Recruiting Reset: Defense

With seven commitments already, UCLA is doing pretty well early in recruiting the defensive side of the ball. Now, it's going after the big fish to finish off defensive recruiting for 2010, guys like Hayes Pullard, Josh Shirley and Dietrich Riley...

With the contact period in full swing, UCLA coaches have already had one night "out," when they go to high school football games to scout and watch prospects. Last Friday, Rick Neuheisel used a helicopter to get to four different games.

The Bruins have added three defensive commits since mid-July, and at positions they need.

Defensive Tackles (Will take: 3 or more)

As usual, UCLA is in the market for defensive tackles, so it's not surprised they've offered a number of them, and from all over the country as well as in their own backyard. They already have a commitment from two guys that project to be DTs, but UCLA could easily take two more, and possibly even three.

Julius Moore, 6-0, 255, Bellevue (Wash.). COMMITTED. Moore is built similarly to Brigham Harwell when Harwell was a senior. Moore had UCLA as one of his two favorites, along with hometown Washington, but when he visited Westwood for the Bruins' 1-Day Camp, Moore pulled the trigger and chose UCLA. Moore, pound-for-pound, is a tough-as-nails tackle, plays with a lot of nasty and is a two-way starter for one of the best programs in the country. We saw Moore last week against Sacramento Grant and he was disruptive, with two sacks and two tackles for loss against a very good Grant line. Offered.

Wesley Flowers, 6-4, 250, Fresno (Calif.) Edison. COMMITTED. Flowers showed up for the first day of UCLA's 3-Day Camp and did so well that he earned a UCLA offer. Two days later, Flowers committed to the Bruins, becoming the second Edison player to commit to UCLA. Flowers can play defensive end, where he's playing this fall for the Tigers, but he has the frame and the size to grow into a defensive tackle, where he likely projects in college. Offered.

George Uko, 6-4, 295, Chino (Calif.) Don Lugo. Uko is a guy who's been much discussed for the past few months. When he showed up and dominating in a short time span at the UCLA 1-Day Camp he immediately got an offer. He did the same thing at USC's camp, and he's become arguably the top defensive tackle in the West, after starring at the Scout.com Combine in Los Angeles. Uko also has offers from Oregon, Tennessee and Oklahoma, among others, but he said recently that Cal and USC were his primary two schools. Still, UCLA is trying with Uko. Offered.

Ricky Heimuli 6-4, 285, Salt Lake City (Utah) Brighton. Heimuli has offers from all over the country, including the entire Pac-10. He has a connection to Norm Chow, and the Bruin staff has been in touch with him frequently. He's an excellent student as well, making him even more appealing. He narrowed his choices down to ten schools, with UCLA on that list, and he's hinted that the Bruins could be getting an official visit. Offered.

Jay Guy, 6-0, 307, Houston (Texas) Eisenhower. Guy is a soft commit to California, where he committed during the spring, but has been maintaining for months he would be taking visits, which is what he did last weekend UCLA. He reportedly had a good trip to Westwood. Still, the question remains if it is enough to unseat the Golden Bears. Offered.

Kirifi Taula, 6-4, 275, Anaheim (Calif.) Servite. Taula has a couple of Pac-10 offers. He received his from UCLA when, on the first day of UCLA's three-day camp, Taula performance was so impressive – and it was the offer he was hoping for. Then last week, the official, written offer from UCLA came in for Taula. He's considering UCLA, Washington, Arizona, Oregon and Oregon State, but he said the Bruins are his favorite. Offered.

Sealii Epanesa, 6-2, 300, Honolulu (Hawaii) Iolani. In UCLA's renewed efforts to make an impact on the Islands, they found this mammoth defensive tackle. Epanesa helped lead Ioalani to a state title in 2008. Offered.

Lawrence Lagafuaina, 6-2, 310, Aiea (Hawaii). UCLA is one of five schools who have offered Lagafuaina. Washington leads for him and he camped in Seattle this spring, but he said he wants to visit UCLA at some point. Offered.

Shane Pennix, 6-3, 256, El Cajon (Calif.) Valhalla. Pennix received one of his first offers from UCLA, and the Bruins are one of his two favorites, along with Arizona State. The Sun Devils may have an advantage, though, with Pennix's teammate, Peter Thomas, having committed to the Sun Devils. But Pennix doesn't seem to be in a rush to decide. He attended UCLA's game against Kansas State last week. Offered.

