UCLA Football Recruiting: Updates on 2014 Commits and Targets
College football recruiting for the 2014 season is about to hit the final stretch. As it's currently constituted, the UCLA Bruins have 18 commitments.
There are a number of holes in which UCLA would love to fill with elite high school prospects. The skill positions are a huge area of emphasis. The Bruins are also looking to upgrade the talent on the offensive line and in the linebacker corps.
This piece will detail the current commitments and also potential targets on the recruiting trail. A full breakdown of each position group will be detailed. With about a month until national signing day, there's still much work to be done for Jim Mora and his staff.
Here's a comprehensive look at the UCLA 2014 recruiting class.
Note: All 2013 stats are from 247Sports.com, unless otherwise stated.
Update 2/05/14: Rashaan Evans has committed to Alabama.
Update 2/05/14: Malachi Dupre has committed to LSU.
Update 2/05/14: Kenny Young has committed to UCLA.
Update 2/05/14: Solomon Thomas has committed to Stanford.
Update 2/04/14: Budda Baker has committed to Washington.
Update 2/01/14: The official visitors for this weekend include Malachi Dupre, Kenny Young, Jacob Tuioti-Mariner, Davon Godchaux and Kalen Ballage.
Update 1/29/14: Per Greg Biggins of Scout.com, Damien Mama has canceled his visit to UCLA.
Update 1/28/14: Adoree' Jackson has tweeted a final four list of UCLA, USC, Florida and LSU.
Update 1/28/14: 5-star OL Damien Mama will visit UCLA officially on Jan. 31.
Update 1/25/14: UCLA offensive line target Nick Gates has committed to Nebraska.
Update 1/25/14: Bryce Dixon will not visit UCLA officially. He has reaffirmed his commitment to Southern Cal.
Update 1/21/14: Per Matt Scalici of AL.com, Rashaan Evans will visit UCLA on Jan. 31. This is a massive development for UCLA...
Update 1/21/14: 4-star OT Kolton Miller (6'8", 280 lbs) has committed to UCLA.
Update 1/21/14: UCLA is having an in-home visit with elite linebacker Rashaan Evans. Per Matt Scalici of AL.com, Evans could visit Westwood on Jan. 31 with his family.
If that does come to fruition, UCLA could be sitting pretty with the Auburn, Ala. native.
Update 1/21/14: Elite 4-star OG Demetrius Knox will officially visit UCLA on Jan. 31. Knox is currently committed to Ohio State.
Update 1/20/14: Per Ryan Kartje of the Orange Country Register, Quarterback Aaron Sharp has committed to UCLA.
Update 1/19/14: 5-star ATH John "Juju" Smith has included UCLA on his final list of schools. The list includes Southern Cal, Notre Dame and Oregon in addition to the Bruins.
Update 01/16/14: Tailback Marlon Mack has decommitted from UCLA. Per Nick Baumgardner of MLive.com, Mack will look at Michigan and Louisville.
Update 01/09/14: Talented 3-star defensive lineman Matt Dickerson decommitted from Notre Dame and opted to become a UCLA Bruin.
Update 01/07/14: Defensive end Jacob Tuioti-Mariner committed to UCLA over offers from Wisconsin and Arizona, among others. He is a high school teammate of fellow UCLA pledge Jaleel Wadood.
Update 01/06/14: 3-star DB John Plattenburg flipped from UCLA to USC.
Update 01/04/14: Fellow Army All-American Nate Starks (4-star ATH, 5'11", 200 lbs.) has committed to UCLA. The running back from Cherry Creek High School in Englewood, Col. became the second tailback pledge in UCLA's 2014 class. He's a physical player with very good ability.
Update 01/04/14: In a bit of a shocker, Dwight Williams (4-star LB, 6'1", 205 lbs.) committed to UCLA at the Army All-American Bowl. The Serra High School product chose to stay home in Los Angeles over offers from Oklahoma, Florida and Michigan.
Update 01/03/14: Zach Whitley (4-star LB, 6'2", 223 lbs.) committed to UCLA. He was previous a pledge to Alabama before switching to the Bruins. Whitley graduated from high school early and enrolled at UCLA in January.
It's been a relatively quiet month of December from a recruiting standpoint for Mora and the Bruins.
The biggest news came in the form of retaining both Mora and Adrian Klemm as members of the staff. UCLA stepped up financially and ensured that the vast majority of UCLA's staff would stay together. Mora did fire running backs coach Steve Broussard, and brought on highly respected Kennedy Polamalu.
Polamalu has extensive recruiting ties in the Polynesian community, as well as all over the state of California. The addition should help the Bruins in a coaching and recruiting capacity.
The Bruins did get two big commitments this month from 4-star safety Jaleel Wadood and 4-star defensive lineman Ainuu Taua.
