Projecting the Recruiting Class

We've all heard the hype over UCLA's 2009 recruiting class, so now when it comes down to these prospects actually getting on the field, who among the 27 new Bruins will actually play immediately and who will redshirt? We give you or short-term and long-term scouting report...

Fresh off signing its best recruiting class in over a decade, UCLA has several pieces to add to an improving puzzle from the class of 2009. The class is stocked full of players who can make an instant impact, players who may be more projects, and players who may just have to wait their turn at some crowded spots.

Here is a final look at each prospect the Bruins signed earlier this month, as well as what will likely happen with the three commits who've yet to sign.

Quarterbacks
Richard Brehaut is the lone signal-caller the Bruins signed. He committed back in May after being seen by Rick Neuheisel at the Steve Clarkson Camp in Santa Barbara. Generally regarded as the #2 quarterback in the West, and a top 10 quarterback nationally, Brehaut graduated early and will compete in spring practice. It wouldn't be a surprise if Brehaut is in the three-deep come fall.

Running Backs
Damien Thigpen may be the least known of any of the out-of-state prospects, as he really didn't even materialize as an option until the final week of the recruiting season. A longtime commit to Tennessee, Thigpen took a last-weekend visit to UCLA and committed to the Bruins on Signing Day. He brings speed, speed and more speed and will likely be used in special teams before getting a chance in the backfield. He'll have a chance to not redshirt and get immediate playing time on special teams. He's reportedly a great punt blocker.

Dalton Hilliard ended up being the lone Punahou player to sign with the Bruins, but he's long been a Bruin lean. Hilliard will likely start his career in the defensive secondary, though he came on strong at the end of his year as a versatile, all-around back. Still, with the amount of running backs on the roster, we expect Hilliard to end up in the secondary after redshirting his first season.

Jayson Allmond will come in and start out as a fullback, but as we've been saying for a while, it wouldn't surprise us to see him eventually end up playing on the defensive line. For his size, Allmond is pretty darn athletic, impressing us at the Scout.com Combine last spring, running a 4.6 at almost 260 on a slow surface. He's a good receiver out of the backfield, and with Trevor Theriot's injury, Allmond will help give more depth at the fullback spot. He's also a good candidate to redshirt, with Chane Moline already at fullback and with Derrick Coleman possibly seeing more snaps there.

Receivers
Ricky Marvray may not have the elite speed you want in a receiver, but he has everything else, great hands, great route running and toughness. And though his speed isn't what, say, Carroll's is, he showed on numerous occasions that his football speed is more than fine, especially in the return game. Marvray may get a chance to return kicks but we expect him to be primarily a receiver. With a lot of depth at the receiver spot, Marvray will probably redshirt in 2009.

Randall Carroll is a guy we expect to play early and often because of his versatility and what he can bring to the offense from his speed. Carroll will probably play in the slot and it's likely he'll end up one of the primary kick returners and possibly spell Terrence Austin as the punt returner. UCLA will do whatever they can to get the ball in his hands. He's the fastest high schooler in the West and the Bruins can sure use his speed. Expect UCLA to try to get him on the field as a true freshman.

Tight Ends
Morrell Presley is another one of the true freshmen you can expect to see on the field when San Diego State comes to town in UCLA's first game of the 2009 season. He graduated early and is already enrolled in school and will participate in spring practice. Despite the return of Logan Paulsen to a tight end group that includes Ryan Moya and Cory Harkey, Presley is the best receiver of all of them, and will probably be used much the same way that Marcedes Lewis was as a senior, in redzone plays, in the slot and to stretch the field. Presley is a better blocker than some people give him credit for, but make no mistake, he's being brought in to catch the ball. He had surgery on his wrist as soon as he arrived at UCLA, and the cast is off and he's rehabbing in preparation for spring practice in April.

Offensive Line
Ryan Taylor is one of the JC transfers you can expect to be used in the early going. He's set to participate in spring practice and will provide immediate depth at either guard or center. He's got three years to play two but we expect him to contribute immediately and make the two-deep. He will enroll in spring quarter, just a few days before spring practice begins.

Xavier Su'a-Filo is the one freshman you can probably expect to see play early too. Su'a-Filo is planning to take an LDS mission following the 2009 season, so UCLA will want to get at least this year out of him. It's highly fortunate, then, at a position you normally want freshman to redshirt, Su'a-Filo is the most ready of the newcomers to play. He'll play tackle in college and will likely provide backup help to Jeff Baca on the leftside.

Stan Hasiak may be the next player most ready to play as a freshman but he could use a redshirt year. Hasiak will most likely play inside, as he's at his best in run-blocking, but because of the depth and talent issues inside, and with the possibility that some of the offensive linemen could be leaving, Hasiak will probably get a chance to make the two-deep as a true freshman.

Eddie Williams, should he qualify, will start out on the offensive line, also playing inside, but we still think the former defensive lineman could eventually contribute as a defensive tackle. He's shorter and squattier than most offensive lineman, so the defensive line may be a better fit for him. But he was a starter on the offensive line for the top JC program in Southern California this season.

