Long-Term Recruiting Analysis

UCLA's football team is relatively young, which bodes well for the future. Here's a look at the projected depth charts for the next couple of years, and an analysis of the team's strengths and what positions UCLA needs to emphasize in recruiting...

Currently UCLA has 21 scholarships open to give for the fall of 2003.

Of course, there are a few with earmarks on them. Four of them are earmarked for the four players who have verbally committed to UCLA: OL P.J. Irvin, OL Jeremy Harrell, WR Alex Ghebreselassie and DB Dennis Keyes. There is also one earmarked for Antwuan Smith, who failed to achieve a qualifying test score by this fall to be qualified academically. Currently Smith is going to a JC and will take another attempt at the SAT this Saturday. If he achieves a qualifying test score he'll enroll at UCLA in time for winter quarter and will be eligible to participate in UCLA's 2003 spring practice, in the same way that Junior Taylor did last year.

So, more than likely, UCLA will have about 20 scholarships open to give for the fall of 2003. Recruiting for 2003, as with any year, is obviously more of a long-term proposition - -that is, figuring out where UCLA's needs will be not for just the 2003 season but for the next few years beyond that. UCLA has a great deal of young talent on the team right now, and as it matures, it's interesting to analyze exactly what will be UCLA's recruiting needs over the next few years. Of course, it's almost impossible to project depth charts because you never know what prospect/player is going to blow up, or which one will be a wash. But we have some pretty solid ideas to base this on.


We start with the defensive line recruiting analysis since it's the aspect of the team in most dire need in regards to recruiting. Here's a projection of the depth chart for the next two years:


DE Dave Ball SR, Asi Faoa SR, David Tautofi SR, *Kirby Joseph R-FR
DT Rod Leisle SR(?), C.J. Niusulu R-FR,
DT Ryan Boschetti SR, Thomas Patton R-FR,
DE Mat Ball SR, Kevin Harbour R FR


DE *Kirby Joseph R-SO
DT C.J. Niusulu, R-SO
DT Thomas Patton, R-SO
DE Kevin Harbour, R-SO

The 2003 season is still relatively solid, especially if Rod Leisle returns for his senior season. If not, then the depth and talent drops off considerably in 2003. But in 2004, UCLA is extremely young and extremely thin. More than likely UCLA will be looking to go to the JUCO ranks at defense line for the next two years to try to shore up the situation. In 2003, you can probably expect UCLA to bring in possibly five defensive linemen. There's a possibility that two of those could be JC players, a tackle and a defensive end. If they were good enough, such as Ryan Boschetti is this year, they could come in and immediately contribute in 2003. But they would mostly be needed for 2004. If they did play in 2003, they obviously would be seniors in 2004, or if they redshirted, juniors. So, if UCLA could get possibly two JC DLs for next fall, that would give them two more either seniors or juniors to plug into the 2004 depth chart. Then, UCLA will probably still need to be looking at the JC ranks for 2004 on its defensive line. One, or possibly two again. From these next two years, UCLA could really use 2-4 JUCO DLs, who would then fill out the 2004 depth chart with 2-4 juniors/seniors.

Then you could figure UCLA will get more depth and potential contributors from the incoming freshmen DLs of 2003, which could number at least three, and possibly more if UCLA can't get enough JUCO DLs. With the type of talent UCLA is recruiting among the current high school seniors on the DL, there are at least a few that could easily come in and make the two-deep as true freshmen, given UCLA's situation in 2003. They could also easily earn a starting spot as a true sophomore in 2004. It's a great recruiting opportunity for UCLA to sell to the high school senior crop of DLs it's recruiting -- the possibility of very early playing time.

Number of recruits needed for 2003: At least 4, if not 5.

*Kirby Joseph more than likely projects as a defensive end rather than a strongside backer.


UCLA brought in five linebackers (if you count Joseph) this fall, but it's two-deep will need some help in the next two years of recruiting.