Wadood is cerebral in every sense of the word. He's excellent at diagnosing the action on the field and making the requisite play. Wadood is a great tackler and plays bigger than he is. Although a bit thin, expect Wadood to see the field as a true freshman.
Taua is a high-energy player. He's relentless with his effort and drive, making him very tough to deal with. He does not possess ideal size. However, Taua is equipped with the quickness and power to play anywhere on the defensive line.
As he matures physically, he'll likely settle in as a nose guard. Taua could see time at defensive end as a true freshman. A fullback in high school, Taua might also be utilized in UCLA's special package, which uses defensive players on offense.
Mora is a closer when it comes to recruiting. Last year, he landed 12 prospects after the month of December. Every single recruit was either a 4-star or 5-star player (according to Scout.com).
Expect that trend to continue this season.
Aaron Sharp—3-star dual-threat QB; 6'3", 190 lbs
UCLA got its 2014 quarterback in Summer Creek High School product Aaron Sharp.
The talented signal-caller out of Humble, Tex. decommitted from Kansas State in order to pledge to the Bruins. Sharp is blessed with tremendous speed. Per the Houston Chronicle, the quarterback was the 2013 Texas state champion in the 200-meter dash.
He has a short, compact throwing motion. While not possessing great arm strength, Sharp more than makes up for it with his touch and accuracy. Sharp's touch on passes down the field is very impressive to watch.
Sharp's commitment was massive for the Bruins. He gives UCLA the quarterback it needed in the 2014 class. With Brett Hundley likely leaving after this year, Sharp gives the roster another option next to Jerry Neuheisel and Asiantii Woulard.
Joe Mixon—5-star RB; 6'2", 195 lbs
Kalen Ballage—4-star RB; 6'2", 215 lbs
Nathan Starks—4-star RB; 5'11", 200 lbs
Starks' commitment was big for the Bruins. He's a physical runner with good vision and patience. UCLA doesn't have a bigger option in the backfield on the roster. With that in mind, Starks should see time early in his career as the potential power back.
It's still up in the air as to whether or not UCLA will still pursue Mixon. There was an unsubstantiated rumor which made it sound as if Mixon would consider UCLA. The Oklahoma commitment vehemently denied the claim on his Twitter account.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Alex Van Dyke—4-star WR; 6'4", 205 lbs
Jordan Lasley—4-star WR; 6'1", 185 lbs
Austin Roberts—4-star WR; 6'2", 211 lbs
Update: Per BruinReportOnline.com, Dixon, Quick, and Dupre will all visit UCLA on the last weekend before signing day.
Quick could be favoring Oklahoma at this point. He's already taken an official visit to Norman, and has two ex-high school teammates (Hatari Byrd, L.J. Moore) playing for the Sooners.
UCLA will lose its top receiver in Shaq Evans to graduation this year. In a general sense, the Bruins do need more explosiveness from their wide receiver corps. There isn't necessarily a current member on the roster with the ability to take a short pass and turn it into a big play.
Van Dyke and Roberts bring both size and physicality to the position. Van Dyke in particular is dripping with upside. Roberts chose the Bruins over offers from Southern Cal, Alabama and Florida State, among others. He's a big-bodied receiver with great ball skills.
Lasley is the fastest of the committed prospects. He's electric with the ball in his hands, and has big-play ability that the Bruins desperately need. However, there's a chance that he ends up at Southern Cal. His high school quarterback Jalen Greene recently committed to the Trojans, and Lasley does hold a Southern Cal offer.
According to Scott Schrader of 247Sports.com (subscription required), it'll likely be a UCLA-Southern Cal battle for Dixon. The St. Bonaventure prospect would be a nice fit for the Bruins at the "Y" position.
Quick, much like Lasley, is supremely athletic and agile. He'd instantly impact UCLA's depth chart as a slot receiver. Oklahoma appears to be the biggest challenger in garnering Quick's services. UCLA does have to like the fact that Quick will officially visit Westwood on the last weekend before signing day.
It will be difficult to pull Dupre away from LSU. However, Dupre will also be visiting UCLA on Jan. 31 (per Scout.com). At worst, UCLA has a puncher's chance with the elite pass-catcher.
Najee Toran—3-star OG; 6'3", 265 lbs
Malcolm Bunche— transfer from Miami; 6'7", 327 lbs
Kolton Miller—4-star OT; 6'8", 280 lbs
Kolton Miller has committed to UCLA. The tackle out of Roseville, Calif. chose the Bruins over Oregon, Oregon State and Wisconsin.
Susan Miller Degnan of the Miami Herald reported Malcolm Bunche will transfer to UCLA from the University of Miami. Bunche has one year of eligibility remaining, and will be able to play right away for the Bruins.
The addition of the behemoth lineman is a massive development for the Bruins. He's able to play as both a tackle and a guard. He'll offer offensive line coach Adrian Klemm plenty of versatility and experience.
