Recruiting for the 2014 cycle has gone a bit slower than expected for the UCLA Bruins. Jim Mora's current recruiting class is ranked No. 36 by Scout.com. A majority of the current commitments stem from the state of California. A few also hail from the Southeast, one comes from the Southwest and another comes from the Midwest.
The slow start shouldn't worry UCLA fans too much. Mora and his staff are great at closing when it comes down to signing day in February. Last year, the Bruins were able to garner the commitments from 12 elite prospects in the months of January and February.
With the success of last season, UCLA is making a concerted effort to recruit nationally. The states of Texas, Alabama and Louisiana, in particular, are being hit hard.
Let's take a comprehensive look at the current state of UCLA recruiting as it currently stands.
Key needs for UCLA
The skill positions need a considerable jolt in talent and athleticism. UCLA's current crop of receivers and running backs aren't poor by any stretch. Collectively as a group, few Pac-12 teams can match the overall amounts of talent brought to the table.
However, if UCLA is to be competing on a level with the likes of Oregon and Stanford annually, there's got to be an upgrade at the said positions.
Quarterback is a precarious position for the program. The Bruins struck out with Kyle Allen, who unexpectedly chose Texas A&M earlier in the season. It seemed as if UCLA put all of its proverbial eggs in the Allen basket.
Depth on the current roster is thin. There's a chance that Brett Hundley could leave after this season for the NFL. Behind Hundley is true freshman Asiantii Woulard, redshirt freshman Jerry Neuheisel and a few walk-ons. The Bruins are one injury away from a pretty scary situation at the signal-caller position.
Options in 2014 are somewhat thin. It could be a matter of UCLA waiting until 2015 in order to press hard on Josh Rosen.
Although relatively deep at the two positions, there's always a need for both offensive and defensive linemen. UCLA brought in seven high school offensive line prospects last season, and three of them are starting this year due to injury.
The Bruins are slated to graduate linebackers Anthony Barr and Jordan Zumwalt after this season. There's also a possibility that Eric Kendricks leaves early for the NFL. It won't be easy replacing the majority of what could be the best linebacker group in the entire nation. Mora and linebackers coach Jeff Ulbrich will have to snag a few commitments at the position in order to compensate for the losses.
Most Important Commits
As mentioned above, UCLA needed to upgrade its skill position players.
Of the 13 verbal pledges, the Bruins have commitments from five receivers at this current juncture. The vast majority of UCLA's commitments come from the wide receiver position and in the secondary.
There is a theme currently existing within the crop of committed prospects. The vast majority of the group are 3-star kids. Many of the pledges hail from top programs within the Southland. Others are supposed under-the-radar types with considerable upside.
Since taking over the post, Mora has made a concerted effort in recruiting kids from the inner city. Both defensive back Denzel Fisher and linebacker Cameron Griffin fit the bill in that regard. Fisher and Griffin each are high potential prospects.
At 6'2", 170 pounds, Fisher has got considerable room to get physically bigger. Griffin is a kid that plays for a smaller school. Initially a San Diego State pledge, he recently made the switch to UCLA. Looking at his film, it's mind-boggling that he doesn't have more offers. He's a raw player with immense physical gifts.
Van Dyke and Pickett both hail from Northern California. Van Dyke is a big, explosive receiver with a tremendous wingspan. At 6'4", he's the type of pass-catcher that the Bruins don't currently have on their roster. He'd be a big weapon in the red zone on fades and jump balls.
Pickett is a physical corner with good ball skills. He chose UCLA over offers from USC, Oregon, Washington, Nebraska and Stanford, among others. Pickett is also a talented baseball player. It probably didn't hurt UCLA's efforts that the Bruins are the College Baseball National Champions.
Lastly, how amazingly apropos is his last name for a cornerback?
Roberts committed to UCLA seemingly out of the blue. The Carmel, Ind. prospect chose the Bruins over offers from Ohio State, Stanford, Florida, USC and Alabama. He's a physical receiver whom can make people miss in the open field.
