After a stellar 2013 recruiting season, the UCLA Bruins and Jim Mora hope to replicate that same level of success in 2014.
UCLA signed 24 prospects this past February, and at least two more athletes are expected to join the team in the near future. In this current recruiting cycle, the Bruins will have to be a bit judicious with not only offering prospects but also in regard to accepting early commitments.
The prevailing notion is that Mora will be signing a relatively small class—most likely in the 18-20 range. UCLA is an extremely young football team across the board. In an effort to up both the talent level and depth on the squad, Mora has signed big numbers the past two seasons.
In 2013, the Bruins successfully targeted the offensive line and secondary. Additionally, measures were taken to shore up the quarterback position and linebacking corps.
In this current cycle, a vast impetus will be placed upon signing explosive wide receiver prospects. Unsurprisingly, UCLA's first commitment in 2014 came in the form of Corona Centennial wide receiver Barry Ware.
Ware is a very good athlete. He's physical at the line of scrimmage and seems to glide on the field when tracking down deep throws. His overall size and physicality stand out on his highlight tape.
The Bruins are also targeting Erik Brown from Fontana, Calif., Alex Van Dyke from Elk Grove, Calif., Michiah Quick from Fresno and Jalen Brown from Phoenix, among others. Ideally, UCLA would most likely want to sign three or four wideouts in this class.
The running back position took a bit of a hit when 2013 prospect Craig Lee failed to qualify. There's still a decent chance that he'll end up a Bruin, but nothing is for certain. With depth at the position somewhat thin, UCLA will try to sign up to two running backs in this class.
Joe Mixon is the big fish on the West Coast. The Oakley, Calif. native is being pursued by every major program across the country. Royce Freeman from Imperial, Calif. is a big back in the mold of former UCLA tailback Derrick Coleman. Freeman is a very physical runner and would add a new dimension to the UCLA offense.
Other running backs that UCLA is in on include Demario Richard, Nick Wilson and Christian McCaffrey. With Lee's status up in the air, it's imperative that the Bruins sign a talented back in this class.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Bruins would love an anchor up front. That specific role could be filled by Lompoc, Calif. product Ainuu Taua.
While not overly big, Taua is cat-quick and plays with great leverage. He could be the most explosive defensive line prospect in the state. He's versatile enough to play as either a defensive tackle or end, depending on the formation.
Williams is quite possibly the most highly sought after 'backer on the West Coast. He does come from a traditionally pro-USC high school, but the Bruins are an early favorite for him.
Calhoun is a very impressive prospect physically. The Bay Area native seems to be feeling UCLA quite a bit; however, his sister plays basketball at USC. That could pose a problem to the Bruins' efforts in signing him.
Allen is rated as the top quarterback in the country by Scout. Both Noel Mazzone and Taylor Mazzone have made Allen arguably the top priority out of any recruit in the 2014 class. With the Mazzone family's ties to the state of Arizona, UCLA has a great shot to land Allen.
Should Allen opt to sign with Arizona State or another school, Manny Wilkins is another good option. Wilkins has great upside and looks like a perfect fit for Mazzone's offense.
The state of Arizona is absolutely loaded with top notch prospects—many of whom are highly interested in UCLA. It wouldn't be a stretch to think that UCLA could land Allen, Brown, Natrell Curtis, Tyler Whiley, Ismael Murphy-Richardson and Qualen Cunningham.
It also helps that UCLA has cleaned up in the state recently. In the past couple of seasons, the Bruins have signed Arizona natives Hundley, Priest Willis, Kenny Lacy, Jalen Ortiz and Paul Perkins.
Jackson comes from the same high school that produced Robert Woods and Marqise Lee, among others. Jackson is very similar to current Oregon Ducks speedster De'Anthony Thomas.
Jackson is an electric football player with the capability to play on either side of the ball. While he's thought to be mostly recruited as a cornerback, UCLA could elect to play him in the slot as a receiver (especially considering the lack of explosiveness from the position).
Jackson is being recruited from all across the country, with USC and LSU on him extremely hard.
Much like Jackson, Smith can play both as a safety and as a wide receiver. He's a smooth, agile athlete with a great mental makeup. Not only a big hitter, he can read the game extremely well.
Plus, he comes from the vaunted high school, Long Beach Poly. He could be the best to come out of the school in quite some time, and that's saying something.
It looks as if the Bruins will be battling both USC and Michigan for his services.
While this class won't likely be high on quantity, it should be high on quality. If UCLA continues to succeed on the gridiron, it's conceivable to believe that the Bruins will be signing another Top 10 class nationally when February 2014 rolls around.