a big UCLA fan, and has been to many UCLA games. He also could play defense.
Another sleeper name is DeAndre Nichols, 6-3, 275, Los Angeles (Calif.) Manuel Arts. He's attractive since he's also a good student and has had an impressive senior year, and could also play defense. He's had some Pac-10 attention, mostly from ASU.
Other possibilities are Eric Block, 6-3, 275, New Orleans (LA) Jesuit, a
former teammate of current UCLA running back Chris Markey; and Mike Aguayo, 6-5,
270, Los Alamitos, who could also possible play DT. Corona (Calif.)
Centennial. Another JC possibility is Louis Pintola, 6-5, 310, Pasadena City
College, and possibly Sam Downs, 6-3, 275, Grossmont JC and A.J. Slater,
6-5, 300, Santa Ana JC.
But the last two spots might be filled from the likes of Charles Brown, Owens, Rodriguez, Justin Brown or Andrew Ramer. UCLA has been looking around the JC ranks pretty extensively, but we haven't heard of any other JC OL that they're considering seriously.
The look at the Defense is coming soon...