FB Recruiting Reset: Defense

UCLA has secured six verbals in the class of 2009, four on the defensive side of the ball, with two at linebacker, one at cornerback and one at safety, but they're still looking for recruits to boost their defensive line recruiting as well as help replace a couple of de-commits...

With fall practice starting next week, the UCLA coaching staff is returning to campus, and picking up the pieces of a suddenly shrinking recruiting class will be one of its top priorities.

As of now, there are roughly 23 scholarships to give to the class of 2009, which is under the NCAA limit for a given year of 25. But it wouldn't be surprising if UCLA ends up with 25 scholarships to give, since there is always attrition in any season.

To date, UCLA has six commitments, four being on defense, but they've been reeling from losing a couple of commits in the secondary, at positions that appeared to be finished in recruiting. So, they'll be looking again to fill both of those slots and perhaps add some more at the position.

In this review, we'll try to lay out exactly which players have been offered scholarships, who could be offered, and what are UCLA's priorities at each position.

This isn't going to be a comprehensive list of every prospect UCLA has shown interest, but a list that concentrates on those players UCLA has offered and those that could possibly receive an offer.

While UCLA would love to add some bodies on the defensive line, the pickings are extremely slim, and frankly, there are just not a lot of good, realistic options for the Bruin staff. The majority of the defensive tackles UCLA is recruiting will need to have big starts to their senior years to make their case for an offer.

Will Sutton, 6-1, 260, Corona (Calif.) Centennial. Sutton is probably the closest to getting an offer from UCLA, but even that isn't as close as you'd think. He did well at the 1-Day Camp and then at the first day of the 3-Day Camp, and with his quickness and athleticism, probably has the best chance to get the Bruin offer. Sutton is under-sized, and there's a question of whether he'd be able to hold 290+ pounds, but he looks like someone who might be able to overcome his size deficit with his quickness. He's made no secret that UCLA is one of his top schools, and has said they'd be hard to turn down. He's the DL anchor on what could be the best defense in the state this year at Centennial, and he'll again have a chance to prove himself against one of the toughest schedules in the region.

Noel Beckles, 6-2, 285, Los Angeles (Calif.) Verbum Dei. UCLA has done well at Verbum Dei the past few years, with current Bruins Justin Edison and Akeem Ayers both being former Eagles. Beckles said UCLA was his dream school and if the Bruins offered, he'd likely commit. He's been to Junior Day as well as their 1-Day Camp, and the Bruins still lead for him. Beckles said this week the UCLA coaches told him to be patient and that they would check out the first few games of his senior season before making a decision to offer.

Justin Brown, 6-2, 260, Compton (Calif.). UCLA has had Brown on campus a couple of times this spring, for a Junior Day and a meet-and-greet, and they know plenty about him, having seen him playing next to incoming frosh Datone Jones. Brown is a good-sized body who does a good job against the run, but needs to add weight. He likes USC and UCLA both, but if the Trojans offer, they'll likely end up with him as his cousin, Chris Metcalf, is already a commit to USC.

Other Defensive Tackles Of Note:

Aloofa Taa, 6-0, 260, Seattle (Wash.) Rainer Beach
Nathan Holloway, 6-3, 300, Las Vegas (Nev.) Spring Valley
Sione Tuihalamaka, 6-2, 260, Gardena (Calif.) Serra
Kapono Asuega, 6-2, 280, Orange (Calif.) Lutheran

UCLA landed an excellent pair of pass-rushers in Damien Holmes and Datone Jones in the 2008 class, and they're targeting a bunch of the top prospects out West this year. Like the tackles, it's not a great year in-state, so UCLA is hitting Arizona and Nevada hard in hopes of landing one of their top prospects.

