UCLA will have 27 new players to add to the roster, and only 18 available scholarships.
As we've said, things will undoubtedly change, with possibly a JC player not qualifying, someone greyshirting and not counting against the total count of 85 until later in the season, and current players transferring or leaving the program for medical reasons.
So, the UCLA staff definitely has a challenge ahead of it trying to fit in everyone next fall.
Similarly, they are probably up against the same challenge with the 2010 recruiting class. As of right now, there are only 16 seniors-to-be for the 2009 school year, and that means only 16 scholarships to give to the 2010 class. We've heard, however, that the staff wants to continue to transform the program's personnel, and believe it needs to bring in upward of 20 or more players for 2010. So, that means even more scholarships will have to be found for 2010 – and that's even after UCLA will probably struggle to find 27 to accommodate all of the committed players in the 2009 class.
So, here's a position-by-position analysis of UCLA's recruiting needs for the 2010 recruiting class:
For 2010, Defensive Tackle: 3-4, Defensive End: 1
When analyzing what are UCLA's priorities in the 2010 class, there's a glaring hole at defensive tackle. There's even a considerable one if JC transfer Branden Warner qualifies and is on the roster.
What if Brian Price, who will be a junior next season, decides to put his name in the NFL draft? From what we're hearing, that's the intention at this point. UCLA also loses Jerzy Sierwierski and Jess Ward to graduation. If Warner doesn't make it, that could mean literally losing four DTs, leaving only two DTs on the roster for 2010-2011 (David Carter and Andy Keane), and neither with starter potential. To put it mildy, UCLA's recruiting need at defensive tackle is dire.
Of course, someone among the existing roster and incoming recruits could make the switch to DT. Eddie Williams seems to be physically suited for it at 6-0 and 330 pounds, but we've heard the intention is for him to play offensive guard. There's also the potential of, say, freshman defensive end Damien Holmes growing into a defensive tackle. He has, in fact, looked quite a bit bigger physically when we've seen him around campus in the off-season, but there's still a question of whether he has the frame to carry 285-plus pounds. We've also speculated that incoming freshman fullback Jayson Allmond might be a candidate; at 6-1 and currently 260 pounds he looks to have the potential to grow into a defensive tackle, and the prospect of it is intriguing, given his quickness and athleticism. Plus, Allmond might realize that the NFL has a far higher deman for DTs (and pays them quite a bit more) than fullbacks.
But regardless if there is a position change, UCLA will be thin at defensive tackle. We could see UCLA going for at least three defensive tackles, possibly more. They more than likely will be looking for upward of two JC DTs, and possibly two high school DTs.
UCLA has brought in four defensive ends in the last two recruiting classes, and possibly five if you count Abele. They'll lose just Korey Bosworth and Chinonso Anyanwu after next season, but then Reginald Stoks after 2010. But what if Keenan Graham and/or Iuta Tepa project as strongside linebackers and Holmes ends up inside? So, UCLA will bring in for certain one defensive end, and possibly two.
For 2010: 2
While UCLA will have three new linebackers coming into the program in 2009, it's still a position of need. UCLA will lose two of its top three linebackers to graduation in 2009 (Regge Carter and Kyle Bosworth), and while the rest of the linebacking group is young, it still needs some talent upgrading. Look for the Bruins to bring in two linebackers, and really pursue a star-type among those two.
For 2010, Safeties: 1-2; Cornerbacks: 2
UCLA stocked up on defensive backs in 2009, and it needed it, merely because it lacked bodies. It will lose only one senior starter (cornerback Alterraun Verner) to graduation in 2010, and it has a young roster of DBs in the program.
If there isn't a spot available this fall, 2009 commit, safety Lester White, could greyshirt and come into UCLA officially later in the 2009-2010 school year. If that's the case, you could, theoretically, count him almost as a commitment in the 2010 class. Losing only one safety to graduation in 2010 (Aaron Ware), UCLA, then, for the 2010 season, will have potentially six safeties in the program, and none of them seniors, without any additional players from the high school class of 2010. The position of safety, then, might not be a high priority for the 2010 class, with the Bruins possibly looking to take one more, especially if an elite type wants to come.
UCLA is almost just as stocked at cornerback, and probably even younger. If you count the scholarship cornerbacks who will be on the roster in 2010, there would be one junior (Courtney Viney), one sophomore (Aaron Hester) and three redshirt freshmen (Alex Mascarenas, Sheldon Price and Marlon Pollard). But cornerback is a tricky position; it's far more difficult to find someone who can play the position than any spot on the field beside quarterback, so programs like to keep a steady flow of potential cornerbacks coming in to maximize your chances of having enough corners who can play. That's why the staff will look for corners as a higher priority than safeties, since failed corners can plug in at safety fairly easily. So, even after taking three guys who project to corner in 2009, UCLA very well could take two more in 2010.
You can probably expect some players currently on the roster or in the 2009 class to move from other positions to defensive back, too. So the defensive backfield is in good shape in terms of personnel for a few years, as long as a good number of the youngsters pan out.
For 2010: 3
It's pretty clear that, for UCLA to be successful, it needs talent on the offensive line. The coaching staff truly recognizes this and, even after bringing in seven OLs in 2009, the OL will still be a priority in 2010. Even with scholarships a scarcity, it wouldn't surprise us if UCLA brought in three and maybe even four offensive linemen for 2010.
