After last year's football signing day, I wrote up a pair of wrap-up posts looking over the high school seniors that committed to the blue and gold. Those posts worked out pretty well last year, so you all are getting to experience them again. With the larger incoming class, you will see a few changes in organization from last year's series, particularly by more explicitly break down the players by position group (an easier task now that the Pistol is dead). You are about to start reading the first part covering the offense, with part two coming tomorrow with a look at the defensive commits as well as our newly recruited placekicker. Please don't hold back in using the comments below to discuss these new Bruins, though consider fanposting any extended thoughts that you might have.
After a slow start to the recruiting cycle, things kicked into gear in a big way after the hiring of Jim Mora as head coach and the swift recruitment and hiring of assistants such as Adrian Klemm, Demetrice Martin and Eric Yarber in early January. While some of the recruits that committed to Coach Neuheisel inevitably decommitted and found new homes as the recruiting season wound down, the new coaching staff was able to more than make up for the losses and quality of the incoming class at that point. By the time that all of the LOI's were in at Morgan Center last night, the UCLA recruiting class was rated as the 11th best class nationally (2nd in the Pac-12) by Scout.com, and 12th best nationally by Rivals.com.
Given the late coaching change in Westwood and the 6-8 season that led to it, the fact that the Bruins have exited signing day with a consensus top-15 recruiting class is nothing short of a miracle, and a testament to the work that the coaching staff has put in, the newbies as well as holdovers such as Angus McClure and even the support and grace shown by Rick Neuheisel after his dismissal.
While the three-way battle between Brett Hundley, Richard Brehaut and Kevin Prince will be getting the bulk of attention regarding the quarterback position, and Nick Chrissman and Jerry Neuheisel are around as a backstop to those three, only Hundley and Neuheisel will be on the team beyond the Fall. Jerry Neu is by all accounts a good kid and talented enough to have gotten a Pac-12 scholarship offer, but likely not someone who we want to rely on to lead the offense for an extended time if Hundley gets injured or does not develop as we hope. Bringing in at least one quarterback in this recruiting class was a necessity; in addition to getting an early commitment for the 2013 class, the Bruins have a pair of well regarded quarterbacks headed for Westwood.
Devin Fuller - Old Tappan, NJ (Northern Valley)
Devin committed to the Bruins in the final week before signing day, joining Justin Combs in coming to UCLA from the New York/New Jersey region. While he does not have Justin's family name and accompanying press attention, his play while leading Northern Valley Regional brought plenty of attention in the college football world, leading to 32 scholarship offers. During his commitment ceremony last week, some of his high school teammates spoke of their time playing alongside Devin.
"Playing with a kid like that boosts everyone's confidence," said Trainor. "You play better as a team. I've been playing with him since second grade and I've gotten used to the way he plays. It just clicked."
"He definitely improves everyone around him," said Dobitsch. "But the biggest thing about him is that he is the most humble guy. You expect a guy like that to be cocky but he's humble. You have to have a lot of respect for that."
I would expect to see Devin - along with T.J. Millweard - to redshirt this fall, with the opportunity to compete with Hundley for the quarterback position in 2013. Even factoring in the traditional relationship between UCLA quarterbacks and injuries, there are enough guys on the depth chart to allow this Fall's freshmen to develop without being thrown into the fire. And while there is talk of Devin's ability to play several positions such as wide receiver and cornerback - note that Rivals rated him as an 'Athlete' rather than a quarterback - his intent is to become the quarterback at UCLA.
T.J. Millweard - Fort Worth, TX (All Saints' Episcopal School)
T.J. was one of the later prospects to commit to the Bruins; after committing to ASU last summer, he reopened his commitment after Dennis Erickson's departure from Tempe, eventually deciding to follow former Sun Devil offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone when he took the same position at UCLA. In his senior season at All Saints, T.J. threw for 2374 yards and 22 TD's in becoming one of the top quarterbacks in Texas. According to the LA Times, he will be an early enrolee, with his presence at UCLA for the Spring Quarter allowing him to participate in Spring practices, but also meaning that he does not count against the 25 scholarship limit for this year's incoming class.
Running back was not a critical position for the coaching staff to stock up in this recruiting period. While having a stable of runners never hurts, the presence of Johnathan Franklin, Jordon James and Malcolm Jones allowed for more pressing holes to be filled this time. As such, there is not much to report. Pending the LOI of Tairen Owens, the Bruins have just a single recruit committed at the position (counting Kenny Walker as a wide receiver, as UCLA's press release does).
Fabian Moreau - Davie, FL (Western)
Rivals: 3 Star; Scout, 3 Star, #122 WR
Coach Mora went eastward for another recruit, this time a running back/receiver out of Florida. While Scout.com rated Fabian as a wide receiver, most of his time in high school came in the offensive backfield, running for nearly 900 yards and 11 touchdowns last fall. After playing in the Nike South Florida All-Star Game, Rivals.com had this note on Fabian's playing style.
