Recruiting Reset: Defense

Most of the remaining recruiting UCLA has to do between now and signing day in February is with defensive prospects. Even with nine defensive commitments, the Bruins are looking for a few more studs at just about every defensive position...

UCLA currently has 17 commitments, and they'll have around 22 scholarships available after this year. But with attrition, guys leaving after being passed on the depth chart, or in the case of Brian Price, who could potentially bolt for the NFL Draft, they could end up giving out the full allotment of 25.

UCLA currently has nine commitments from defensive players, and are still in on several elite prospects on that side of the ball.

Here is a look at the defensive recruits UCLA has a commitment from and those that are still possibilities.

Defensive Tackles

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 have two commits but would love to get another two.

Julious 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 and plays with a lot of nasty and is a two-way starter for one of the best programs in the country. We saw Moore earlier this season against Sacramento Grant and he was disruptive, with two sacks and two tackles for loss against a very good Grant line and then followed it up with another dominant performance in the Washington 3A State Title game.  Earlier this week, Moore was named the 3A State Player of the Year, a rare honor for a defensive lineman.  We've heard that he's gotten his academics all shored up and shouldn't have a problem qualifying. 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 played in the past for the Tigers, but he also has the size to grow into a defensive tackle, where he likely projects in college and where he played when we saw him play this fall.  Flowers can be disruptive and has a nice frame. Offered.

George Uko, 6-4, 295, Chino (Calif.) Don Lugo. Uko is a guy who's been much discussed for the past few months. It took him showing up, and dominating in a short time span, at the UCLA 1-Day Camp for him to get 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 has offers from around the country, and he's visited UCLA and Cal officially, with visits coming up to USC and Oregon, and it appears to be a four team race for him, with USC the team to beat.  UCLA made a big impression on him when he took an official visit last month, but it wasn't enough to overtake USC.  UCLA is still trying with Uko, and for good reason, but this is an uphill climb. Offered.

Fred Thompson, 6-4, 290, Oakland (Calif.) Oakland Tech.  Thompson has seen his stock take off this season, with a great senior year. He's gotten offers from all around the Pac-10. The Bruins' staff offered Thompson earlier this month and he's visited Arizona, Arizona State and Washington State with plans to visit Oregon State and UCLA next month.  He's a big guy who can move, with good athleticism.  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 for an in-home with him already. 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 should be getting an official visit next month.  So far, his only official visits have been to Oregon and Oregon State.  Heimuli has been low-key throughout his recruitment.  He initially planned to announce at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl but it will now come later because of his desire to take the remaining three visits in January. 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.  Epanesa is planning to visit UCLA officially next month and the Bruin staff heavily covets him.  He has to fine-tune some academics though, but UCLA is hoping he gets them squared away. Offered.

Ego Ferguson, 6-4, 270, Chatham (Va.) Hargrave. UCLA is on the short list for Ego, but is on there with several of the heavyweights from the Southeast and Atlantic states. Still, the Bruins are trying with him and they look like they may get one of his last visits next month.  UCLA has had an in-home visit with him. Offered.

Brandon Willis, 6-2.5, 255, Duncan (S.C.) Byrnes. UCLA had been in the Willis sweepstakes for quite some time, but then he committed to Tennessee, interestingly enough, the weekend the Vols hosted UCLA.  Willis softened his verbal and visited North Carolina last month and visited UCLA last month as well with a trip to Miami having been taken last weekend.  It may still be a longshot, but UCLA will continue to try with him.  Willis found himself at the center of a controversy with Tennessee and recruiting hostesses so it will be interesting to see how that plays out.  Offered.

Richard Ash, 6-4, 270, Pahokee (Fla.). Ash visited UCLA last month and the trip reportedly went well, but he didn't have much post-trip glow.  He's committed to Michigan after initially committing to West Virginia and we're hearing that UCLA isn't out of the race at all for Ash. 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. He's talked about taking an official visit to UCLA, but he's also got some academic issues to clear up. Offered.

Other Defensive Tackles to Watch:
Beau Allen, 6-3, 292, Minnetonka (Minn.)
Brendan Tago, 6-2, 285, Palmdale (Calif.) Highland
Sani Fuimaono, 6-2, 260, Honolulu (Hawaii) Punahou

Defensive Ends

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

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 sat 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. In September, 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 wasn't going to even take his other four trips because he's firm in his commitment.  That changed, though, earlier this month, when he visited North Carolina.  He was reportedly wowed by his visit to Chapel Hill, and while he said he's still committed to the Bruins, the Tar Heels left a big impression, so this one may not be over. Offered.

Owamagbe Odighizuwa, 6-3, 235, Portland (Ore.) Douglas. One of the elite defenders in the Northwest, the Bruins are in the top seven for "Owa", along with Cal, USC, Nebraska, Florida, Oregon and Oregon State. UCLA had him in for an official visit when they played Washington, and Owa said it was his best trip.  It appears that Florida and Nebraska are out of the mix now, and that Owa will be choosing from the Pac-10 schools, UCLA, USC, Cal and the two in-state schools, Oregon and Oregon State.  He was initially planning to announce at the U.S. Army Game but will likely delay his announcement until later in January. 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 senior film before deciding if they're going to offer.  We saw him this fall and he was disruptive and between him and Flowers, appears to be the better prospect.  He's a good student, so academics aren't an issue.  The key will be how UCLA does with their remaining prospects.  If they miss on a couple, Yates could end up with an offer, which he'll likely jump on.