Kolton Miller officially visited UCLA on Jan. 24. The 6'8" tackle has offers from the likes of Oregon and Wisconsin. Based on the interaction between Miller's younger brother and Jim Mora on Twitter, it'd be a surprise if Miller doesn't end up in Westwood.
Mama has narrowed his list down to UCLA, USC, BYU and Alabama. The No. 1 guard nationally is tentatively scheduled to take an unofficial visit to UCLA before signing day.
Injuries yet again decimated the UCLA offensive line in 2013. The Bruins started three true freshmen out of necessity to compensate for the various ailments. At times, UCLA was without its top three offensive tackles. In the victory against Southern Cal, Ben Wysocki stepped in and played the majority of the game at right tackle. He had previously been a sparsely-used offensive guard.
Without question, the Bruins need to continue to bring bodies into the program. The injury bugaboo has seemingly been a theme in regards to the UCLA offensive line for the past decade (or more).
The lone commit is Najee Toran out of Houston. Toran has a smallish frame, and doesn't appear to be a immediate impact player. He's slated to come in as a guard, with the ability to also play center.
UCLA is in desperate need of tackles. Starting tackle Simon Goines has battled knee injuries since he enrolled at UCLA two years ago. Torian White, the other starting tackle, has been plagued with a broken ankle and by a legal issue. As a result, depth is paper-thin at the position.
The two top targets at tackle appear to be Kolton Miller and Denzel Ward. Both are tall, long prospects with good athleticism. Miller is slated to visit UCLA officially on Jan. 17. It's expected that Ward will also visit UCLA at some point in January.
Two guard prospects to watch are Larry Allen Jr. and Kammy Delp. According to Lars Hanson of 247Sports.com, Delp has UCLA in his final five, and will announce Jan. 5 at the Semper Fidelis Bowl. Allen doesn't currently have a UCLA offer. However, he comes from arguably the top high school football program in the country in Concord, California's De La Salle High School, and has incredible blood lines. Allen is one to watch as he could be a late offer.
Ainuu Taua—4-star DT; 6'0", 285 lbs
Jacob Tuioti-Mariner—2-star DE; 6'4", 250 lbs
Matt Dickerson—3-star DE; 6'5", 275 lbs
UCLA fortified its defensive line in the future with the commitments of Dickerson and Tuioti-Mariner.
Tuioti-Mariner has considerable upside. The St. John Bosco defensive end is also an excellent volleyball player. With a year in the weight room, he could turn into an absolute monster.
Dickerson has been long committed to Notre Dame. Due to a family issue, the talented defensive end out of San Mateo, Calif. chose to stay close to home. Dickerson has the versatility to play as both a defensive end and tackle. His long arms and lengthy frame makes him a perfect fit as a defensive end in UCLA's 3-4 scheme.
Lealaimatafao announced on Twitter he's down to Oregon, UCLA and LSU. The stout defensive tackle out of San Antonio will decide on Feb. 5.
According to Wescott Eberts of SBNation.com, Thomas has narrowed his list down to Stanford, Arkansas and UCLA. The elite defensive end out of Coppell, Tex. would be a major coup for the Bruins.
UCLA did very well in last year's defensive line class. Eddie Vanderdoes and Kenny Clark both became starters as true freshmen. Kylie Fitts is another defensive end with a bright future. In essence, the depth at the position is relatively solid.
However, there's always room for elite defensive linemen to come on board.
Taua is the lone commitment at this point. The undersized defensive tackle from Lompoc makes up for his lack of ideal measurables with quickness and power. He's a ball of fury and has the ability to play at any spot along the defensive line.
Tuioti-Mariner's stock has risen arguably as much as any prospect in the state of California recently. Although raw, he's a tremendous athlete. The former volleyball player has all of the tools to be a very good player down the line. Tuioti-Mariner will visit UCLA on Jan. 24, and it would not be a shock to see him eventually become a Bruin.
Most of the remaining targets are from outside of California. All of them are considered to be very good prospects. Thomas in particular is someone UCLA would love to land. According to Scout.com, Thomas visited UCLA officially in December. Stanford, Arkansas and Ohio State seem like the primary competition.
Although committed to Notre Dame, Dickerson could be an interesting name to watch. This is purely speculation on my part. Dickerson hasn't publicly said he has interest in UCLA. However, UCLA was one of his earliest offers. He hails from Northern California, which is a lot closer to UCLA than it is to South Bend, Ind.
Notre Dame's defensive coordinator Bob Diaco just recently left for the head coaching position at Connecticut. UCLA's defensive line coach Angus McClure is from Northern California, like Dickerson.
