The real value of a recruiting class, however, is how it feels the needs of the program.
With offensive lineman Chris Johnson leaving the team for medical reasons (he'll stay on a medical scholarship to complete his education), UCLA actually had ten scholarships available to the 2007 class and filled them with ten commitments.
So, it wasn't a big class, but then again, with so few seniors leaving the program this year, UCLA didn't have big needs to fill.
Overall, UCLA did do well in filling needs at many positions, but not so well at others.
Quarterback: Getting Chris Forcier, the 6-3 QB from San Diego St. Augustine, and getting him early, was critical for UCLA. The Bruins definitely needed a quarterback in this class. Ben Olson and Pat Cowan are both juniors next season, and Osaar Rashan will be a redshirt sophomore. Walk-on true freshman McLeod Bethel-Thompson, luckily, was very impressive for a walk-on freshman, and actually has a chance to be a solid potential back-up at the position. Forcier was very needed, since UCLA didn't get a quarterback in last year's recruiting class, and by the time Olson and Cowan graduate, there would only be one scholarship quarterback in the program in Rasshan. Plus, Rasshan has yet to truly prove that he can contribute at this level, much less be the starter. The year after Olson/Cowan graduate, Rasshan will be a redshirt senior, McLeod a redshirt junior and Forcier a redshirt sophomore. UCLA will need to bring in one quarterback in both of the next two classes to have the cupboard properly stocked with scholarship quarterbacks over the next few years. Forcier will be interesting, since he's so athletic, and it could open up dimensions in Karl Dorrell's offense – the kind of dimensions they'd like to employ with Rasshan, but he has yet shown the ability to throw the ball consistently to make them viable. Forcier throws the ball much better than Rasshan at the same stage. UCLA did a good job to get Forcier early, and lock down the position. They offered Forcier and Aaron Corp (USC's commitment) early, with the intention of taking the first to commit, which was Forcier. Many forget that Corp had UCLA at the top of his list at the time. Forcier is key, since he projects to being a potential All Pac-10 level quarterback, and after Olson/Cowan leave the program, there was a big question mark in terms of future talent at the position for UCLA.
Running Back: Since Raymond Carter, the 6-0, 195-pounder from Los Angeles Crenshaw, had a limited senior year due to injury and Crenshaw not being a running team, he's been somewhat forgotten. If you remember, however, Carter was getting a great deal of hype last spring. When we saw him at the B2G Camp and the Scout.com Combine, he was very impressive, with size, speed, agility and the ability to catch the ball well out of the backfield. He was still gangly, too, which is actually promising; it indicates that his body has quite a bit of upside and potential to grow. Just like getting Forcier, it was big that UCLA got Carter, since UCLA, like at QB, missed on tailbacks in the 2006 class (you can make an argument with Chane Moline). UCLA will have only upperclassmen in the running back ranks next year, so they were desperately in need of more. And Carter isn't just a body – he is probably the best running back recruit to come into the program since Maurice Drew. Being forgottten somewhat, many are overlooking right now just how good Carter is. He will be the only running back on the squad that has speed and size next season. Getting immediate playing time will probably depend on his strength, since he is still kind of skinny. If he comes into UCLA bulked up a bit and stronger, say, weighing in the 205 range, look for him to have a good shot at not redshirting and being an option at running back. UCLA returns a 1,000-yard rusher in Chris Markey, and Derrick Williams, in the second half of the season, looked like he was now a good second option. Kahlil Bell also returns, as a junior, and you have Moline as your short-gain guy. Looking further down the line, it was very critical that UCLA get a running back of the caliber of Carter since Markey and Williams graduate after next year. It was a big get for UCLA, in terms of talent and need. Carter was a bit on the fence academically, but got past UCLA's academic admissions committee. If he had been lost to academics, it would have been a huge blow to the recruiting class and the program in terms of depth and talent at running back. It would have been two years in a row that UCLA didn't bring in a true tailback, which is enough to be the death knell for a program. Bob Toledo's inability to bring in a quarterback for a couple of years is probably the biggest single factor that got him fired, and quarterback and running back are probably the two most critical positions on the football field.
Tight End: UCLA looks like it's fairly deep at the position, until you really look at the depth chart. William Snead will be a senior, and Logan Paulsen and Ryan Moya will be juniors next season. Scott Glicksberg will be a junior, but he'll probably never get real time at the position, and Adam Heater, who will be a redshirt sophomore, isn't more than a serviceable back-up. So the Bruins, even with many bodies, needed a tight end for 2007. In getting Nate Chandler, the 6-5, 240-pounder from San Diego Mira Mesa, UCLA is hoping it has its starter when Paulsen and Moya graduate. Chandler is ranked the #1 tight end in the west, and that could be a bit misleading since it's a down year in the west generally for tight ends. He has good skills, but isn't a knock-out athlete. Hopefully he'll be able to become the player UCLA needs him to be.
