UCLA Football Recruiting: Breaking Down the Bruins' 2014 Wish List
The UCLA football team is hard at work in spring practice, but the coaching staff has more on its plate than drilling the Bruins at Spaulding Field.
In addition to molding the team for the 2013-14 season, Mora and Co. are beginning to assemble an important recruiting class for the 2014 cycle. So far, UCLA has landed one commitment in 3-star WR Barry Ware, but that's just the beginning of what many hope is another hype-worthy haul this year.
The Bruins did very well under Mora's guidance the last two seasons, and they'll look to stock the cupboards with top-tier talent again this time around. Unlike previous years, the offensive line and the secondary appear to have depth for days. As a result, the focus in 2014 will instead fall on the front seven (which will be ravaged by graduation next year) and the offensive skill positions.
To get an idea of where UCLA is looking early, read on for a break down of the Bruins' 2014 recruiting wish list.
Note: All recruiting information, including ratings, statistics, offers and interests, is based on what's available from 247Sports.com. All rankings are based on the 247Sports Composite Rankings.
Even though UCLA had a stacked defensive backs class in 2013, the Bruins are among the seemingly innumerable suitors chasing Adoree' Jackson.
The 5-star CB from Gardena, Calif. (Junipero Serra) is one of the highest-rated homegrown products in this class, and UCLA isn't amenable to losing such a talent from its own backyard. Jackson has 23 reported offers right now, but that number is likely to increase as the recruiting season wears on.
While UCLA is listed among his main interests on 247Sports, Jackson also holds rival USC, Florida, LSU, Michigan and Texas A&M in high regard. Suffice it to say, it's going to be a dogfight to get the pledge of the most sought-after recruit in California.
According to the 247Sports Composite Rankings, Jackson is the No. 1 player in the state, as well as the No. 3 cornerback overall. The Bruins will have plenty of young talent in the secondary next season, but adding Jackson to the fold would be another upgrade for the unit.
It's also interesting to note that Jackson is a state champion in the long jump, so the standing of his eventual school's track and field program may play a part as well. That probably doesn't bode well for UCLA in comparison to Southern Cal, which has historically been a stronger competitor on the track.
Of all the out-of-state targets that UCLA is pursuing this year, perhaps none is more crucial than outside linebacker Bryson Allen-Williams.
The 4-star prospect out of Ellenwood, Ga. (Cedar Grove) is one of the highest rated LBs with an offer from the Bruins, and it's safe to say he is showing some interest. According to 247Sports' recruiting timeline, Allen-Williams was in Westwood this week checking out the campus and meeting with the coaching staff.
It may seem a stretch for UCLA to pluck such a key recruit out of SEC territory, especially since he boasts offers from 34 schools, including South Carolina, Alabama and Georgia. But given the fact that UCLA and USC are both among his top interests, landing Allen-Williams seems like it could be a real possibility.
With the mass exodus of LBs set to take place after next season, UCLA would be very keen to nabbing a stud like Allen-Williams.
Another important UCLA target in the front seven is Malik Dorton, a 4-star defensive end from Bellflower, Calif. (St. John Bosco).
The 6'3", 230-pound lineman has made his way to the Bruins' campus a few times, once for junior day back in February and again for an official visit last week (according to 247Sports' recruiting timeline). Dorton is another Southern California recruit that Mora and Co. would hate to miss out on, and that's why he's getting the full-court press.
In addition to UCLA, Dorton lists Pac-12 foes Washington, Arizona and Arizona State among his interests. If the Bruins can't land him, they can only hope he makes his way out of the West so they don't have to face him on the field.
As a junior in high school, Dorton was named first-team all-league and CIF, which is a huge accomplishment in talent-rich Los Angeles. Assuming he continues to progress into his senior season, the intensity around his recruitment should only increase as signing day approaches.
UCLA has made some serious progress with the Long Beach Poly football program in recent years, and the next Jackrabbit who could become a Bruin is 2014 prospect John Smith.
Rising sophomore Randall Goforth hails from Poly, so Mora and Co. may have an in with Smith that other programs can't claim. Smith has a lot of schools after him, including major names like Michigan, Notre Dame, Ohio State and USC.
On his 247Sports profile, Smith is categorized as a safety, wide receiver and athlete, which tells of his versatility. Most multi-talented footballers just get lumped in with the ambiguous athlete crowd, but Smith's skills warrant equal placement across positions.
"JuJu," as Smith has come to be known by, is a 6'1", 200-pound star in the making. In 2012 as a junior, JuJu notched 51 tackles and six interceptions on defense, as well as 752 yards and nine TDs receiving on offense. A key reason for his playmaking is his 4.60 40-yard dash time, which allows him to get in on the action all over the field.
The recruiting cycle is too young to make any predictions, but UCLA will be after Smith until the very end in 2014.
On top of having one of the sickest names in the 2014 class, Budda Baker is an athlete with a highly coveted skill set.
Weighing in at just 5'10", 170 pounds, Baker doesn't have a massive frame to work with, but that hasn't hampered interest in him out West. At this point, the Bellevue, Wash. product has Oregon, Washington and UCLA as his front-runners (according to 247Sports' interest tracker), but a number of other programs are hoping to get involved as well.
The Bruins just nabbed a premier prospect out of Bellevue in 2013 LB Myles Jack, and Mora and Co. are hoping to keep the pipeline open this year. But the competition for his services will be fierce, especially since Baker's recruiting contact at UW is recently relocated assistant Marques Tuiasosopo.
Tuiasosopo was with UCLA for the past few seasons and has been lauded as one of the best recruiters this side of the Mississippi. Given the fact that he is now home at his alma mater in Seattle, there's a good chance he can convince a local kid like Baker to stay.
Whether or not the Bruins can land Baker remains to be seen, but if does end up in L.A., he would be an enormous get for UCLA.
Other Names to Watch
Here's a list of some other big-time recruits with reported UCLA offers (according to 247Sports). The Bruins have gotten involved with all of these players early, and would love to land a bunch of them for the 2014 class.
WR Mark Andrews
QB Kyle Allen
WR Jalen Harvey
OG Damien Mama
DT Ainuu Taua
WR Dionte Sykes