Cassius Marsh, 6-4, 280, Westlake Village (Calif.) Oaks Christian. UCLA made Marsh a priority and it's top target on the defensive line but Marsh committed to Cal in April. Then this spring, he decommitted from the Bears, and while Marsh has Cal as his current leader, he's mentioning Cal, Arizona State, Oklahoma and LSU as his primary schools of interest, with USC and UCLA receiving mention in passing. Offered.

David Mahoney, 6-2, 290, Woodland Hills (Calif.) Pierce College. Mahoney is supposed to be very quick and athletic, and UCLA was one of the first to be on him, and verbally offered him, dependent on his academics. At this point, it's uncertain if he has the academic profile to get past UCLA admissions.

Other Defensive Tackles to Watch:
Beau Allen, 6-3, 292, Minnetonka (Minn.)
Richard Ash, 6-4, 270, Pahokee (Fla.)
Brendan Tago, 6-2, 285, Palmdale (Calif.) Highland
Augafa Vaaluu, 6-2, 290, Downey (Calif.)
Sani Fuimaono, 6-2, 260, Honolulu (Hawaii) Punahou

Defensive Ends (Will take: 3 or more)

UCLA has gone a little more unconventional in its defensive end recruiting, still going after some key guys, like Powell, but landing verbals from a JC transfer and an out-of-state prospect while a couple of bigtime national guys still have high interest in the Bruins.

Marquis Jackson, 6-4, 235, College of the Canyons (Calif.). COMMITTED. Jackson was a guy UCLA had a lot of interest in from the class of 2008, playing with Milton Knox and Donovan Carter and teaming with his brother, Malik, now at USC, for one of the best defensive end duos around. Jackson was a non-qualifier out of high school and has had to go the JC route, where he was a JC All-American at Canyons. UCLA offered him in hopes he's getting the work done necessary. Jackson committed to the Bruins in July, and he's even sitting out the 2009 season for Canyons, while getting his A.A. done so he can transfer in time for the spring of 2010 and have three years of eligibility. Offered.

Derrick Bryant, 6-4, 225, Columbus (Ohio) Brookhaven. COMMITTED. Bryant made it pretty clear that he was planning to commit to a school outside the Midwest. Last week, he visited UCLA and true to his word, he pulled the trigger and left the Midwest for the friendly confines of SoCal. Bryant was blown away on his trip and said he's not going to even take his other four trips because he's firm in his commitment. Offered.

Ronald Powell 6-4, 250, Moreno Valley (Calif.) Rancho Verde. Powell is the top uncommitted defensive end in the country, boasting offers from all over. He's thought by many to be a heavy USC lean, getting offered last summer, and Florida has also made a big impression on him. UCLA has offered and is trying but they're on the outside looking in, even with his participation at their camp this summer. Offered.

Chris Martin, 6-4, 240, Aurora (Colo.) Grandview. Martin committed to Notre Dame on Signing Day, but recently he's indicated he's looking around and Martin's recruitment has picked up again, with UCLA in the mix for the elite pass-rusher. He's hinted at visiting UCLA, who was one of the first schools to offer him as a sophomore. Offered.

Ego Ferguson, 6-4, 270, Chatham (Va.) Hargrave. UCLA is on the semi-short list for Ego, but is on there with several of the big heavyweights from the Southeast and Atlantic states. Still, the Bruins are trying hard with him. Offered.

Owamagbe Odighizuwa, 6-3, 235, Portland (Ore.) Douglas. One of the elite defenders in the Northwest, the Bruins made the final five for "Owa," along with Cal, USC, Florida and Oregon State. The Gators, though, have been the one constant and they could be the team to beat for him. Owa said that he's planning an official visit to UCLA during the fall.  UCLA coaches will be seeing him this weekend. Offered.

Rykeem Yates, 6-2, 237, Fresno (Calif.) Edison. With two teammates already committed to the Bruins in Flowers and McDonald, Yates wouldn't mind at all being the third wheel in their class. Yates camped at UCLA and had a great spring and summer, and is off to a strong start this fall for the Tigers. Yates said the Bruins coaches want to see some early season senior film before deciding if they're going to offer.

Chidera Uzo-Diribe, 6-4, 227, Corona (Calif.) Uzo-Diribe is committed to Colorado, doing so last week, but he's also still going to take official visits with his teammate Jordon James, including an official one to UCLA in late November. Uzo-Diribe is very much interested in the Bruins, taking an unofficial visit to Westwood during the summer with James. He's a classic "senior film" guy, who's first few games will be crucial for him to land a Bruin offer.

