UCLA Football Recruiting: 5 2013 Commits Who Will Start as Freshmen
With national signing day less than 48 hours away, the UCLA Bruins are putting the final touches on what will be considered an exceptional recruiting class.
As it currently stands, the Bruins are ranked by multiple recruiting services as having a top-10 class nationally. Scout has the Bruins' class ranked sixth nationally, while Rivals has UCLA as the ninth-best class in the land.
However, those rankings could shoot up by the time Wednesday rolls around. The Bruins are heavily involved with four elite prospects (Eddie Vanderdoes, Kylie Fitts, Asiantii Woulard, Isaac Savaiinaea), and it wouldn't be a shock to see UCLA land the entire quartet.
Of the prospects currently committed, here's a look at who could potentially start next season as true freshmen.
OG Caleb Benenoch
Of all the committed prospects, Caleb Benenoch could be the most college-ready.
At 6'6" and 320 pounds, he's absolutely massive. He's a mauler in the run game and has surprisingly nimble feet for a man of his stature. He's capable of playing tackle but will most likely come to UCLA as a guard initially.
It was quite a coup for the Bruins to land Benenoch. They beat out the likes of Oklahoma, Alabama, Texas A&M and others for his services.
The depth on the UCLA offensive line is paper thin. Offensive line coach Adrian Klemm also isn't afraid to play young players, as evidenced last season when he started a true freshman at right tackle (Simon Goines) and two redshirt freshmen at left tackle (Torian White) and center (Jake Brendel), respectively.
Klemm will play the most talented players, regardless of year. With that in mind, Benenoch could slide into the spot that was previously manned by the recently departed Jeff Baca.
Punter Sean Covington
With Jeff Locke headed to the NFL, his vacant spot will be filled by fellow lefty punter Sean Covington.
Like Locke, Covington is a fantastic athlete. He's got a very strong left leg and has demonstrated impressive hang times in regard to his punts. Also similarly to Locke, Covington is fully capable as a field-goal kicker.
With that type of versatility, the Under Armour All-American brings tons of value. He'll start off as the punter, but he could also take charge of the field-goal duties—especially if Ka'imi Fairbairn's struggles continue next season.
UCLA loses three members of its starting secondary to graduation. With ample playing time available, it wouldn't be out of the question to see Rancho Cucamonga safety Tahaan Goodman snag a starting spot.
Goodman has superlative anticipatory skills. He's very adept at watching the play unfold and reacting in the proper fashion. He also has no qualms about coming up and smacking opposing receivers square in the mouth.
He has to fill out a bit, but all the tools are there for the U.S. Army All-American to see the field as a true freshman.
LB Myles Jack
UCLA's linebacker corps is arguably the most talented of any unit on the team.
Middle linebacker Eric Kendricks led the conference in tackles last year, while Jordan Zumwalt is a bona fide NFL prospect. There's also some guy named Anthony Barr, who could be the most talented defensive player in the entire conference.
The fourth linebacker spot is currently vacant. Bellevue High School product Myles Jack has the ability to potentially start right way at the open spot.
He's a fantastic athlete, playing at both linebacker and tailback for his high school team. Jack has tremendous closing speed and plays with a physicality not seen very often on the high school level.
Despite the efforts of Florida State, Georgia, Oregon and Washington, it seems as if Jack will opt to stick with his pledge to UCLA on Wednesday.
S/CB Priest Willis
As previously mentioned, UCLA will lose three starters in the secondary to graduation, including both starting corners Sheldon Price and Aaron Hester.
The remaining members of the secondary are both injury prone and inexperienced, for the most part. Tevin McDonald is the only returning starter from a year ago. However, he was suspended for the Holiday Bowl due to a violation of team rules. That could compromise his starting role next season.
With that in mind, Tempe, Ariz. native Priest Willis is primed for early playing time, potentially at either cornerback or safety.
From a size standpoint, one would assume that Willis is destined to become a safety. However, he's got a skill set that lends itself to playing cornerback. The Under Armour All-American has good speed and great quickness.
For a player 6'2", he's also got tremendous fluidity in his hips and can turn in coverage quite well. He's also a very intelligent, savvy football player.
Willis' versatility makes him a very interesting prospect. Jim Mora can theoretically plug him in wherever the depth is the thinnest. At this point, it's a guess as to what position he'll play once he sets foot on campus.
Regardless, he'll push for time right off the bat. He's too talented of a prospect to redshirt as a freshman.
RB Craig Lee
Of the committed prospects, there are a few others that could potentially find themselves in starting roles.
The running back position is completely up in the air at this point. Damien Thigpen would be the logical choice to take over for Johnathan Franklin, but the speedster from Gainesville, Va. suffered a torn ACL toward the end of the year.
Redshirt freshmen Paul Perkins is someone that could see time next season, as could incoming freshmen Craig Lee. It's not likely that one tailback will separate from the pack. With that in mind, it's very conceivable to believe the Bruins will go with a running back-by-committee approach next season.
The offensive line is also a big question from a depth standpoint. Realistically, Xavier Su'a-Filo is the only player who's spot is secured. With that in mind, Alex Redmond and Christian Morris could theoretically start next season.