Handicapping the Recruiting Class

We don't usually indulge in speculation to this degree, but with two months left before football recruiting signing day, and with UCLA having completed about two-thirds of its recruiting class, it's fun to try to project how the rest of the class will fill out...

So, every year at about this time we get asked at Bruin Report Online to guess who will be the recruits that will round out UCLA's recruiting class.

We don't usually indulge in speculation to that degree but, heck, it's a slow week.

UCLA has 16 recruits committed presently, and currently just 19 scholarships open for next season.

But you can probably expect UCLA to take 22 to 25 recruits in the 2010 class, with scholarships probably opening up from current players leaving the program and perhaps some recruits greyshirting.

Put it this way: There aren't too many guys UCLA is still recruiting that they would turn down if they wanted to jump in the boat.

And by our rough estimation, there are probably 15 recruits out there that UCLA is actively recruiting that they have a good to excellent chance of getting.

So, while UCLA is willing to be creative in making room for all the guys it wants in the 2010 class, if by some very fortunate turn of events UCLA happens to get just about all of them, it could be very interesting to see how UCLA would "create" the scholarships for them.

More than likely, though, you can probably expect UCLA to sign 7 to 9 more guys, and have the room for them.

Here are how the chances shake out for UCLA's remaining recruits.

Guys UCLA Leads For And Should Get (Unless Something Drastic Changes):

Sil Ajawara, OL, Las Flores (Calif.) Tesoro
Wade Yandall, OL, Carson (Calif.) High
Paul Richardson, WR, Gardena (Calif.) Serra
Sealii Epenesa, DT, Honolulu (Haw.) Iolani
Kirifi Taula, DT, Anaheim (Calif.) Servite
Erick Dargan, S, Pittsburg (Calif.) High
Hayes Pullard, LB, Los Angeles (Calif.) Crenshaw
Anthony Barr, ATH, Los Angeles (Calif.) Loyola

Ajawara and Yandall have made indications that they intend to be Bruins. Of course, things can get de-railed but Ajawara intends to announce next week. UCLA still leads for Yandall while he's visiting other schools and he'll finish off his official visits with one to UCLA for the Bruins' big recruiting weekend January 16th/17th.

It would be surprising and a complete upset if Richardson went anywhere else. It's always been known that he still favored UCLA after he de-committed, and now with his cousin, Shaquille Richardson, committed to UCLA, it would be the shock of the recruiting season if he didn't end up a Bruin.

Word out of Hawaii is that UCLA is doing an excellent job recruiting Epanesa and he favors the Bruins. That's good because everything I've heard from those same sources is that UCLA has made Epanesa a big priority.

It's been known for some time that Taula favors UCLA.

We'll go a little bit out on a limb in putting Dargan in this category. We knew he favored UCLA a while ago, but then it looked like both sides cooled for a while. But now that Tony Jefferson has de-committed, UCLA is definitely in need of another safety and it's believed that Dargan is an exceptional prospect and under-rated. He's also more of a free safety, which is actually what UCLA needs, as opposed to Jefferson, who was more of a strong safety. We've heard Dargan is now liking the Bruins again.

UCLA leads for the last two elite players on that list, Pullard and Barr. Sources close to both have said they'll be Bruins. But, as we prefaced this, there are still two month before signing day and things can change pretty quickly. With Barr, UCLA will have to weather the new head coach hire at Notre Dame.

Guys UCLA Might Have a Better Shot With Than Believed:

Owamagbe Odighizuwa, DE, Portland (Ore.) Douglas
Anthony Jefferson, WR/DB, Los Angeles (Calif.) Cathedral

There are a fair share of sources out there that say not to be surprised if Odighizuwa ends up a Bruin. He had a very good official visit, where he and his parents really bonded with the players, coaches and recruits, and he's a UCLA-type of kid.

People close to the recruitment of Jefferson feel that he is also a UCLA-type of kid and where he fits the best among the schools recruiting him. The thought is that he also sees more immediate playing time at UCLA, at both receiver and defensive back, which is the position where he's now being projected (cornerback, in fact). He's supposed to visit UCLA on that same big recruiting weekend in January. The thought is that he likes the up-and-coming feel to UCLA.

Guys UCLA Still Has a Chance With But Will Probably Go Elsewhere:

George Uko, DT, Chino (Calif.) Don Lugo
Ricky Heimuli, DT, Salt Lake City (Utah) Brighton
Richard Ash, DT, Pahokee (Fla.) High

UCLA – well, really, Rick Neuheisel – has done a particularly remarkable job to even get into the finalists for Uko. He brought the Bruins back from extinction last summer. It was a pretty encouraging indication, too, when Uko didn't verbally commit to USC on his official visit. Many believe it will go down to the wire for him, but he will ultimately go with USC, who has been leading for him a long time.

UCLA has also done a very good recruiting job of contending for Heimuli, and all the recent information on his recruitment is that UCLA has a decent chance. But USC has been leading for a while, according to sources. He'll also visit UCLA during that big January weekend.

Other Possibilities:

Robert Woods, WR, Gardena (Calif.) Serra
Dietrich Riley, ATH, La Canada (Calif.) St. Francis
Brandon Willis, DT, Duncan (S.C.) Byrnes

Neuheisel has continued to recruit Woods, even though he's verbally committed to USC. If there is a kid on this list that is considered a UCLA-type of kid, it's Woods, and Neuheisel isn't giving up.

Neuheisel is also personally pursuing Riley, and it's known that Riley really likes the UCLA head coach, but the Trojans are though to be the leaders.

There's a chance that Willis could still de-commit from Tennessee and UCLA might be one of his first considerations. But it's looking unlikely at this point.

We've heard rumors here and there that there are other guys – some JC guys – that UCLA is involved with, but it's not on a solid enough basis for it to even be included here.

There are also some other high school prospects UCLA is keeping warm, but we think they'll have enough to choose from the guys on this list that they've already offered and made a priority.

Overall, if it plays out close to what we projected here, the recruiting class would fall possibly a little short in the amount of defensive linemen UCLA wanted to sign (it would end up being 6 or 7, as opposed to the 8 they said they wanted), but it would still be a very impressive haul of d-lineman. It would be a strong in-the-trenches class, with 10 or 11 linemen on both sides of the ball, and four of the prospects four stars or better (and Epanesa, from what we hear, highly under-rated). It might not have the immediate-impact DT that UCLA could really use next year, but it probably does get the immediate-impact DE in Marquis Jackson.

The class would be among the best running back classes in the nation, if not the best, with the #6-, #13- and #14-ranked running backs nationally. Barr, if he ended up as a linebacker in college, would greatly bolster UCLA's linebacker class, which is probably the second biggest position of need on the team behind DT. With Pullard, Olaniyan and Barr all guys who are considered elite prospects, and Kendrick, that would be a very good linebacker nucleus for the future.

It would also continue UCLA's trend of bringing in big, NFL-sized cornerbacks, with Tevin McDonald, Richardson and possibly Jefferson.

UCLA had very limited scholarships for receivers, and Richardson would be a very solid-to-great acquisition.

UCLA has a stocked stable at tight end, but John Young will keep the position deep.

And quarterback Brett Nottingham showed in his senior year that he has a good chance to be a starter at UCLA.

If the remainder of the recruiting season did, in fact, play out like we've indicated, it would give UCLA a very good recruiting class, one that would probably again contend for a top ten spot in the nation.

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