Other Defensive Ends to Watch:
Everett Beed, 6-3, 225, Phelan (Calif.) Serrano
Daniel Godkin, 6-4, 220, Las Vegas (Nev.) Palo Verde
Tony Washington, 6-4, 210, Rancho Cucamonga (Calif.) Los Osos
Leonard Rhodes 6-3, 230, Walnut (Calif.)

Linebackers(Will take: 2 or 3)

UCLA will lose two senior starters after the 2009 season, and, while they have some guys at the position, they need some big impact guys, and are especially in need of an elite weakside linebacker.

Josh Shirley, 6-3, 220, Fontana (Calif.) Kaiser. Shirley is fast becoming one of the elite defensive prospects in the West in this class and the attention is well-deserved, as he's one of the premier pass-rushers in the state. Shirley was offered as a hybrid end/linebacker, able to play three downs and get after the quarterback. UCLA is one of the Bruins' primary targets and he camped at UCLA in the spring, working as a linebacker. Offered.

Hayes Pullard, 6-1, 210, Los Angeles (Calif.) Crenshaw. Pullard is high on the Bruins as he is with schools like USC, Notre Dame and Florida, who have have offered him and are making a big push for his services. Pullard is the top inside linebacker in the state and UCLA would love to get a commitment from him. He could also play running back. Pullard camped at UCLA for the 1-Day Camp. UCLA has traditionally recruited well at Crenshaw and they're hoping to continue that trend with Pullard, one of the first players they offered in this class. Offered.

Aramide Olaniyan, 6-2, 200, Woodbury Forest (Va.). Olaniyan is an intriguing prospect, an excellent student with serious on-field chops. Ranked as one of the top 10 outside backers nationally, Olaniyan was committed to Duke but earlier this week, decommitted and is now talking about visiting UCLA in the near future. And UCLA would welcome him. Offered.

Dustin Elisara, 6-2, 225, Kapolei (Hawaii). UCLA was one of the first schools to offer Elisara and the Bruins are hoping his relationship with good friend and former teammate (and current Bruin freshman) Stan Hasiak works into their favor. Elisara has a half-dozen offers, with five of them from the Pac-10, and the Bruins are right there in the mix. Offered.

Eric Kendricks, 6-1, 205, Fresno (Calif.) Hoover. The brother of current Cal linebacker Mychal Kendricks, the younger of the two is a versatile inside/outside backer who camped at UCLA during the summer and has serious interest in the Bruins. He's got a handful of offers, but he's hoping for a UCLA offer.

Luke Zelon, 6-3, 215, Santa Monica (Calif.). Zelon was one of the more impressive players at UCLA's 3-Day Camp, looking big, agile and fluid. He's got a handful of offers, including from the Pac-10, but we've heard UCLA is his dream school and he's on the Bruin' coaches watch list for the fall.

Other Linebackers to Watch:
V.J. Fehoko, 6-0, 225, Honolulu (Hawaii) Farrington
Tolai'I Ho-Ching, 6-1, 225, Sandy (Utah) Alta
Ofa Fifita, 6-0, 200, San Bernardino (Calif.) Arroyo Valley
Soma Vainuku, 6-0, 250, Eureka (Calif.)
Dylan Davis, 6-0, 200, Ventura (Calif.) St. Bonaventure

Cornerbacks (Will Take: 2)

UCLA brought in a good group of corners in 2009, but 2010 is such a talented year for the position in California that UCLA has to take advantage with the two requisite guys it would bring in at the position regardless.

Tevin McDonald, 5-11, 175, Fresno (Calif.) Edison. COMMITTED. McDonald has good bloodlines, his dad was a six-time NFL Pro Bowler and his brother was an all-American who's a freshman at USC now. McDonald camped at UCLA at the 1-Day Camp and was offered by the Bruins as a cornerback, and while he could conceivably still be growing (both his father and brother are safeties) into a safety, it's likely he stays at corner. Offered.

Shaquille Richardson, 6-1, 180, Los Alamitos (Calif.). Few players upped their stock this spring like Richardson, who was a standout at the Los Angeles Scout.com Combine and again at UCLA's 1-Day Camp, where he was offered after the camp. Richardson did a slew of camps and shined at just about everyone. He and Paul Richardson are cousins, and the two of them could end up playing together in college. Richardson said he's wide open, but the Bruins are doing really well for him and while he said they're leading, lately he said it's even, but we're still hearing that UCLA is in the pole position for him. Offered.

Cullen Christian, 6-1, 185, Pittsburgh (Penn.) Penn Hills. The big, physical Christian has offers from throughout the country but interestingly, UCLA is the only school in the West who's made his favorites. While he's reportedly a lean to Michigan, hometown Pittsburgh is also putting in the work. Still, UCLA is going to keep trying with him and are hoping to get an official visit out of him. Offered.