Finally, there's been a massive exodus of Notre Dame players to UCLA recently (Shaq Evans, Joe Fauria, Eddie Vanderdoes). It just seems as if UCLA might not be out of it with the talented defensive end from San Mateo.
Cameron Griffin—3-star LB; 6'3", 210 lbs
Dwight Williams—4-star LB; 6'1", 205 lbs
Zach Whitley—4-star MLB; 6'2", 223 lbs
Kenny Young—4-star MLB; 6'2", 220 lbs
Whitley and Williams both add immense athleticism to the linebacker corps.
Whitley is a physical middle 'backer with tremendous sideline-to-sideline pursuit. He's already enrolled in school and will participate in spring practice.
Williams is an athletic outside linebacker. He hails from Gardena Serra High School—the same institution as fellow UCLA commitment Jordan Lasley.
Evans is arguably the biggest target remaining on UCLA's board. He's an elite athlete with outstanding pass rushing abilities. He's narrowed his list down to UCLA, Auburn and Alabama. Per Matt Scalici of AL.com, Evans might take an unofficial visit to UCLA on Jan. 31.
Young will take his last official visit to UCLA on Jan. 31. He will be accompanied by fellow John Curtis Christian product Malachi Dupre.
Griffin is another high-upside recruit for the Bruins. He played in a relatively weak league, but thoroughly dominated the competition. He's a tough, intelligent kid with considerable potential. Griffin is one to watch for in future years.
The three top targets at the linebacker position all hail from the Southern part of the country.
According to Edward Lewis of Rivals.com, Young has taken an unofficial visit to UCLA. He's slated to visit Westwood with his two high school teammates (Mattrell McGraw, Malachi Dupre) on the last weekend before signing day.
Whitley is a commitment to the University of Alabama. However, he visited UCLA officially in December. His high school teammate Najee Toran is currently committed to the Bruins. Like Toran, Whitley has the ability to enroll early in college. UCLA is on the quarter system, so Whitley could theoretically enroll in school on Jan. 6 after he participates in the Army All-American Bowl.
He cannot enroll in January at Alabama. This development could help the Bruins land him.
Of the trio, Evans is the best of the bunch. There's a reason why he's being heavily targeted by every prominent SEC institution.
According to Keith Niebuhr of 247Sports.com, the Auburn, Ala. native recently narrowed his list down to UCLA, Alabama, Georgia, Ole Miss and Auburn. If the Bruins were able to somehow land the talented 'backer, it would be a tremendous boon. Evans is absolutely dynamic off of the edge. He flies around the field and makes plays with ferocity.
Pairing Evans with Myles Jack would make life extremely difficult for Pac-12 offenses. Realistically, the prospect of landing a player of Evans' caliber from deep in SEC country might be a bit too much to overcome.
John "Juju" Smith—5-star ATH; 6'1", 200 lbs
Adoree' Jackson—5-star ATH; 5'9.5", 182 lbs
Adarius Pickett—4-star CB; 5'11", 175 lbs
Denzel Fisher—3-star CB; 6'2", 170 lbs
Ron Robinson—3-star S/OLB; 6'2", 190 lbs
Jaleel Wadood—4-star S; 5'11", 170 lbs
Lars Hanson of 247Sports announced Baker decommitted from Oregon, and has narrowed his list down to UCLA and Washington.
The elite athlete out of Bellevue High School is a former high school teammate of Myles Jack. He will take his last official visit to UCLA on Jan. 24.
Jackson released a list of his final six schools on Twitter, and UCLA made the cut. He's an absolutely electric athlete. He has the ability to impact any school he chooses in his freshman year.
Former commitment John Plattenburg has flipped his commitment to Southern Cal. If there's one position UCLA could withstand a decommitment from, it's in the secondary. However, losing Plattenburg to the Trojans has got to sting a bit.
Looking at the commitment list, UCLA has put an emphasis on strengthening its pool of defensive backs.
Robinson and Pickett have both signed as early enrollees. Robinson has the frame to potentially move to outside linebacker. Pickett was recognized as the East Bay Football Player of the Year. Not only was he a lockdown cornerback, but he was also a fabulous running back in high school.
Fisher physique mirrors that of a praying mantis. He's got ridiculously long arms to go with a lengthy, slender frame. He needs definite time in the weight room, but his upside is undeniable.
Both Plattenburg and Wadood are extremely intelligent, instinctive football players. Wadood was named as the Los Angeles Times' Player of the Year. He was the leader on the best high school football team in the country in St. John Bosco.
McGraw and Godfrey are natives of the Southeast. Godfrey will visit UCLA officially on Jan. 17, and appears to have shortened his final list to UCLA, Utah and Wisconsin. Godfrey is a physical safety with good ball skills.
McGraw has narrowed his choices to Oregon and UCLA. With the amount of defensive backs currently committed, it'd be a mild surprise if McGraw or Godfrey end up as Bruins.