The outlook for the future of UCLA Football appears the brightest it has in several years, thanks to a stellar recruiting class in 2010.
College sports giant Rivals (rivals.com) lists UCLA as having the eighth best recruiting class in the nation with as many five-star recruits as national champion Alabama. ESPNU lists them as 10th best.
Head coach Rick Neuheisel and his staff can’t be commended more highly for the job they’ve done signing highly ranked national recruits. In the next few years, it will become clear the kind of coaching legacy Neuheisel will have at UCLA as the recruiting process he set in motion upon his hiring in 2008 comes to fruition.
As for cross-town rival USC, new head coach Lane Kiffin’s first order of business was recruiting seventh grader David Sills. Days later, Kiffin was kicked out of the newborn ward at Ronald Reagan Hospital after lining up several infants for a 40-inch dash.
Leading the charge for the UCLA recruiting class of 2010 is DE Owamagbe Odighizuwa, the eighth ranked prospect overall according to Rivals, and the 17th according to ESPNU. He chose UCLA over USC, Florida, and Nebraska, among others.
The 6’3”, 240-pound “Owa” displays an extremely rare combination of power and quickness. His best camp performance was at Football University’s Top Gun, and he impressed observers at the US Army All-American Bowl, a showcase for high school stars.
With a lot of help needed on the defensive line, Odighizuwa is more likely to start than not in his freshman year.
Malcolm Jones brings an unprecedented pedigree to UCLA, having won Gatorade’s 2010 High School Football Player of the Year Award. Previous winners include Joe Mauer, Peyton Manning, and Emmit Smith. Rivals ranks Jones as 87th and ESPNU as 69th.
As a 6’1”, 217-pound senior, he tallied an astounding 2477 rushing yards, 40 touchdowns, and 70 tackles in 14 games. He’s currently considered an ATH (undetermined position).
Jones passed on Stanford for a chance to help return UCLA to football glory, and because Palo Alto sucks. Okay, the part about Palo Alto factoring into his decision is fictional. But come on, it does suck.
RB Jordon James comes to UCLA with an overall ranking of 109th by Rivals and 38th from ESPNU. At 5’10”, 190 pounds, Jones possesses lightning quick feet and explosive burst through the hole.
He may be able to challenge speedster Johnathan Franklin for playing time if he doesn’t red shirt. He also has a reputation that competing at the highest level is in his blood.
ATH Anthony Barr comes to UCLA ranked 50th by Rivals and 102nd by ESPNU. A 6’4”, 230-pound beast, his biggest challenge will be figuring out to which position he’s best suited in college.
Barr is the kind of athlete every coach dreams about. In high school, he played RB, OLB, SS, DE, and he even projects to TE.
DT Cassius Marsh figures to have a shot at significant playing time right away, with only one of the top four defensive tackles from last year returning, David Carter.
At 6’4”, 290 pounds, Marsh is considered a highly skilled run stopper, an area of great need in general, and especially with the loss of Brian Price to the NFL. Marsh is ranked 33rd overall by Rivals and as the 33rd best DT according to ESPNU.
S Dietrich Riley, 6’1”, 196 pounds, is known as a pure athlete, a ball hawk on defense, and an exceptional tackler. He will have the perfect opportunity to learn from team leader and junior FS Rahim Moore.
OT Wade Yandall, 6’4”, 294 pounds, was the only recruit to matriculate early and participate in spring practice. The coaching staff was impressed with his play, giving him the inside track on becoming a valuable reserve.
Other freshmen recruits include OLB Aramide Olaniyan, K Kip Smith, OLB Josh Shirley, S Tevin McDonald, OG Chris Ward, WR Paul Richardson, S Anthony Jefferson, OT Kody Innes, OLB Eric Kendricks, ILB Jordan Zumwalt, DT Sealii Epensea, DE Derrick Bryant, CB Shaquille Richardson, DT Wesley Flowers, and TE John Young.
Overall, the Bruins recruitment class includes 13 defensive players, five offensive players, three athletes, and one kicker. Whether or not the concentration of defenders indicates a shift in philosophy remains to be seen. It is more likely a “needs being met” situation.
If there’s any room for recruitment improvement, it’s in the area of quarterback. None of the top 85 quarterbacks (Rivals) chose UCLA. But with three young QBs on the roster it wasn’t an area of pressing concern.
True freshmen starting in college football are always rare, however, any recruit that comes in ready to compete will have a shot.
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