Both Roberts and Van Dyke should aid in improving the talent on the perimeter for UCLA.
|Dionte Sykes||3||Wide Receiver||6'2"||195|
|Marlon Mack||3||Running Back||5'11"||195|
|Barry Ware||3||Wide Receiver||6'3"||205|
|Alex Van Dyke||4||Wide Receiver||6'4"||210|
|Austin Roberts||4||Wide Receiver||6'2"||221|
|Najee Toran||3||Offensive Guard||6'3"||258|
|Cameron Griffin||3||Middle Linebacker||6'3"||215|
|Jordan Lasley||3||Wide Receiver||6'2"||180|
|Scout.com for star ratings|
Most Important Targets
We'll stay with the skill position theme for this segment of the piece.
Dupre is one of the top wide outs in the country. He's taken multiple unofficial trips to UCLA earlier this past summer. He's slated to visit officially at some point close to signing day. He'd most likely start from the day he steps on campus.
Like Dupre, Quick is an explosive athlete in space. He's a player that can take a five-yard pass and turn it into a 50-yard touchdown in the blink of an eye. The 5-star athlete (per Scout) is considering UCLA among a plethora of high profile programs.
Baker has a lot of ties to the UCLA program. For one, he's known Jim Mora for a number of years. He's been a classmate of Mora's daughter, and also hails from the same high school as current UCLA linebacker (and running back) Myles Jack. Jack and Baker are also very close friends.
Baker has the potential to play on either side of the ball. While a bit undersized for the position, he's a very talented safety. The elite athlete also has the capabilities of playing in the slot as a receiver. According to Baker, his top three include UCLA, Washington and Oregon.
At running back, the top target is easily Joe Mixon out of Oakley, Calif. Mixon has taken all five of his official visits. However, it's thought that he'll take an unofficial visit to UCLA soon. UCLA's backfield isn't all that talented, nor deep. Mixon would instantly vie for play time.
Damien Mama and Kammy Delp are two prospects that could be blocking for Mixon in the future. Mama is the consensus top offensive line prospect on the left coast. The mammoth guard is heavily considering the Bruins. Delp is another prospect with a high interest in UCLA. Those two, along with current commitment Najee Toran, would be a nice offensive line class for the Bruins.
Defensively, UCLA is targeting a number of linebackers.
Dwight Williams from Serra High School in Gardena, Calif., and Kenny Young from John Curtis High School in Louisiana are two top targets. Linebacker Rashaan Evans from Auburn, Ala. has taken an official visit to UCLA already. It might be tough to land Evans, considering that Georgia, Auburn and Alabama are all in hot pursuit for his services.
|MOST IMPORTANT TARGETS|
|Ainuu Taua||4||Defensive Line||6'1"||270|
|Dwight Williams||4||Outside Linebacker||6'1"||212|
|Jaleel Wadood||4||Defensive Back||5'11"||170|
|Michiah Quick||5||Wide Receiver||5'11"||170|
|Malachi Dupre||5||Wide Receiver||6'3"||195|
|Matt Dickerson||4||Defensive End||6'5"||260|
|Kenny Young||4||Middle Linebacker||6'2"||225|
|Rashaan Evans||5||Outside Linebacker||6'3"||218|
|Joe Mixon||5||Running Back||6'2"||210|
|Bo Scarbrough||5||Running Back||6'2"||234|
|Bryce Dixon||4||Tight End||6'4"||220|
|Tre Watson||3||Running Back||5'10"||185|
|Chris Brown||4||Offensive Tackle||6'6"||290|
|Marcus Griffin||3||Defensive Tackle||6'3"||292|
|John Plattenburg||4||Defensive Back||5'11"||180|
|Damien Mama||5||Offensive Guard||6'4"||370|
|Scout.com for star rankings|
In the defensive backfield, the two top targets out West include Juju Smith and Adoree Jackson. UCLA is trying with both, but it doesn't appear as of now that either is considering UCLA heavily. Jaleel Wadood, a current commitment to Cal, is slated to visit UCLA officially towards the end of November. He could be one that flips to the Bruins at some point.
UCLA's recruiting efforts and success will pick up as the season comes to a close. It's no secret that the Bruins are targeting many out-of-state prospects. The end of the season will go a long way in determining how viable UCLA is for many of these elite prospects that don't hail from the state of California.
Should UCLA finish with a 10-2 record in the regular season, a top 10 class nationally wouldn't be a shock.