Recruiting Reset: Defense

UCLA has ten commitments from defensive players. They look to be set in the secondary, and could still use some more depth along the defensive line, while they wait for one remaining linebacker to decide...

As UCLA heads into the stretch run before Signing Day, there is much handwringing with some players de-committing, other recruits they had been doing well with choosing other schools, commits visiting elsewhere, and so on.  Several more offers have gone out in the past few weeks, and UCLA is trying to shore up the class by February 4.

As of now, UCLA has 18 scholarships to give. It wouldn't, however, be a surprise if UCLA eventually had 23 or more available by next fall, since players always leave the program for a myriad of reasons, and a few could be candidates to do so.  Already, some have left the program.

To date, UCLA has 21 commitments, eleven being on offense (we're counting Sanders on defense), so UCLA is over their current limit, while waiting for others to make their decision.  It's entirely expected that UCLA will, by February 4th, have more commitments than they have scholarships available.

Fans always ask about the NCAA limit of 25 per recruiting class, but with the ability of recruits to count against the previous year or the next year, the 25-per-year limit isn't too restrictive. In the case of Brehaut, Presley and Taylor, each are enrolling early and count against last year's class, but are still obviously a part of the 85-class limit. 

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

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

DEFENSIVE TACKLES:
As we've said on numerous occasions, this is a bad year for tackles in the West, especially in California. UCLA hasn't offered an in-state tackle, and the lone prospect on the West Coast they did offer is committed to Cal. It may be at the point that the defensive tackle well has dried up for the Class of 2009, which makes getting one in 2010 crucial.  They already have a commitment from one JC defensive tackle in Warner, but he's also considering Washington pretty seriously, so UCLA could end up being without a defensive tackle in this class, or at least a pure one (the possibility remains that down the line, Jayson Allmond could move there).

Branden Warner, 6-3, 295, Compton (Calif.) College.  COMMITTED.  Warner is originally from the Southeast but came west to play his JC ball, ending up at Compton College.  He committed to the Bruins earlier this month, but took a visit to Washington State in November.  He's taken an official visit in early January and said he was solid, but a week later, visited Washington and the Huskies are a very legitimate candidate in the race.  UCLA could use him, as he's getting a lot of attention from schools down South too, including Florida, and he'd be a nice replacement for Brigham Harwell to line up next to Brian Price.  Would have two years to play two. Offered

Eddie Williams, 6-0, 330, Mt. San Antonio (Calif.) College. COMMITTED. From the same program as quarterback Kevin Craft, Williams was another surprising offer, having committed upon being offered. He played defensive tackle through high school and his first year at Mt. SAC and could be a candidate to play on the defensive line in college. This season, he played center for Mt. SAC. He's got to do some more work to be able to transfer and he'll have three years to play his two seasons.  Williams is keeping all of his options open, though, visiting Colorado last weekend and expected to visit Washington this coming weekend.  He said he wants to be a Bruin, but this could be one to keep an eye on.  We're listing him as a defensive lineman as well as an offensive lineman. Offered

Zach Masch, 6-3, 285, Arizona Western.  Masch is a commit to Hawaii but when he wasn't able to enroll in the spring, he somewhat opened things up.  Now Tennessee and UCLA are pursuing him, how much is unknown.  He comes from the same prep program that former UCLA linebacker Spencer Havner played in and he's well aware of UCLA's history.  If the Bruins lose a few of their JC lineman, Masch could land himself an 11th hour offer.

Other Defensive Tackles Of Note:

Noel Beckles, 6-2, 285, Los Angeles (Calif.) Verbum Dei
Justin Brown, 6-2, 260, Compton (Calif.)

DEFENSIVE ENDS:
UCLA landed an excellent pair of pass-rushers in Damien Holmes and Datone Jones a year ago, 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 has been hitting Arizona and Nevada hard in hopes of landing one of their top prospects, which they did in Graham, who is their top defensive commitment in this class.

Keenan Graham, 6-4, 215, Las Vegas (Nev.) Silverado. COMMITTED. Graham took three official visits, to Colorado, Wisconsin and Nebraska, and said he would take all five, with plans to visit Virginia Tech and USC. Then out of nowhere, he committed to UCLA, giving the Bruins a huge boost, as he was their top defensive line target, and along with Te'o, their top remaining defensive target overall. The top defensive end in the West, and the top player in the state of Nevada, Graham had offers from all over the country, including USC, Tennessee and Oklahoma among others.  It seemed like he was rock solid but then came word this week that he visited Utah officially over the weekend and was now seriously considering the Utes.  Since then, Graham is not taking any calls, so we don't know, from his mouth, where he's heading, but we heard from good sources during the week that he just wanted to take his fifth trip and that he's signing with UCLA. Still, this one is worth fretting over until Signing Day.  Offered

Billy Sanders, 6-4, 235, Coeur d'Alene (Ida.) Lake City. COMMITTED.  A longtime commit to Miami, Sanders had been staying in frequent contact with the UCLA coaches ever since verballing. He is originally from Arizona, but moved to Idaho for his senior season. Since then, he'd been to UCLA games, and practices, and despite his verbal to the Hurricanes, seemed to be open to being recruited and pursued by the Bruin staff.  He was a long rumored "silent verbal" to the Bruins.  Then when he officially visited UCLA in early-January, Sanders went public with the commitment.   Sanders is rated as a tight end, but will likely end up playing defensive end in college, so we're listing him on defense. Offered

Iuta Tepa, 6-3, 238, Long Beach (Calif.) Poly. Tepa exploded with a monster senior season for the Jackrabbits, being one of their stellar defenses' stars. He got an early offer from Colorado State and Hawaii, and jumped on the offer from the Warriors, then came an influx of Pac-10 offers. Tepa is the softest of commits to Hawaii, where he visited earlier this month, but he's also visited Oregon, he'll visit Washington this weekend and then he'll close his visit schedule with a trip to UCLA next weekend.  We're hearing that Tepa's family would like for him to stay close to home, which plays into UCLA's favor, but Oregon and Washington are still factors in this race. Offered

Other Defensive Ends Of Note:

Sullivan Grosz, 6-4, 240, Fresno (Calif.) San Joaquin Memorial

LINEBACKERS:
UCLA has verbals from three linebackers, one in the middle in Golper, one on the weakside in Maka and one on the strongside in Bowens. They aren't really targeting anyone else, besides Te'o, who's a longshot to come to Westwood, so they're probably content with the three they have coming in.