SSLB Brandon Chillar SR, Tim Warfield JR, Xavier Burgess R-FR
MLB Justin London SO, Dennis Link SR, Patrick Pierre-Louis JR
WSLB Spencer Havner SO, Wesley Walker SO


SSLB Tim Warfield SR, Xavier Burgess R-SO
MLB Justin London JR, Patrick Pierre-Louis SR
WSLB Spencer Havner JR, Wesley Walker JR

2003 looks very good. You would expect that Chillar and Havner will be improved and if you can get London to be solid as a sophomore at middle linebacker, you're looking good.

UCLA would like to bring in two linebackers in 2003. One priority would be possibly find a star at SSLB who would be able to start by 2004. Playing two true freshmen this year at linebacker (London and Walker) and not burning their redshirt year will make it neccesary to also bring in a middle or weakside backer who would be a redshirt freshman in 2004.

Spencer Havner potentially starting for four years at one linebacker position is such a luxury, and just his presence for four years brings such continuity and solidity to the linebacker position for the next few years.

Number of recruits needed for 2003: 1-2.

*Xavier Burgess is now projected as a strongside backer.


Because of the youth on squad, UCLA projects particularly well at defensive back, especially having gotten a commitment from who many believe is an elite player and vastly underrated one in Dennis Keyes.


CB Matt Clark JR, Keith Short SR, Marcus Cassel R-SO, Joe Garcia R-FR
SS Jarrad Page SO, Eric McNeal R-FR, Dennis Keyes FR
FS Ben Emanuel JR, Jibril Raymo JR, Kevin Brant SR
CB Matt Ware JR, Glenn Ohaeri SO, Jebiaus Brown R-FR


CB Matt Clark SR, Marcus Cassel R-JR, Joe Garcia R-SO
SS Jarrad Page JR, Eric McNeal R-SO, Dennis Keyes R-FR?
FS Ben Emanuel SR, Jibril Raymo SR
CB Matt Ware SR, Glenn Ohaeri JR, Jebiaus Brown R-SO

This is one aspect of the team for the next two years to be very excited about, mostly because, if everything goes as planned, you'll have three starters at three of the positions for the next three years, which would be phenomenal. Going on how talented they are now, it's particularly exciting to think about Clark, Ware, Emanuel and Raymo as seniors and Clark, Ohaeri and Cassel as juniors in 2004. And then throw in a developed Joe Garcia, Jebiaus Brown and Eric McNeal.

UCLA would probably like to bring in a bigger cornerback, since behind Ware is Clark and Ohaeri, both 5-9. Brown and Garcia both have good size, though. Down the line if McNeal eventually wins the strong safety position, Keyes could easily move to free safety.

Number of recruits needed for 2003: 2-3 (that includes Keyes).


UCLA has some young talent at quarterback, but needs to consistently bring in one good prospect a year. It would be a very good thing if they could for the 2003 season. There is a good fit for a quarterback who could come in and immediately play, since next fall he'd only be competing against a true sophomore, a redshirt sophomore and a redshirt freshman for playing time. Not exactly experienced incumbent players that have the position locked up. It would also be a great situation for UCLA to get a player to come in who has potential but needs time to develop. If he came in and redshirted, you would then have a pretty nice depth chart of Olson and Sciarra in the same year, Moore a year behind them and then this prospect a year behind Moore for two years (2004 and 2005). Of course, quarterback recruiting never tends to work out the way you draw it up in a perfect scenario.


Drew Olson SO, John Sciarra R-SO, Matt Moore R-FR


Drew Olson JR, John Sciarra R-JR, Matt Moore R-SO

With the talent and depth UCLA will generally have on its roster in 2003 and 2004, the big question that will probably determine how well UCLA does in those years will be: Can UCLA get good production from its young quarterbacks? If Olson is good in 2003, and both Olson and Moore are as good as their talent has flashed this year in practice by 2004, it would be really be the key to the personnel puzzle for the next two years, besides the major one at defensive line.

