UCLA Football: All-Time Best Recruit at Each Position
Ask any college football coaching staff, and they'll tell you that the lifeblood of any program is recruiting.
Recruiting has spiraled essentially into a spectator sport for loyal fanbases. Over the course of the last 20 years, the decision-making process of 18-year-old high school seniors has truly turned into a publicized frenzy.
For the UCLA Bruins, head coach Jim Mora is currently recruiting at an extremely high level. That, of course, is publicly known based upon rankings by various recruiting services.
With Mora's current success on the recruiting trails, it'd be fascinating to look back upon the school's best recruits at each position.
For some on this list, the selection will be based upon the hype brought in from high school. It doesn't necessarily mean that this player is the best to ever play at the said position for the Bruins.
Let's take a look at the top recruits at each position for the Bruins.
QB: Ben Olson
With offers from every big program in the country, the 2001 ESPN National Player of the Year chose to sign with BYU.
After one year in Provo, Olson decided to go on a two year LDS mission. Upon returning, Olson decided to transfer back close to home and attend UCLA.
There was tons of hype surrounding the quarterback. He was projected to lead UCLA to the promised land and live up to the promise as a potential Heisman Trophy candidate.
Unfortunately for UCLA fans, his career was a massive disappointment. Olson could go down as one of the biggest busts in the past decade.
During his three years in Westwood, Olson passed for 1,862 yards, 12 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Multiple injuries to his knee and foot kept him from reaching his full potential.
Honorable mentions: Troy Aikman, Brett Hundley, J.P. Losman, Cade McNown.
RB: DeShaun Foster
According to Tustin High School head coach Myron Miller, running back DeShaun Foster is "the best football player [he's] ever coached or seen, period."
It'd be hard to argue with Miller, considering Foster's statistics from high school. Foster rushed for 6,296 yards and 90 touchdowns during his high school career. In his senior year alone, Foster ran for 3,398 yards and accrued 59 total touchdowns.
It's no wonder that Foster was one of the most heavily pursued running backs in the country in 1997.
During his time at UCLA, Foster displayed immense greatness. His knack for breaking tackles was fantastic, as was his ability to shake off defenders via the stiff arm.
Foster set a freshman record in rushing with 673 yards and 10 touchdowns. He also rushed for over 1,000 yards in both his junior and senior seasons.
In 2002, the Tustin product was a second-round selection to the Carolina Panthers. Foster battled injuries throughout his six-year career and never quite flashed the promise that he did during his time at UCLA.
Foster is currently working with the football team as a coach on a volunteer basis.
Honorable mentions: Gaston Green, Skip Hicks, Maurice Jones-Drew, Malcolm Jones, Freeman McNeil.
WR: Freddie Mitchell
Mitchell chose to come out to Westwood—spurning opportunities at Miami, Florida State and Florida. The appeal of "having a life after football and meeting people while making connections" was Mitchell's main motivation for leaving Florida.
An absolutely fantastic athlete, Mitchell brought speed and quickness to the table that colleges drooled over.
Mitchell played three seasons at UCLA. His most productive season came in 2000, as he had 68 receptions for 1,314 yards and eight touchdowns. He was a first-team consensus All-American and a first-team All-Pac-10 selection as a result of his stellar play.
After leaving college, Mitchell was drafted in the first round by the Philadelphia Eagles. Mitchell had a tumultuous four-year professional career. He was made prevalent in newspapers more for his antics as opposed to his play on the field.
Currently, Mitchell is embroiled in a tax-fraud scheme.
Honorable mentions: Flipper Anderson, Terrence Austin, Randall Carroll, Danny Farmer, J.J. Stokes.
TE: Marcedes Lewis
Coming out of the vaunted Long Beach Poly program, Marcedes Lewis was a "big fish" recruit in 2002.
Rated as the top tight end prospect in the nation by Rivals, the lanky tight end had offers from all across the country. With tremendous height and a ridiculous wingspan, Lewis was considered a bona fide NFL prospect before even entering college.
Lewis had a great career in Westwood. He holds the all-time UCLA record with 126 career catches for a tight end. During his senior season, he caught 58 receptions for 741 yards and 10 touchdowns. Those statistical achievements led to Lewis being named as both a first-team All-American, and also as the winner of the John Mackey Award.
Lewis is currently in the midst of a seven-year career with the Jacksonville Jaguars. In 2010, he was named to the Pro Bowl. Throughout his profession career, he has 272 receptions for 3,224 yards and 21 touchdowns.
Perhaps most impressive is Lewis' dedication to the Long Beach community. He's been extremely active at his former high school and has been a generous donor of sports equipment to Long Beach Poly High School.
Honorable mentions: Charles Arbuckle, Mike Seidman, Joe Fauria, Morrell Presley.
OL: Jonathan Ogden
If one was to look up "prototypical left tackle" in the dictionary, a picture of Jonathan Ogden would pop up.
The 6'9", 345-pound behemoth from St. Albans High School in Washington D.C. was pursued by every top program in the country. "Oggie", as he was affectionately known by his high school teammates, chose to attend UCLA over Florida, because the Bruins would allow Ogden to also participate in track and field.
