UCLA Football National Signing Day 2014: Position-by-Position Analysis

Jason FrayCorrespondent IFebruary 6, 2014

UCLA Football National Signing Day 2014: Position-by-Position Analysis

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    Recruiting for 2014 has come to a close for Jim Mora and the UCLA Bruins. 

    An emphasis was placed upon enhancing the overall depth on the roster. Mora and his staff were effectively able to do that. The class was very solid from top to bottom.

    However, the staff did fall short in acquiring an elite playmaker on offense.

    A position-by-position analysis will occur within this piece. Each position will also get a letter grade, which is based on the caliber of the recruits and also the shortcomings that may have accompanied recruiting the position as a whole. 

    Here's an in-depth look at the 2014 recruiting class for the UCLA Bruins. 

    Recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

Quarterback

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    Grade: C+

    UCLA did ]well to land Aaron Sharp late in the game. The talented quarterback out of Houston is dynamic with his legs. He is a legit track star in high school, which is evidenced by his personal best of 21.19 in the 200-meter dash, per DyeStat.com.

    He has very good touch on intermediate routes and is adept at putting just the right amount of loft on passes over the top. While he doesn't possess an incredible arm, it is serviceable enough to get the job done.

    UCLA gets an average grade here for a few reasons. Kyle Allen was the top target early in the process. With Noel Mazzone's ties to the state of Arizona, it appeared as if Allen would commit to the Bruins. However, he pivoted and instead chose Texas A&M.

    In a sense, it left UCLA scrambling for other options. All of the proverbial eggs were put in the Allen basket. As a result, the Bruins lost out on other local options in Brad Kaaya and Manny Wilkins.  

    Sharp does have some upside and is a fantastic athlete. With that said, he's still a bit raw. It's unlikely for him to seriously challenge Asiantii Woulard for the top reserve spot behind Brett Hundley. 

Running Back

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    Grade: C+

    This grade isn't directly attributed to signee Nathan Starks.

    The talented back out of Cherry Creek High School in Colorado (via Las Vegas) has the ability to be a very good player on the next level. He has good vision and runs with authority. In essence, he's the type of back that is not present on the roster.  

    Much of the disappointment stems from UCLA's failure to sign an elite tailback. It is perhaps the position that is most in need of talent.

    The Bruins were unable to sign Joe Mixon out of Oakley, Calif. In addition, stud running back Royce Freeman from the San Diego area didn't get much of a look from UCLA.

    It could be reason why UCLA replaced running backs coach Steve Broussard in favor of Kennedy Polamalu. 

    Starks will have every opportunity to make an impact early. It wouldn't be a shock to see the running back get six to eight carries a contest. 

Offensive Line

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    Malcolm Bunche
    Malcolm BuncheCredit: 247Sports

    Grade: B

    UCLA didn't land an instant impact offensive lineman from the high school ranks. However, it did land a very important piece for 2014 in the form of Miami transfer Malcolm Bunche. 

    He is arguably the most important recruit in this cycle. As a fifth-year senior, he'll bring maturity and experience to a very young group. He is also capable of playing at guard and tackle.

    This type of versatility will be a godsend for offensive line coach Adrian Klemm. Depending on the injury situation, Bunche theoretically could slot in at four different positions along the line.  

    UCLA signed seven offensive linemen in 2013. The depth is solid enough to the point where numbers could be kept relatively small for this cycle. 

    The two high school signees NaJee Toran and Kolton Miller are both dripping with upside. Toran is physical and nasty. He needs to get physically bigger before competing on the collegiate level. Regardless, he has the right mindset for the guard position. 

    Miller is a long, tall tackle prospect with good athleticism and lateral mobility. He, like Toran, needs to gain weight and strength. His upside is considerable—especially with a couple of years in a college conditioning program. 

Wide Receivers

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    Grade: B+

    This group was a mixed bag of sorts.