Number of recruits needed for 2003: 1 (2 possibly, but not likely).


It's almost now accepted that no matter how many times it looks like UCLA is starting to get ahead of the game on offensive line depth it loses an offensive lineman or two. So, while the projected depth charts look pretty solid, UCLA still needs to recruit well at OL for the next couple of years.


T Ed Blanton R-SO, Matt Mosebar R-SO, Elliot Vallejo R-FR
G Eyoseph Efseaff JR, Robert Cleary R-SO, P.J. Irvin FR
C Mike McCloskey R-SO, Robert Chai R-FR
G Shane Lehmann SR, Paul Mociler JR, Jeremy Harrell FR
T Steve Vieira JR, Alex Potasi R-FR


T Ed Blanton R-JR, Matt Mosebar R-JR, Elliot Vallejo R-SO
G Eyoseph Efseaff SR, Robert Cleary R-JR, P.J. Irvin R-FR
C Mike McCloskey R-JR, Robert Chai R-SO
G Paul Mociler SR, Jeremy Harrell R-FR
T Steve Vieira SR, Alex Potasi R-SO

Speculating, it seems likely that in 2003 Lehmann, in his senior year, would step into the starting guard position and Vieira would move to tackle, in an effort to get UCLA's best five OLs on the field. In 2004, it would probably be between Potasi at tackle and Mociler at guard for who would be the best among those two, and thus dictating where Vieira might play.

But the UCLA offensive line, if it stays healthy and keeps a majority of these players in the program, might be finally reaching the point that it's reloading offensive linemen every year. In 2003, it should have three returning starters, a former starter and senior (Lehmann) stepping in to start, and Blanton. In 2004, it will start three seniors (when's the last time that happened?) and two juniors (when's the last time it started all seniors and juniors?). Two will be four-year starters, one a three-year starter, and another a two-year starter.

Projecting down the line, with Irvin and Harrell already in the boat, it looks like UCLA would need tackle types.

Number of recruits needed for 2003: 3 or 4, depending on how many elite prospects wanted to come (these numbers include Harrell and Irvin).


UCLA looks good for fall of 2003 at wide receiver, but then suddenly needs a talent infusion in its depth. And you'd want to bring in that talent in the fall of 2003 to get them up to playing level by 2004. Tight end needs also depth.


FL Tab Perry SR, Garrett Lepisto SR, Jacques Lazarus R-SO, Josh Roenicke R-SO, Alex Ghebreselassie FR

SE Craig Bragg JR, Ryan Smith SR, Junior Taylor SO, Idris Moss R-FR, Antwuan Smith FR

TE Marcedes Lewis SO, Keith Carter R-SO, Blane Kezirian SR, J.J. Hair R-FR 


FL Junior Taylor JR, Jacques Lazarus R-JR, Josh Roenicke R-JR, Alex Ghebreselassie R-FR

SE Craig Bragg SR, Idris Moss R-SO, Antwuan Smith R-FR

TE Marcedes Lewis JR, Keith Carter JR , J.J. Hair R-SO

If Junior Taylor lives up to the potential that he's showing so far this season, the talent at the top projects to be very good for the next couple of years. But you just don't know who among Moss, Smith, Lazarus, Roenicke or Ghebreselassie will pan out and be able to contribute. UCLA's recent wide receiver history has been similar to its offensive line history in losing players. UCLA has a rotation of at least three wide receivers that see significant time, and after Perry, Bragg and Taylor in 2003, and Bragg and Taylor in 2004, there is a pretty wide open door for a newcomer to come in and contribute pretty quickly. Moss, who is very quick, could be moved to defensive back. Lazarus is among the best athletes on the team but his light has come on. If it does, he has the potential to be a contributor. It's still up in the air whether Smith comes to UCLA. Ghebreselassie is getting rave reviews so far for his senior season.