Other Defensive Ends to Watch:
Everett Beed, 6-3, 225, Phelan (Calif.) Serrano
Leonard Rhodes 6-3, 230, Walnut (Calif.)

Linebackers

Aramide Olaniyan, 6-2, 200, Woodbury Forest (Va.). COMMITTED. 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 in September decommitted.  He took an official visit earlier this month to UCLA and was blown away on the trip.  A week later, Olaniyan committed to the Bruins, giving UCLA another stellar player from Virginia. Offered.

Eric Kendricks, 6-1, 205, Fresno (Calif.) Hoover. COMMITTED.  The brother of current Cal linebacker Mychal Kendricks and the son of former UCLA running back Marv Kendricks, the younger of the two is a versatile inside/outside backer who camped at UCLA during the summer and had serious interest in the Bruins.  UCLA offered him late in October and he committed to the Bruins in November.  Having seen Kendricks play, a good comparison for him would be Christian Taylor- a heady player, who while may not owning the ideal physical attributes, still always seems to find a way to make plays.  Offered.

Hayes Pullard, 6-1, 210, Los Angeles (Calif.) Crenshaw. Pullard is high on the Bruins as he is with schools like USC, Washington, Notre Dame and Arizona State, who have have offered him and are making a big push for his services. He's visited Washington, Notre Dame and Arizona State and will likely visit USC and UCLA in January.  Pullard is the top inside linebacker in the state and UCLA would love to get a commitment from him. 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 and arguably, their biggest target left outside of some D-Lineman.  Pullard is also tight with DeAnthony Thomas, the elite 2011 prospect from Crenshaw that UCLA covets. Offered.

Josh Shirley, 6-3, 220, Fontana (Calif.) Kaiser. Shirley is 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.  Shirley was one of the Bruins' primary targets but with Olaniyan and Kendricks, and their race for Pullard, things appear to have cooled between Shirley and UCLA.  He's visited Washington and Arizona, and still may visit UCLA and USC officially.  Miami is another school to watch for in the race for Shirley. Offered.

Jordan Zumwalt, 6-3, 225, Huntington Beach (Calif.) Edison.  Zumwalt was very interested in UCLA during the spring, but didn't receive an offer at that time.  He committed to Stanford, but he's had a huge senior season for the top-ranked Chargers, and last month, both USC and UCLA have offered him.  We've heard if he gets admitted into Stanford, he'll head to the Farm, but if not, the two Los Angeles schools will battle it out for him. Offered.

Other Linebackers to Watch:
Ofa Fifita, 6-0, 200, San Bernardino (Calif.) Arroyo Valley
Luke Zelon, 6-3, 215, Santa Monica (Calif.)
Cornerbacks

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, its likely he stays at corner. We saw him this fall and he was playing corner for Edison, recording an interception, and is also a dangerous returner, returning a punt and a kick for a touchdown, with two more rushing touchdowns.  Offered.

Shaquille Richardson, 6-1, 180, Los Alamitos (Calif.). COMMITTED.  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 will end up playing together in college. Richardson ended his recruitment earlier this month by committing to his lifelong favorite. Offered.

Anthony Jefferson, 6-1, 190, Los Angeles (Calif.) Cathedral. Jefferson has offers from all over the country, and especially the Pac-10, and he's one of the few guys at this position who really could play on either side of the ball in college. Initially he was offered as a receiver by many schools, but now, the four he's considering all like him as a cornerback. The Trojans were his childhood favorite, but he's also close with Randall Carroll, who he played with at Cathedral and is now at UCLA. Jefferson's offer list has allowed him to be patient and he doesn't seem to be in a rush to decide. He's taking all of his visits, already having visited Cal and Oregon, and he's planning to visit USC and UCLA in January.  Jefferson said it's between those four schools. Offered.

Cornerbacks to Watch:
Derron Smith, 5-11, 170, Banning (Calif.)
Charles Garrett, 6-1, 190, Los Angeles (Calif.) Dorsey
Bene Benwikere, 5-10.5, 170, Gardena (Calif.) Serra
Jonathan Mack, 5-10, 185, Colton (Calif.)

Safeties

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 next month.  He's been a bigtime player for OLSMP, helping them to the state finals, with three touchdowns in the quarterfinals. 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. USC has been the one local school getting the most attention from him but Riley told us last week that UCLA has been making a huge push and that Rick Neuheisel is recruiting him the hardest right now.  He also was on campus three times in a week span earlier this month. Riley probably projects best to safety in college, though he said UCLA has told him he could play running back in college. He will visit USC and UCLA in January. 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 still in the race for arguably the top prospect in Northern California in the class of 2010.  Dargan missed much of his senior year with a torn MCL, but came back in the playoffs and helped the Pirates to the CIF-NCS Finals, where they lost to eventual state champions De La Salle.  Dargan has taken three trips and the Bruins appear to be in line for one of his remaining official visits next month. 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.  Still, UCLA made his final four, which also includes Arizona State, Arizona and USC.  He'll announce his decision next month at the U.S. Army All-American Game. Offered.

Ryan Murphy, 6-2, 205, Oakland (Calif.) Oakland Tech. A new name to the discussion is Murphy, an Oakland Tech teammate of Fred Thompson.  While Murphy doesn't have a UCLA offer, they've requested film and transcripts, and if both check out, he could land an offer.  Murphy did most of his damage on offense this season, rushing for over 2,000 yards for Tech, but he projects to defense, where he can play either safety or outside linebacker.

Other Safeties to Watch:
Tre Sayles, 6-2, 210, Corona (Calif.) Santiago


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