Offensive Line: UCLA will be bringing in just four offensive prospects for 2007 – Forcier, Carter, Chandler and offensive lineman Mike Harris, the 6-5, 305-pounder from Duarte High. It was arguable whether UCLA should have offered Harris for a while; they had given out so many scholarships to OLs in the 2006 class and had so few scholarships to give to 2007. Really, there were a small handful of recognized elite OL prospects on the west coast, and UCLA didn't really have a good shot with any of them. Harris came to UCLA's camp in spring and looked decent. He had good size, but only moved adequately, showing a lack of good lateral agility. At the time, he didn't appear worthy of a scholarship offer. Apparently, his agility improved by football season, as some scouts claimed. The fact that Harris was a good student, too, helped his cause, since his contributions to the team's overall academic standing would assist in getting other marginally academic recruits in. UCLA will be pretty deep at OL for a while, even with five seniors graduating after next season. Harris, who projects as a guard, though, will be among many guys on the team that have to step up and prove themselves at the position in the future – like Nick Ekbatani, Sonny Tevaga, Brandon Bennett, and Sean Sheller. So it's not as if Harris has a few guys ahead of him that have proven themselves yet. Harris was starting to get looks and offers from the likes of Arizona and Oregon State, but he wanted to come to UCLA, so it was, all in all, probably a good move to offer him, especially since, as it turns out, there was a scholarship open for him.
The Rest of the Offense:
The one glaring under-achievement in this recruiting class is at wide receiver. UCLA needed one in this class and didn't get one. It will graduate three receivers next year, and then have a few guys who haven't proven they can play at this level, besides Terrence Austin, who UCLA is confident will be a big contributor. But after Austin, there is Gavin Ketchum, Jamil Turner, Ryan Graves, and Dominique Johnson – five guys that haven't exactly lit up the Spaulding practice field. UCLA really likes Johnson as a big possession-type receiver, but we're still skeptical whether he has the quickness to get open. Turner hasn't shown he can play and there are rumors he'll transfer. Graves looks like a solid punt returner, but hasn't proven himself at receiver. Ketchum is someone you'd hope would step up, after looking so good in fall camp his freshman year. But he's been quiet every since and seemingly in the coaches' doghouse. So, UCLA needed a receiver and struck out. In the end, it was looking all over the country for one, but couldn't lure one in.
UCLA didn't need a fullback with this class, but it will for 2008, losing Mike Pitre and Jimmy Stephens in the next two years. Moline will be able to play the position, but UCLA will still need at least one more good body there along with him.
Defensive Tackle: While we're discussing positional need, UCLA probably didn't have as big a need from a depth standpoint at defensive tackle as some other positions for 2007. Even though it will lose its two starters after next year (Kevin Brown and Brigham Harwell), it has a crop of young DTs in the program, like Chase Moline, Jess Ward, Jerzy Siewierski, Andy Keane and Darius Savage. But if you're talking need, any program always has a need for someone as talented as Price. He'll be one of the most talented players to come to UCLA under Dorrell, combining very good size and agility with a great burst off the ball. He's so good, he'll have a chance to leapfrog over some of the younger guys already in the program and make the two-deep backing up Brown or Harwell next season. And that'd be good, because you want him to have experience to step in as starter in 2008 as a true sophomore. He was a huge get for Dorrell, and even more huge since it was one of very few elite prospects that Dorrell, since he's been at UCLA, had to beat out the big boys to get. UCLA, under Dorrell, has seen itself commonly recruiting against Arizona, ASU, San Diego State, and the like, but with Price, they clearly beat out USC. How Price stuck to his commitment, even after getting bombarded by USC for so long, in an era where most of the elite recruits are lining up to play at USC, has to make Price one of your favorite prospects and players at UCLA, without him even playing a down yet.
Defensive End: After the 2006 class, UCLA is also decently stocked at defensive end. Among the young players on UCLA's roster at the position are Chinonso Anyanwu, David Carter, Dylan Rush, and Jeff Miller. So, UCLA didn't pursue and get Justin Edison, the 6-4, 2345-pound DE prospect from Los Angeles Verbum Dei, because they were in need of guys. The Bruins took Edison because they thought he was a sleeper, and had a great deal of potential, they could get him, and he was a good student. Edison has only played football for a year, and many observers think he has a chance to be a monster. Oregon State recognized that early, and they offered and he committed. He was later offered by Arizona and Cal, but when UCLA offered he de-committed from OSU and committed to the Bruins. It was a situation where, late in the recruiting season, you have a Pac-10 level player who has a great deal of potential, with good academics, who wants to come, and you really have to take him. And it didn't hurt that Edison is teammates with Akeem Ayers, who UCLA wanted to keep committed.