At tight end, UCLA needs to carry at least three, if not four, tight ends. It needs to bring in one for 2003, and then one for 2004. A talented receiver-type would also enable the coaches to move Marcedes out to receiver more often.  Hair is probably a long-term project and UCLA. 

Number of WR recruits needed for 2003: 3 (probably, so that means two more besides Ghebreselassie).

Number of TE recruits needed for 2004: 1


UCLA appears to be more stocked actually than they really are at running back. It could really behoove the program to bring in a big-impact tailback this season. And it definitely needs to continue to bring in talent at fullback.


TB Manuel White JR, Tyler Ebell R-SO, Akil Harris SR, Wendell Mathis R-SO, Jason Harrison R-SO

FB J.D. Groves SO, Pat Norton R-JR, Ray Cassaday R-JR


TB Manuel White SR, Tyler Ebell R-JR, Wendell Mathis R-JR, Jason Harrison R-JR

FB J.D. Groves JR, Pat Norton R-SR, Ray Cassaday R-SR

Again, it looks loaded, but here's the deal. If Ebell emerges as the running back of his class, then you'd think that possibly one of Mathis or Harrison could be seeing another position down the line. It's far too early to really determine anything. Mathis is a talented player that is just beginning to learn how to play. The light could turn on in the next year or so and he could be the dominating, big runner in UCLA's backfield. Harrison looks to be a very potent offensive weapon (he's probably the best among the three redshirt freshmen of catching a pass out of the backfield) and would probably help the team and contribute if he stayed at tailback for his entire career. If you had to speculate, you could maybe see Mathis moving to receiver with his straight-ahead speed. So, while you might not think that tailback is a recruiting priority, if a running back came to UCLA in the fall of 2003 and panned out to be really good, he could be seeing significant playing time by his redshirt sophomore year. But generally, you really need to bring in a running back recruit just to keep a good stream of talent coming in and try to keep the classes somewhat balanced. UCLA didn't take a tailback last recruiting season and would create a two-year gap by passing on a tailback this recruiting season.

But in the case of a bizarre situation where, say, a number of these players were lost due to injury, transfer, or position move, keep in mind that UCLA still has one of the best high school tailback prospects on the west coast from a year ago currently at cornerback in Glenn Ohaeri.

The UCLA fullback position is so important to its offense. With Norton sputtering a bit, UCLA has a big need to bring in someone who can play behind Groves and then, down the line, step in and start. You generally always neeed two solid fullbacks.

Number of tailback recruits needed for 2003: 1

Number of fullback recruits needed for 2003: 1


UCLA is probably the only school around that has three kickers on scholarship, but it really having quality kickers has generally paid off very well in the last decade for UCLA.


P: Chris Kluwe, R-JR
PK: Justin Medlock, R-FR


Chris Kluwe, R-SR
PK: Justin Medlock, R-SO

UCLA will more than likely pass on taking a kicker or punter in 2003, but will ideally like to bring a punter in 2004 behind Kluwe so, like Medlock, he could start in his redshirt freshman season.


UCLA has a need to bring in anywhere from 18-21 players in this season's recruiting class.

Many close to the UCLA program are saying that the current freshman class is very, very good, and perhaps will prove to be even better overall than the 1998 class that included DeShaun Foster, Robert Thomas, etal.

That 1998 class, though, was so talented and owned many starting positions as it made its way through the years, it afforded UCLA the luxury of redshirting many of its younger players, which has really pumped up UCLA's projected depth charts for the next couple of years.

Projecting down the line for the next two years, because of the program's overall youth, the two-deep generally looks very good, except at defensive line. If UCLA can bring in a good mix of JC and high school DLs over the next two years that are quality players, UCLA will look to have a very talented team. The other unknown would be the quarterback position. If it can get solid play from its young quarterbacks, and shore up the defensive line in the next couple of years, every other aspect of the team projects very favorably.

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