Todd Golper, 6-1, 225, Arcadia (Calif.). COMMITTED Golper was the first recruit in the class of 2009 to commit to 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 in the top ten nationally by Scout and looked very good in the spring, after a big junior year and he turned out another big season during his senior year, both at linebacker and at running back, despite suffering a season-ending knee injury in the final weeks. Golper and QB commit Richard Brehaut have really been the catalysts of the recruiting class. Golper was selected to the Offense-Defense All-American Game and may be one of the best pure football players in this class in California. 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 missed the first four games of his senior year with a broken leg, but came back and fit right back into the Lancers defense, which stepped it up down the stretch. He's a likely redshirt candidate. Offered

Taniela Maka, 6-2, 225, Long Beach (Calif.) Jordan.  COMMITTED.  Maka was a longtime verbal to Arizona, doing so during the summer, and despite missing half of his senior season with an injury, came back strong and then his recruitment really picked up.  Maka visited Washington last weekend but said he's pretty much wrapped up to sign with the Bruins.  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. Te'o took an official visit to UCLA in September, the first official visit that he had taken, and he raved about his trip. Then came a visit to Notre Dame in November.  This month has been about visits to Stanford, USC and BYU. We'd be surprised if he ended up somewhere besides USC or BYU. Offered

Other Linebackers Of Note:

Jordan Barrett, 6-3, 225, Sherman Oaks (Calif.) Notre Dame
Robert Franco, 6-0, 225, San Pedro (Calif.)
 

CORNERBACKS:
The Bruins have three cornerback commitments, both from early offer guys, though they had to wait a bit for a commitment from Sermons, who was one of their top targets. Price committed back in the spring and had a fine senior season. Pollard committed to UCLA during the summer of 2007, switched to Notre Dame, but recommitted to the Bruins earlier this month.  With three cornerbacks committed, and Mascarenas a candidate to play corner, UCLA is likely done here.

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. COMMITTED. With Pollard's decommitment, Sermons was the recipient of UCLA's next cornerback offer, and the Bruins had been one of the schools he was strongly considering. That led to a commitment in late October to the Bruins, and a much-needed verbal as UCLA continues to strengthen their secondary in the last two classes. The brother of former USC running back Rodney Sermons, Sermons preferred to stay on the West Coast. Sermons visited Oregon State last weekend and is visiting Washington next weekend, but said he just wants to take trips and he'll be signing with the Bruins. Offered

Marlon Pollard, 6-0, 170, San Bernardino (Calif.) Cajon. COMMITTED.  Pollard was a onetime commit to UCLA, who switched his verbal to Notre Dame in the summer.  UCLA went to see him play this fall and showed they were still interested in the Offense-Defense All-American, despite him decommitting.  After spending the fall strongly committed to Notre Dame, there were rumblings that Pollard wanted to come back to UCLA.  He took his official visit to Westwood in early January and recommitted to the Bruins.  Offered.

Other Cornerbacks Of Note:

J.R. McConico, 6-0, 170, Venice (Calif.)
Nat Berhe, 5-11, 170, Colton (Calif.)

SAFETIES:
The Bruins signed three safeties last year.  Mascarenas is a gifted and versatile defensive back, but he probably is best suited to play cornerback in college. The commitment from McKay was a big boost, because he strengthens the depth here and Tonga, should he come, could play safety or linebacker.

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-Pac5 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 and he was one of the top receivers in the county, being a primary target for Cal-bound teammate Allan Bridgford. Mascarenas is another one of those solid "football players", who's kind of a jack-of-all-trades. Offered

Stanjarivus McKay, 6-2, 205, Long Beach (Calif.) Poly.  COMMITTED.  Like many Poly defensive backs before him, McKay had to wait patiently until his senior year to make a name for himself, and he has.  UCLA liked him a lot, and the feeling was mutual.  When UCLA offered him, it was with a greyshirt offer, but when he took his official visit last weekend, they pulled the greyshirt idea and extended the offer as a regular enrollee.  That was all McKay needed to hear and he committed to his "dream school" over Colorado, Washington and Hawaii.  McKay, because he didn't really emerge until his senior year, has upside off the charts, and UCLA is hoping he continues to blossom.  Offered

Aulola Tonga, 6-3, 195, Kahuku (Hawaii).  Tonga took an official visit to UCLA last weekend and was offered a scholarship.  While he's leaning heavily towards the Bruins, he's also visiting hometown Hawaii this weekend, and they were the first school to offer him.  Tonga was offered as a greyshirt and he's also LDS, so a mission might be on his agenda early on.  Tonga can also play outside linebacker, and said UCLA has talked with him about possibly moving outside.  Offered

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 fall, but they're waiting on his transcripts and test scores, and he's had some scheduling snafus that have kept him from visiting.  While he could be the best safety in the Inland Empire, the commitment of McKay could effectively rule out the Bruins as an option for White.

Other Safeties Of Note:

Brent Seals, 6-1, 190, La Puente (Calif.) Bishop Amat


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