Linebacker: UCLA hadn't recruited really well at linebacker under Dorrell. Eight linebackers have come in while Dorrell has been coach and really only two have proven to be starter-worthy so far – Christian Taylor and Reggie Carter. We might be discounting Tobi Umodu, the true freshman, but with the average talent UCLA has had at linebacker, if you're good enough you'd be playing as a true freshman. Then, to compound matters, UCLA only brings in one LB last season (Umodu). So, it's not surprising, with just 10 scholarships, UCLA actually used two of them on linebacker prospects – Akeem Ayers and Steve Sloan. Ayers has a chance to be a big impact guy, perhaps pretty early in his career at UCLA, mostly because there isn't a great deal of big impacts guys ahead of him on the UCLA depth chart. Ayers has great ability, with very good aggressiveness and a natural instinct for the ball. His issue is the one that's been much discussed – his tweenerism. At 6-3 and 225, he's the size of a linebacker, but he plays more like a defensive end. He could develop into a Bruce Davis type of guy. In fact, Ayers' body might be more conducive (wider, thicker frame) to being a defensive end than Davis. UCLA would love to have him plug in at linebacker, giving UCLA some good size at a position that is vastly under-sized for them. Sloan does have the size and is the prototypical middle linebacker, at 6-3 and 230. Sloan might be getting overlooked a bit here in this class, but he was really key. UCLA needed linebackers and what if Ayers ends up with his hand down? Getting Sloan, a guy who projects to play middle linebacker and is a potential all Pac-10 type, was huge.
Safety: UCLA got Glenn Love, the 6-4, 205 pounder from Arizona, late in the game, and he was much needed in this class. UCLA is probably the thinnest on its entire roster at defensive back, and will get considerable thinner after next year when it loses five defensive backs to graduation. With the loss of Robert Kibble, there are only three safeties on the roster that will be at UCLA in 2008 – Bret Lockett, Aaron Ware and Christian Ramirez. Lockett is looking like a solid starter-type, but Ware and Ramirez are still question marks at this time. The issue about Love, however, is not whether he's a player (after missing his junior year, he had a great senior year and Pac-10 schools like Cal were jumping on the bandwagon), but where he'll play. He could very well be a safety, but he could end up being too big and not quite fast enough. He could, however, with 25 more pounds, be a pretty quick linebacker. UCLA wants him as a safety, since they're thin there. It will be interesting to watch whether that's Love's best position.
Cornerback: UCLA is in dire need of cornerbacks. It luckily got a commitment from Courtney Viney, the #2-ranked cornerback in the west for 2007 early. But it also wanted another, and missed on quite a few across the country. It even had a commitment from Chris Conte, who UCLA was hoping could play corner, even though he was probably more suited at safety, until Conte ultimately signed with Cal. UCLA will lose four cornerbacks in the next two years to graduation, which will leave them with just Alterraun Verner and Viney. So, it wasn't just good they got Viney, who is talented, at a position of need, but it was vital. In other words, UCLA will be going hard after cornerbacks in the class of 2008.
UCLA, in terms of recruiting, was in critical condition at quarterback, running back and linebacker, and it got not just good talent, but potentially difference-makers at those positions. It had a strong need at receiver, and struck out. It has a need at cornerback and needed two in this class, but got just one.
It got elite talent in Price, at a position where it is traditionally the toughest for most programs, particularly UCLA, to find elite talent.
The staff rode the 10-2 season from 2005 to some early big commitments, from a caliber of recruit it really hadn't seen much of under Dorrell. Price, Carter, Forcier, and Ayers are four of probably the top ten recruits Dorrell has brought in at UCLA – all in one recruiting class. When the 2006 season wasn't going well, the staff succeeded in keeping those guys on board, and it was walking a very tenuous line in losing some of them, either to other schools or to academics. Getting commitments from the first seven (Price, Carter, Viney, Forcier, Ayers, Chandler and Sloan) by summer, weathering the tough times during the season and hanging on to all of them was probably the best recruiting accomplishment of Dorrell's tenure at UCLA.
The class could have been better had it gotten a good receiver and another good cornerback. If it had done that, the class would clearly have been Dorrell's best, and best at filling needs. Without those, it still is good, and probably the best in terms of talent per recruit, while it missed a bit in satisfying all of UCLA's recruiting needs.
It sets the stage for really the make-or-break, big year for Dorrell. It will be a critical one for his program on the field in 2007, and in recruiting. UCLA will have at least 23 scholarships to give to the 2008 class, and the trend of more elite recruits – the type that USC actually covets – liking UCLA appears to be continuing on with this next class. If Dorrell does well on the field, and then well in recruiting for 2008, he could have enough talent to propel the program into a top 15 level consistently.
The small, 10-recruit class of 2007 could be remembered as the class in which Dorrell was able to get commitments from more elite recruits, and as a big step up in what could be described as his entree into the VIP room of elite-caliber recruiting.