Similar to how cornerbacks are a higher priority than safeties, offensive tackles are a higher priority than guards since, like corners, it's more difficult to find guys who can play the position. UCLA potentially brought in four offensive tackles (Xavier Su'a-Filo, Stan Hasiak, Nik Abele and Shawn Johnson), but they could prove to not be able to play tackle. Plus it's still anticipated that Su'a-Filo will play his true freshman season and then go on his Mormon mission. It's uncertain if Johnson will qualify; Abele could find a home at defensive end, where he'll start his UCLA career. There's also a question of whether Sean Sheller will recover from injury completely. So offensive tackle is, again a priority. If UCLA got three OLs in 2010, two of them could project as tackles.
For 2010: 1
UCLA will lose two tight ends to graduation (Logan Paulsen and Ryan Moya), and have three left on the roster for 2010 (Jeff Miller, Cory Harkey and Morrell Presley). Ideally you'd like to have two more in the program, especially since Miller will be a senior and Harkey a junior for the 2010 season, but with scholarships scarce, and with recruits looking at Morrell Presley ahead of them on the hierarchy, UCLA will probably only be able to attract one. That is, if Presley stays at tight end; he very well could be utilized more out wide. Either way, UCLA needs a big-bodied, good-blocking tight end for 2010. It might be a position, too, where you see someone move there to fulfill blocking duties (could Nate Chandler actually make a move back again in the future?).
For 2010: 2
It's another position where UCLA looks fairly stocked with young talent. But being a highly-skilled position, you need to keep a steady stream of talent coming in to ensure you have enough guys who can play the position.
UCLA will lose two seniors (Terrence Austin and Gavin Ketchum), but then have seven receivers currently on the roster with just one senior in 2010 (Dominique Johnson) among them. If you want to talk about a position to be particularly excited about when thinking about UCLA's football team in the next few years, this is it: There's Taylor Embree, Nelson Rosario, Antwon Moutra, Jerry Johnson, Randall Carroll, Ricky Marvray and 2010 commit, top 100-national player, Paul Richardson.
UCLA will go after probably one more receiver, and look for the UCLA coaching staff to be very selective.
For 2010, Tailback: 1; Fullback: 0
Speaking of being selective, UCLA looks to have that luxury for the 2010 class in terms of tailbacks. If everyone who is slated to play tailback currently on the roster stays at tailback for the 2010 season, UCLA will go eight deep. That's why we anticipate that not everyone will stay at tailback who is currently a tailback. The prime candidates to move would be Johnathan Franklin and incoming frosh Dalton Hilliard to defensive back, and maybe Derrick Coleman to fullback. Even if that happened, UCLA still has five guys (Christian Ramirez, Milton Knox, Aundre Dean, Raymond Carter and Damien Thigpen) at the position. However, it wouldn't be a stretch to see someone on this list move to another position or, in fact, leave the program, so getting a strong tailback for 2010 will be a big priority.
After taking Allmond as a fullback for 2009, with the shortage of scholarships, you can't see UCLA taking another player specifically slotted for fullback in 2010. Especially since it's a position where you can always plug in someone else like, say, Coleman, or one of the younger linebackers – or even a walk-on.
For 2010: 1
We've all witnessed how quarterback recruiting, if mismanaged, can very well cost a coach his job. It was a primary contributing factor to the downfall of Bob Toledo and Karl Dorrell. It's critical for a head coach to not only recruit good talent at the position, but enough talent at the position, which is sufficiently spaced in terms of classes so that the position doesn't experience a drop-off for any extended period of time – even a season. And, with how quarterbacks get hurt in recent years, you just can't have enough good ones.
We don't think Rick Neuheisel, being the quarterback guru, will ever make the mistake that both Toledo and Dorrell did when they thought they didn't need to bring in a quarterback for a recruiting class.
No matter how many quarterbacks you seemingly have in your program, you can lose them very quickly, and you need to bring in at least one per year.
UCLA will lose Kevin Craft and Osaar Rasshan after the 2009 season, and then have Kevin Prince, Chris Forcier, Nick Crissman and Richard Brehaut on the roster for 2010. When one of these four wins the starting position, he very well could be a sophomore, or even a redshirt freshman, so with the lack of a chance at the starting spot for a couple of years you could see someone leaving the program. Of course, leaving is foolish, really, since we've witnessed through injury how just about every quarterback in UCLA's program in the last 8 years has had a legitimate chance to play.
Expect the Bruins to bring in one quarterback for 2010, and then possibly two for 2011.
For 2010: 1
Kicker Kai Forbath will be a senior in 2010, so ideally you'd like to have your next place kicker in the program redshirting for your veteran's senior season. UCLA intends to do this, take a kicker in the 2010 class, but if scholarships get really tight, it could possibly not happen. There's also the question of longsnapper, but it's believed UCLA will try to find a longsnapper from its roster rather than going out and bringing in a scholarshipped LS like they did with Christian Yount.
If UCLA goes for the higher end of our estimates, that's 20 recruits and, as we said, with only 16 scholarships projected to be available. Again (and this is becoming a mantra almost), scholarships will almost certainly become available. Heck, if UCLA only has to free up 4 scholarships for the 2010 class that would be considered easy compared to the 9 it has to find for 2009.