Keenan Graham, 6-4, 215, Las Vegas (Nev.) Silverado. Graham said last week that he plans to take one of his five official visits to UCLA this fall, and the Bruins are doing very well with him. They have been in the race since they offered him and have to be considered one of the favorites to land him. Graham is similar to Bruce Davis in his quickness off the ball, but with size more suited to the position. Offered

Devon Kennard, 6-3, 255, Phoenix (Ariz.) Desert Vista. The top defensive end in the state, UCLA offered him earlier this year, but they'll have a lot of work to make up, as schools like, LSU, Texas, USC and hometown Arizona State have all been on him a lot longer. He took an unofficial visit to UCLA in mid-April and UCLA will try, but they're probably still on the outside looking in for Kennard. Offered

Craig Roh, 6-5, 225, Scottsdale (Ariz.) Chaparral. The #2 defensive end in the state of Arizona, Roh also received a UCLA offer earlier this year. He took an unofficial visit in the latter part of April and attended the last spring practice. Several other schools got on him early and UCLA will have some serious work to do on getting him. Offered

Nicholas Alexander, 6-5, 220, Los Angeles (Calif.) Crenshaw. Alexander came to the 1-Day Camp and had a good showing that day. UCLA is one of his favorites and he's close with several of the current Bruins, having played with Brian Price and Raymond Carter. He's still waiting for his first offer, but he told us earlier this summer, the UCLA coaches want to watch his first three games. Has great bloodlines, his grandfather being NFL Hall of Fame DE Carl Eller.

Other Defensive Ends Of Note:

Jackson Powell, 6-3, 230, Newbury Park (Calif.)
Josh Banks, 6-4, 230, Stockton (Calif.) St. Mary's
Italia Chricton, 6-2, 230, Lakewood (Calif.)
Sullivan Grosz, 6-4, 240, Fresno (Calif.) San Joaquin Memorial
Craig Payne, 6-4, 235, Ontario (Calif.) Colony

UCLA already has verbals from two linebackers, one in the middle in Golper and one on the strongside in Bowens. They'll likely take at least one more, probably a weakside backer, though they may add a fourth linebacker, too. The weakside spot, though, is probably the most pressing position.

Todd Golper, 6-1, 225, Arcadia (Calif.). COMMITTED Golper was the first recruit in the class of 2009 to commit Rick Neuheisel and he's been the pied piper of the recruiting class, taking the lead as the "recruiter" of this class. Golper is a stout middle-backer, ranked #5 nationally by Scout and looked very good in the spring, after a big junior year. And if there is one player that defensive coordinator DeWayne Walker is plenty familiar with, its Golper, who was a teammate of Walker's son, Kevan, the past two seasons. In fact, Golper and QB commit Richard Brehaut have really been the catalysts of the recruiting class. Offered

Isaiah Bowens, 6-3, 220, La Puente (Calif.) Bishop Amat. COMMITTED Bowens was one of the surprises of the early recruiting stages, but he had some good offers and is coming off a solid junior year. He also comes from one of the top perennial programs in the state in Bishop Amat. Bowens also plays receiver, but his future is on the defensive side of the ball. He's one of two Amat players to commit. Bowens suffered a broken leg during summer passing league and could miss the first few games of his senior year. He didn't camp anywhere this summer because of the injury. Offered

Manti Te'o, 6-2, 225, Honolulu (Hawaii) Punahou. The top player on the Islands and the top linebacker in the country, Te'o may be the biggest recruit to ever come from Hawaii. UCLA offered him after his sophomore year, but this one continues to appear to be a USC-BYU battle. Te'o does come from the same high school that offensive coordinator Norm Chow attended. But we'd be surprised if he ended up anywhere outside of USC or BYU. Offered

Vontaze Burfict, 6-2, 235, Corona (Calif.) Centennial. Burfict, the nation's #1 MLB, committed to USC earlier this year and says he remains committed to the Trojans but he's somewhat open to other schools, UCLA being one of them. The problem with is it's well known he's got some work to do academically to qualify so given UCLA's admissions, this is a longshot, at the absolute best. We expect him to sign with the Trojans. Offered

Boseko Lekombo, 6-3, 215, Eugene (Ore.) South. The top prospect in Oregon this year, Lekombo has offers from all of the Northwest schools, and from his top seven. Only UCLA hasn't offered, but he told us earlier this month that UCLA was one of his top three schools with Oregon and Washington and were one of his childhood favorites. A four-star middle linebacker, Lekombo is ranked 8th nationally, and he has the ability to play on the outside in college.

