Keisean Lucier-South, a 5-star defensive end from Orange County, California, announced the list of five programs he will choose from Monday afternoon, and a certain local powerhouse was conspicuously absent.
The 6'5", 225-pound pass-rusher listed Florida, Michigan, Oklahoma, Oregon and UCLA among his final five, leaving out traditional California power USC along with supposed contender Notre Dame:
There You Go pic.twitter.com/LjkTG4eLiM— Keisean South1⃣6⃣ (@KLSouth16) July 28, 2014
Although Lucier-South listed his top five teams in no order, UCLA is considered a modest-to-strong favorite to land him. It's clear that being local is not his primary concern—otherwise, USC would have likely cracked the top five over Florida, Michigan and Oklahoma—but the Bruins have stuck out to him for other reasons.
Here is a closer look at his 247Sports "Crystal Ball" predictions:
|Total Predictions (Out of 28)||Predictions Since June 2014|
UCLA is a pretty clear favorite to land Lucier-South, but is it actually the best fit for his style? Might another school suit him better?
Probably not, to be honest.
Lucier-South is not thick or strong enough to play with his hand down in a 3-4 defense, which might initially make Michigan, a base 4-3 unit, seem like the stronger fit. But he has the rare speed off the edge that should allow him to play as a 3-4 outside linebacker.
The Bruins have a pretty good selling point on that front, as they just developed Anthony Barr into an All-American and first-round NFL draft pick. Barr started his college career as a running back but was molded by head coach Jim Mora and new defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich into one of the best defenders in the country.
That comparison has not been lost on Lucier-South, who has a similar body type to Barr. He says the Bruins' staff has approached him about it.
"[A UCLA assistant coach] said Anthony Barr was having trouble his first year, but his second year he did great," the rising senior told Edward Lewis of Rivals.com (subscription required). "He said right now, I'm better than Anthony when he started."
Of course, a team like Oklahoma could champion its similar defense and the budding star it has in Eric Striker, but Lucier-South is five inches taller (and much lankier) than Striker, so the comparison is a little imperfect. Plus, the Pac-12 better fits his style of play.
Outside of Stanford, most of the Pac-12 schools have offenses that lean more toward passing the football. That means pass-rushers can go crazy in the conference, as they don't have to worry as much about stopping the run as they would in another league.
Lucier-South isn't the strongest defensive end one will see on tape, but he can get after the passer. The fact that UCLA plays in the traditional pass-happy Pac-12 offers him a chance to consistently do what he does best.
This logic eliminates Florida as Lucier-South's best option; even though he would be interesting as a Dante Fowler-type Buck linebacker, the physical, run-first nature of the SEC would not suit his style well. He would need to spend at least a year (and maybe even two) bulking up before he could see the field consistently.
It does point well to Oregon, though, as the second-best contender behind UCLA. Michigan also plays in a run-first conference, and the best defensive ends it's developed the past few years have been shorter, stockier types such as Brandon Graham and Frank Clark.
Oregon has the benefit of the Pac-12 style and the development of longer, leaner defensive ends such as Dion Jordan. It can't pitch the local angle that UCLA can, but it's not exactly far from home, either.
KLS would do fine at either West Coast location.
Note: All recruiting info refers to the 247Sports Composite rankings.