Greg Capella will be a very good lineman for the Bruins down the line, bringing some great toughness and tenacity to a position where UCLA could really use it. And with the addition of Su'a-Filo and Hasiak, we think that gives Capella the chance to redshirt to continue to be molded into a bigtime contributor for UCLA. He's a weight room fanatic and that should really benefit him in a redshirt season. With how big he is physically already, if he had come to UCLA last season, when they were desperate for guys who could play, he might not have redshirted.

Nik Abele is another incoming freshman we expect to redshirt in 2009. He will get a chance to play on the defensive line, as a defensive end, but the coaches, including Neuheisel, believe he'll end up an offensive tackle. He's about 6-5, and weighs in at about 250, so he'll have to bulk up. That might not be immediately on the agenda, though, since he's taking a shot at d-end. So, in his first year, it's either Abele wows the coaches at defensive end immediately, or moves to OT and starts to bulk up. More than likely, both scenarios probably mean a redshirt year.

Shawn Johnson didn't sign on Signing Day and he still has a long way to go to qualify. If he does eventually end up at UCLA, we see him being more or less a depth guy. He'll aready be behind in terms of the strength and conditioning since he won't come into to UCLA this summer.

Defensive Line
Branden Warner is the one player from the three who didn't sign that UCLA needs the most. With Brigham Harwell graduated, Warner has a chance to come in and start from day one, and give UCLA a second tackle to match up with Brian Price, the top defensive tackle returning in the Pac-10. He has some issues to take care of at Compton College, but if it gets all straightened out, and he enrolls, he'll likely play from the get-go.

Keenan Graham will remind many folks of Bruce Davis with his style of play and his physicality. Neither had eye-popping size, but both had great quickness off the edge and just seemed to have a knack to get the quarterback. Davis redshirted as a freshman because UCLA had some depth at defensive end, then he bounced around before finally finding his niche as a junior. We don't expect Graham to move around like Davis did and he may have to play early.

Iuta Tepa would be a more likely candidate to redshirt but, at the same time, he's more physically developed than Graham, being taller and weighing more. He's not as quick, but his size will give him an advantage. Still, we think he'll more than likely redshirt.

Linebacker Todd Golper was the first commit to Rick Neuheisel and he's a player that new defensive coordinator Chuck Bullough loves. Golper was one of the players who did a great job recruiting others in this class. He's a tough linebacker, in the Christian Taylor mold, but with more size. He suffered a season-ending knee injury in early November so his recovery will be key to watch in terms of whether or not he plays as a true freshman. UCLA's linebacking group does need a youngster to step up to make the two deep, but it's a good bet he redshirts.

Isaiah Bowens had a leg injury of his own, injuring it during the summer and missing the first part of the season, but he returned with a vengeance. Bowens, though, is still raw and learning the position, and will need to develop physically before he sees the field. He almost certainly will redshirt.

Taniela Maka is another linebacker UCLA brought in that missed some time with an injury, hurting his forearm, but when he returned, he made a big impression. At 6-1, 225, Maka has good size and should be a good addition at the WILL. We think Maka might have the best chance not to redshirt among the incoming freshman linebackers, but we still feel he'll probably not play in 2009.

The last linebacker, and even more a surprise than Thigpen, was Jared Koster from Norco. Koster was a Colorado State commit who signed with UCLA, getting an offer the day before Signing Day. He could end up being like Sean Westgate, being an 11th hour switch who ends up playing early because of his ability to play special teams, but Koster is more than likely a redshirt candidate.

Defensive Backs
Marlon Pollard was the first commit in the class of 2009, doing so when Karl Dorrell was still the head coach. Then he switched to Notre Dame before eventually coming full circle and signing with the Bruins. He had a very good senior year and made a big jump from his junior year. Pollard needs to continue to add weight, he's still pretty slight, and he's still very raw in terms of the technical skills of the position. A redshirt year is probably in order.

Brandon Sermons is pretty well developed physically compared to other incoming defensive backs, but it's uncertain right now where he will start his Bruin career, at safety or cornerback. There is more opportunity at corner, but the word is that Sermons might be better suited as a safety. Unless he makes an huge, unexpected impression in fall, and jumps over many guys, he's a redshirt.

Alex Mascarenas, from a technical standpoint, may be the most ready to play among the cornerbacks. It seems like we've been talking about Mascarenas for years, which we have, since he first made his presence known as the only sophomore selected all-CIF in the Pac-5 in 2006, on one of the best Pac-5 CIF teams in years. Mascarenas is polished and well-coached. While he doesn't have the ideal size to play right away, his fundamentals probably give him the best chance to make the two-deep as a freshman.

Sheldon Price may have the most upside of anyone at cornerback and he's got the best height of anyone at the position, but he's still pretty skinny so expect to redshirt in 2009 and add some weight. He has the tools to be a bigtime player down the road.

Stanjarivus McKay could see some playing time early, and that's not a bad thing as he's the most physically ready of any of the defensive backs. After biding his time at safety in a loaded Poly secondary, McKay erupted as a senior, earning all-state honors and showing the ability to cover and hit. It's going to be tough to beat out some of the guys slated ahead of him, especially if E.J. Woods is everything he's expected to be, so he's mostly likely going to redshirt.

Lester White didn't sign an NLI and it's still unknown when that may happen. He's more than likely headed the greyshirt route, meaning he won't be on campus until January 2010 at the earliest.


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