    UCLA did sign three very good prospects in Jordan Lasley, Alex Van Dyke and Austin Roberts. Roberts is the biggest and most polished of the three. He has great hands and runs very good routes. Conventional wisdom suggests he'll see playing time as a true freshman. 

    Van Dyke has great athleticism and leaping ability. At 6'4", he'll be one of the tallest wideouts on the roster. His background in basketball makes him tough to defend against on jump balls. 

    Lasley is the fastest and quickest of the trio. It was a boon for UCLA to sign him, considering the fact he hails from Serra High School. Traditionally speaking, Serra is a stronghold for Southern Cal. 

    The grade gets knocked down a tick due to the inability of signing an elite skill player such as Malachi Dupre, Michiah Quick or Adoree' Jackson.

    Any of those three would have instantly impacted the depth chart at wide receiver, adding agility and playmaking ability. 

Defensive Line

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    Grade: A-

    This was a very solid group. It enhanced the overall depth and athleticism on the defensive line considerably. 

    Ainuu Taua is fun to watch. Although only 6'0" (if that), he's a ball of fury on the field. His motor is constantly running at a rapid pace. With a squat frame, he can get great leverage on the line of scrimmage. He also possesses great quickness and power.

    It wouldn't be a surprise to see him contribute in some capacity as a true freshman. He's far too active to redshirt. 

    Matt Dickerson is a big, athletic defensive lineman with great versatility. He can play as a defensive tackle and as a big defensive end in a 3-4 alignment. He, like Taua, should play early in his UCLA career. 

    Jacob Tuioti-Mariner has perhaps the most upside of the signees. A former volleyball player, he's just starting to realize his potential. He plays with tremendous pursuit and energy. He's still a raw prospect in many aspects. A redshirt year in order to refine technique will do wonders for his game. 

    He's the type of player to check back in on down the road. His best football is likely ahead of him. 

    The only real loss comes in the form of Solomon Thomas. The elite defensive end out of Coppell, Texas elected to sign with Stanford over the Bruins.

    The group receives an A-minus because it doesn't feature a starter from Day 1 (such as Eddie Vanderdoes or Kenny Clark).

Linebackers

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    Grade: A

    The linebacker group was a tremendous haul for the Bruins. They effectively solidified the heart of the defense for years to come.

    Perhaps the biggest get comes in the form of Zach Whitley. The Houston native has the ability to come in right away and vie for the starting middle 'backer spot next to Eric Kendricks. He enrolled in January, which will give him a leg up on the rest of the freshmen. 

    Kenny Young out of New Orleans is another talented prospect. Expect him to contribute in a similar fashion to that of Whitley. If Young doesn't start, he'll most certainly be in the two-deep. He's far too talented not to be utilized. 

    Local prospects Cameron Griffin and Dwight Williams round out the group. Griffin is a stellar overall athlete. He's fast, intelligent and very physical. He is a bit raw and skinny and will likely redshirt. 

    Williams is an athletic outside linebacker. He's good in coverage and can also get after the passer from the edge. He should contribute early on special teams. 

    This group would have been an A-plus with the addition of Rashaan Evans. Unfortunately for the Bruins, the elite linebacker signed with Alabama. 

Defensive Backs

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    Grade: B+

    This was another very good group, which is led by Jaleel Wadood and Adarius Pickett.

    They are similar players. Both are cerebral, instinctive, athletic and versatile prospects. Each has the ability to play as a corner and as a safety. Expect them to play right away for the Bruins. 

    Denzel Fisher may have the most upside of the signees. He's a long, thin cornerback with impressive length. His wingspan allows him to bat away passes with regularity. He does need to get physically stronger and bigger. Once he does, the sky is the limit. 

    The last member of the group is Ron Robinson. A physical player, he could eventually make the transition from safety to outside linebacker.

    Like Wadood and Pickett, he's a smart football player. Expect him to compete on special teams as a true freshman.