Jordan Barrett, 6-3, 225, Sherman Oaks (Calif.) Notre Dame. Barrett had an excellent junior season, despite playing in the shadows of Anthony McDonald, but he's poised for a big senior year. He has offers from Notre Dame and Washington, but attended UCLA's spring practices and spring game and has legitimate interest in the Bruins. Barrett is a versatile prospect; he could play in the middle or on the strongside too. He'll probably be a guy they watch some his senior year before making a decision on him.

Nick Bruce, 6-1, 210, Woodland Hills (Calif.) Taft. Bruce is a middle linebacker for Taft, but would probably play on the weakside in college. Very similar in build to Reggie Carter, and with the same style of play, Bruce has UCLA as one of his top two schools, and has the academics to back it up. He had a very good showing at UCLA's 3-Day Camp, playing both linebacker and fullback, and very well could increase his chances of a UCLA offer if they were to bring him in as a fullback, as he showed good athleticism and moves out of the backfield. UCLA and Washington are his top two schools.

Robert Franco, 6-0, 225, San Pedro (Calif.). Franco attended UCLA's Junior Day and some games last fall, as well as the Spring Game, and the Bruins, along with Cal, are one of his top two schools. Franco said an offer from one of those two schools would be tough for him to pass up. He had a very good day at UCLA's 1-Day Camp, especially in the 1-on-1s, but his size could be the concern. Still, he's a big-hitting linebacker. Like Bruce, he could also play fullback, but Franco is probably best served playing on defense.

Travis Brown, 6-2, 225, Fresno (Calif.) Clovis West. Brown has a handful of Pac-10 offers, but Fresno State has his dad, Dan, on staff as the defensive coordinator, and though he likes a slew of Pac-10 schools, the feeling is that it would be tough for him to get out of Fresno.

Michael Clay, 6-2, 225, San Jose (Calif.) Bellarmine Prep. Clay had UCLA in his top three for much of the year, but they've fallen out of list of favorites as of late. He did tell us earlier this month that he won't be making any decisions in the early part of the season, in hopes of opening some more eyes, specifically with Arizona State and UCLA. Still, Cal and Oregon are his top two schools and they could be tough to pass up.

Other Linebackers Of Note:

Barkevious Mingo, 6-5, 210, West Monroe (La.) Offered
Jayson Allmond, 6-1, 245, Bloomington (Calif.)
Ace Ward, 6-0, 210, Sherman Oaks (Calif.) Notre Dame
Eric Martin, 6-1.5, 210, Moreno Valley (Calif.) Rancho Verde

The Bruins had two cornerback commitments but Marlon Pollard's decision to switch to Notre Dame leaves them with just Price as a corner commit. They also got in on Osahon Irabor, albeit late, and he chose Arizona State. So they will be watching some corners closely this fall.

Sheldon Price, 6-1, 160, La Puente (Calif.) Bishop Amat. COMMITTED. Price needed all of a half a second to accept UCLA's offer before he committed to the Bruins. The son of former Bruin and NFL defensive back Dennis Price, Sheldon has had UCLA as his dream school his whole life and was just waiting for the offer. After strong showings in Las Vegas and at the Nike Camp, Price received that offer and committed to the Bruins at the Spring Game. He's still needing to add weight, but his nice, long arms and good quickness at the position gives the Bruins a good prospect at the corner spot.Offered

Brandon Sermons, 6-1, 180, Pomona (Calif.) Diamond Ranch. With Pollard's decommitment, Sermons was the recipient of UCLA's next cornerback offer, and the Bruins are going to be one of the schools he'll strongly consider. The brother of former USC running back Rodney Sermons, he told us earlier this month he's open to any schools, but prefers to stay on the West Coast. UCLA is the lone in-state Pac-10 offer he has, but Arizona State and Colorado are also very much in the mix for his services. He's also waiting for a decision from Cal and USC. Offered

Vachel Samuels, 6-0, 190, Lynwood (Calif.). Few players' stock has risen like Samuels has this summer. A big, physical corner, Samuels made his name last fall going up against one of the better schedules in the state. He's had a good spring and summer, camping at UCLA and USC, and looked good in passing league. Samuels also has very good grades, Stanford having offered, and he has over a dozen offers. He likes UCLA but is waiting for an offer from the Bruin staff.