Joshua Shaw, 6-2, 190, Palmdale (Calif.). Shaw camped at UCLA for their 1-Day Camp, and got an offer from the Bruins, but it may be a case of too little, too late. Shaw was offered before that by Oklahoma, Notre Dame and USC, and those three schools, plus Ohio State, who Shaw has said is his current and clear leader. Offered.

Keanu Nelson, 6-0, 180, Tucson (Ariz.) Sabino. Nelson is the best corner in Arizona and he's attracting interest from all over, with a dozen offers. He's also got excellent grades, with Stanford and Vanderbilt also having offered him. Offered.

Troy Hill, 5-11, 165, Ventura (Calif.) St. Bonaventure. Hill is one of the better cover corners in California, and has been a key in the Seraphs' two-time state championship squad. Hill has an offer from a handful of schools but has high interest in UCLA. He's got some work to do academically, but the interest is there. He was at UCLA's 1-Day Camp and it wouldn't hurt for UCLA to make some in-roads at St. Bonaventure, but if he doesn't get the grades up (self-reported 2.1), it may not matter. Other

Cornerbacks to Watch:
Derron Smith, 5-11, 170, Banning (Calif.)
Charles Garrett, 6-1, 190, Los Angeles (Calif.) Dorsey
Brock Vereen, 5-11, 170, Valencia (Calif.)
Bene Benwikere, 5-10.5, 170, Gardena (Calif.) Serra
Joshua Mitchell, 5-9, 165, Corona (Calif.) Roosevelt
Jonathan Mack, 5-10, 185, Colton (Calif.)

Safeties (Will Take: 2 or 3)

While UCLA already has commitments from two guys who probably project as safeties in college, it's a case of not turning down any more elite athletes who might also end up safeties.

Tony Jefferson, 6-0, 197, Chula Vista (Calif.) Eastlake. COMMITTED. Jefferson was an early commit to Stanford but backed off that commitment and had offers from all over the nation,. UCLA showed a great deal of interest in the versatile Jefferson, who could play safety and running back as well. Then out of the blue in July, Jefferson pulled the trigger for UCLA, giving them an elite safety, at a position they've always recruited well at. The UnderArmour All-American has been to both of UCLA's home games. Offered.

Earnest Thomas, 6-2, 195, Orchard Lake (Mich.) St. Mary Prep. COMMITTED. Thomas' offers spread from the east coast to the southeast to out West, with UCLA and Stanford being two of his top seven, from out West. Thomas committed to UCLA at the beginning of summer without having even visited UCLA and he plans to do that officially in the next couple months. Offered.

Dietrich Riley, 6-1, 195, La Canada (Calif.) St. Francis. Riley is an athlete who can play receiver, running back or safety. He was offered by UCLA last summer, but he's been offered by schools all over the country and he will be patient in choosing a school. Lately, he's talked more and more about playing out of state, but USC has been the one local school getting the most attention from him. Riley probably projects best to safety in college, though he said UCLA has told him he could play running back in college. Offered.

Erick Dargan, 6-0, 190, Pittsburg (Calif.). Like Riley, Dargan can play receiver, running back or safety. He was offered by UCLA in the early part of summer after coming to the 1-Day camp, and has double digit offers, but the Bruins are very much a favorite in the race for arguably the top prospect in Northern California in the class of 2010. Offered.

Sean Parker, 6-0 190, Harbor City (Calif.) Narbonne. Parker is the top defensive back in the West, his offer list a who's who of college football. The entire Pac-10 has offered, as has Notre Dame, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee and Oklahoma among others. Parker has long said he's interested in playing out of state, but if he stays close to home, USC will have the advantage. Offered.

Shaydon Akuna, 6-3, 209, Kapolei (Hawaii). Like his teammate Elisara, Akuna's first offers included one from UCLA, and the Bruins have a natural advantage with Stan Hasiak knowing Akuna very well. With his size, outside linebacker isn't out of the question either. Offered

Marquis Flowers, 6-3, 195, Goodyear (Ariz.) Millennium. Flowers has offers from much of the Pac-10 as well as schools like Michigan, Nebraska and Cal, but Arizona appears to be the leader in this one. Offered.

Other Safeties to Watch:
Lucky Radley, 5-10, 185, Agoura (Calif.)
Brett Thomas, 6-0, 180, Poway (Calif.)
Derrick Malone, 6-1, 210, Colton (Calif.).
Tre Sayles, 6-2, 210, Corona (Calif.) Santiago


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