Ogden was a four-year starter at UCLA. Moving from right to left tackle, Ogden allowed only two sacks during his last two years in Westwood. He was named as the Outland Trophy Award winner in 1995 and was a consensus first-team All-American.
As a member of the Baltimore Ravens, Ogden was an 11-time Pro Bowler. A combination of sheer size and nimbleness made him a truly rare prospect. Ogden was also known for having a vivacious and vociferous personality.
In terms of pure ability, he will go down as one of the best offensive linemen to ever play the game. This year, Ogden was elected to the NFL Hall of Fame.
Honorable mentions: Kris Ferris, Irv Eatman, Aleksey Lanis, Xavier Su'a-Filo.
DL: Owamagbe Odighizuwa
The Portland, Ore. native chose UCLA over heavy pursuit by Southern Cal, Nebraska, Oregon State, Florida, Tennessee and Stanford. Blessed with "tremendous work ethic" and a ridiculous physique, "Owa" was projected to make an early impact at defensive end for the Bruins.
Throughout his first two years in Westwood, it was clear that although extremely talented, Odighizuwa was considerably raw. He relied prominently on his athleticism and strength as opposed to technique.
This past season as a junior, he began to show signs of development. Not only did his overall technique improve, but his production increased considerably from where it was previously.
"Owa" is truly primed for a breakout year in his senior season. This upcoming year will go a long way in determining his draft stock in 2014. The tools have always been there for him to be a big-time player on the next level.
With a stellar senior year, Odighizuwa could be in line for a meteoric rise—similar to what happened to BYU defensive end Ziggy Ansah.
Honorable mentions: Ryan Boschetti, Kenyon Coleman, Cassius Marsh, Ellis McCarthy, Brian Price.
LB: Robert Thomas
Tiny Imperial, Calif. isn't usually associated as a hotbed for high school football talent. However, linebacker Robert Thomas put the small town outside of San Diego on the map for recruiters.
Thomas was ranked as the top prep linebacker in the nation during his senior season at Imperial High School. His aggressiveness and pursuit of ball-carriers made him an elite prospect. During his high school career, he had an eye-popping 600 tackles, 32 sacks, seven interceptions and four blocked punts.
At UCLA, Thomas was compared to a "cobra" by then-head coach Bob Toledo. Every accolade that could be garnered by a linebacker went to Thomas throughout his collegiate career.
Thomas was named as a consensus first-team All-American as a senior in 2001. He was also a finalist for the Butkus Award and was selected as the Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year.
He was a first-round draft choice by the St. Louis Rams in 2001 and enjoyed a solid professional career.
Honorable mentions: Akeem Ayers, Donnie Edwards, Myles Jack, Ken Norton Jr., Jamir Miller, Jerry Robinson.
DB: Kenny Easley
Kenny Easley was a revolutionary player for his time.
The versatile safety from Chesapeake, Va. hit like a mack truck but covered in space like a jackrabbit. During his high school career, Easley was a quarterback at Oscar F. Smith High school. Influenced by his father, Easley decided to leave the Eastern seaboard in order to attend UCLA.
As he transitioned to free safety, Easley became one of the most vicious hitters in the country. As Easley plainly said in college (h/t Sports Illustrated), "I like to hit. I dream about it."
Easley still holds a UCLA school record with 19 career interceptions. During his collegiate career, Easley was an all-conference player for four consecutive years. He also was a three-time All-American.
Easley was drafted fourth overall in the 1981 draft by the Seattle Seahawks. In his seven-year career, Easley was a five-time Pro Bowler and was the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1984.
Unfortunately, a severe kidney disease forced an early retirement in 1987. The legacy left by Easley is tremendous. Although he didn't play a lengthy career, he'll be regarded as a marvelous football player on both the collegiate and professional levels.
Honorable mentions: Kermit Alexander, Tahaan Goodman, Carnell Lake, Rahim Moore, Eric Turner, Priest Willis.
Special Teams: Kai Forbath
Throughout the last 20 years, UCLA has had a litany of place kickers that have went on to have successful careers in the NFL.
Perhaps the most high profile of the bunch is Kai Forbath.
Coming from Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks, Calif., Forbath was rated as the top kicker in the entire nation by Rivals in 2006. Forbath chose the Bruins over the likes of Oregon and Notre Dame, among others.
Forbath's play in Westwood was incredibly impressive. His 84.2 percent career conversion rate ranks him second in school history. He went 29-of-30 from field goals inside of 39 yards and only missed two extra-point attempts in 104 tries.
Forbath is currently entrenched as the starting kicker for the Washington Redskins. In his rookie season, Forbath set an NFL record by converting on his first 17 field-goal attempts.
Honorable mentions: Justin Medlock, Chris Kluwe, Jeff Locke, John Lee, Chris Sailer, Christian Yount.
Athlete: Jackie Robinson
Jackie Robinson will be forever revered for breaking the color barrier in Major League Baseball.
However, the fantastic athlete from Pasadena, Calif. was the first UCLA athlete to letter in four sports: baseball, football, basketball and track.
As a football player, Robinson led the nation in punt return average in 1939 and 1940. As a senior, he led UCLA in rushing, passing, total offense, scoring and punt returns.
If Robinson isn't the definition of an athlete, then I don't know what is.
Honorable mentions: Anthony Barr, Kenny Easley, Shaun Williams.
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