Sean Martin, 6-0, 180, Corona (Calif.) Santiago. Like Price, Martin has had an excellent spring, and he had a big junior year, playing in the Sharks' secondary with future Bruin Anthony Dye. Martin has UCLA as one of his favorites, and if the Bruin staff does decide to offer another corner, he could be the recipient of that offer. He's excellent in coverage and has good backpedal quickness. Martin's biggest need is in the classroom, and he told us at the B2G Elite Camp that he's improved academically and will take the SAT this fall again to continue to make the effort to get a Bruin offer.

Cliff Harris, 6-0, 175, Fresno (Calif.) Edison. Harris is the top-ranked corner in the country, and has showed it just about every way he can, on the field, at camps and combines, you name it. He and Courtney Viney are close friends, and UCLA is a school he's interested in, but the Bruin staff is waiting on his SAT score. He told us at B2G that UCLA just wants an SAT score from him before they offer. USC has offered, and Oregon is a school he likes a lot too.

Other Cornerbacks Of Note:

Nolan Washington, 5-11, 175, Burien (Wash.) Kennedy
Marcus Andrews, 6-0, 175, Los Angeles (Calif.) Crenshaw
J.B. Dock, 5-10, 175, Ventura (Calif.) St. Bonaventure
Sean Murray, 6-0, 175, Corona (Calif.) Santiago
C.J. Anderson, 5-10.5, 185, Vallejo (Calif.) Bethel
Colin Lockett, 6-0, 170, Diamond Bar (Calif.)
Avery Patterson, 5-9, 165, Pittsburg (Calif.)
Chris Hill, 5-10, 175, Carson (Calif.)
Bijon Samoodi, 5-8, 160, Anaheim (Calif.) Servite
Semaj Harris, 5-11, 180, Lawndale (Calif.) Leuzinger

The Bruins signed three safeties last year, though Westgate could probably end up as a weakside linebacker. Losing Moore hurts because he was the lone pure safety. Mascarenas is a gifted and versatile defensive back, but he probably is best suited to play cornerback in college. Expect UCLA to try to bring in at least one if not two more safeties in this class.

Alex Mascarenas, 5-11, 180, Mission Viejo (Calif.). COMMITTED. Mascarenas is an intriguing prospect because he could play corner or safety and probably prefers safety in college, where he says UCLA is planning to put him. But physically, he may be best geared to play cornerback. He's been one of the best DBs in the Southland the past two years, earning all-CIF honors the past two seasons, including in 2006 when he was on the all-Pac-5 team as the lone sophomore, the toughest division in the state. He is one of Orange County's top prospects in the class of 2009.Offered

Brent Seals, 6-1, 190, La Puente (Calif.) Bishop Amat. Seals has made no bones about his desire to get an offer from the Bruins, especially with Price and Bowens, his Amat teammates, having committed to UCLA. Seals was excellent at the Scout Combine in May, then followed it up the next week with a great performance at the UCLA 1-Day Camp. His obstacle is that he's projected to play safety in college and he's only played linebacker in high school. And during the summer, he stayed at linebacker per his coaches request. But at the camps he attended -- UCLA, Washington and Stanford -- he worked with the safeties. A very good athlete and student, it wouldnt surprise us to see Seals end up with a UCLA offer down the line, and they'd be in great shape with him.

Lester White, 6-1.5, 205, Riverside (Calif.) J.W. North. Blessed with good size and speed, White has seven offers, including a few from the Pac-10, and UCLA is one of his top seven schools despite the Bruins not having offered. We know they have been showing interest in him, though, having been by the school during the spring, but they're waiting on his transcripts and test scores. Could be the best safety in the Inland Empire.
Jamal Atofau, 5-10, 185, Bellevue (Wash.). One of the top defensive backs in the Northwest, Atofau came to UCLA's 3-Day Camp and performed very well and made an impression on the UCLA coaches. He's got a handful of Pac-10 offers, but not from UCLA. The Bruins are in his top five, and he acknowledged that one holdup could be UCLA doesn't have his transcripts yet.

Other Safeties Of Note:

Chris Washington, 6-2, 200, Layton (Utah) Northridge
Nathan Fellner, 6-0, 195, Fresno (Calif.) Clovis West
Jabari Carr, 6-1, 180, San Jose (Calif.) Oak Grove
Dijon Washington, 6-1, 180, Lawndale (Calif.) Leuzinger

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