Moreau is a tall back who plays a bit high. He is a good runner who can attack inside or outside. He hits the hole quickly and exhibits good vision at finding holes and attacking them.
Wide Receiver-Tight End
Throughout this recruiting cycle, and particularly in the final couple of weeks heading into signing day, wide receiver was a particular point of concern for those around the program. After two years of the Pistol, recruiting at the wide receiver position had taken a hit. And with the post-Neuheisel shakeups leading to Randall Carroll leaving the program, depth at receiver became a major issue without even factoring in the WR-heavy offensive schemes that Noel Mazzone is known to put into action. The Coaches certainly earned their coffee (link NSFW) by getting 3 wide receivers to make their commitment on signing day itself, to join the receiver and tight end already in the fold. More than any other position group, look for most of these guys to see action this fall.
Ahmaad Harris - Suwanee, GA (Peachtree Ridge)
Rivals: 2 Star; Scout, unranked.
Ahmaad was one of the biggest surprises of signing day for Bruins Nation, and likely for anyone looking at Coach Mora and staff's efforts - as the lack of any information from the leading scouting services on signing day showed. Despite having visited Westwood with a teammate last month, he was not on anybody's radar heading into signing day, holding no major offers until Coach Mora made a late night phone call on Tuesday to offer a UCLA scholarship.
Jordan Payton - Westlake Village, CA (Oaks Christian)
Rivals: 4 Star, #15 WR, #16 California, #93 overall; Scout: 4 Star, #15 WR, #95 overall.
Jordan is yet another Oaks Christian player to come to UCLA. Another of the last minute flips brought into the Bruin fold - and one of several players to leave Cal's once vaunted 2012 class, he has long been considered to be one of the best, if not the most talented wide receiver in the west in the class of 2012. The knock on him from observers is his propensity to take plays off, something that I would expect Coaches Mora and Yarber to quickly knock out of his system. Assuming his head is fully in the game, he is the type of talent that we should quickly expect to see on the field at the Rose Bowl.
Ian Taubler - Fresno, CA (Bullard)
Rivals: 3 Star, #29 TE, #85 California; Scout: 3 Star, #25 TE.
Ian is the earliest UCLA verbal commit to have stayed in the Bruins recruiting class and sign an LOI yesterday. Not a guy that we are going to rely on right away, but someone that could have an impact at the position a year or two down the road. Given that in addition to his other Pac-12 etc offers, he was recruited by Yale, look for him to make an impact in the classroom as well. He might eventually grow out of the tight end position; as Jon Gold noted at the time of his commitment:
At 6-5, 250 pounds, though, a possible shift to offensive tackle at some point wouldn't be out of the question, either. He has a solid, strong frame with good blocking skills, although his skill-position skills could use some work - speed, hands, route-running.
Kenny Walker - Richmond, CA (Kennedy)
Rivals: 3 Star, #71 WR, #60 California; Scout: 3 Star, #38 RB
Kenny was a late flip from Cal's late-disintegrating recruiting class, making his verbal commitment to UCLA on Monday. As well as his status as one of the Bay Area's leading football players, he is a standout runner, finishing 6th in the California State Championships in the 110 meter hurdles. The blog Richmond Confidentlal published a lengthy and very detailed post on Kenny last fall looking at his success navigating his way through - and eventually out - of one of the roughest neighborhoods in California. A must read. While the backfield is going to be pretty full this season, Kenny may have a shot to break through in the return game this season, if the staff does not have him redshirt.
Javon Williams - Chandler, AZ (Chandler)
Rivals: 4 Star, #36 WR, #4 Arizona, #227 Overall; Scout: 3 Star, #53 WR
Another signing-day pickup by UCLA, Javon was a high school teammate of Brett Hundley. While that certainly did not hurt his attractiveness to the Bruins staff, he is a top-level recruit in his own right, owning offers from such pass-happy programs as Arkansas and Oklahoma State, along with at least half of the Pac-12.
Last, but certainly not least (as gbruin would confirm) are the big uglies. While Stanford cleaned up with its recruiting efforts for the O-Line on Tuesday, the Bruins were able to bring in some good talent for Coach Klemm to work with in the coming years. In addition to the guys that committed today, remember that with Xavier Sua-Filo back from his religious mission, the Bruins are adding one of the best linemen in the conference to this fall's squad.
Alexandru Ceachir - Moldova (Santa Monica CC)
Alexandru is the lone Junior College player in this Fall's class, with an unusual path leading him to end up part of the Bruin football team. After a standout season at SMCC, Alexandru committed to Utah, but reconsidered after Norm Chow left to take over at Hawaii. Coach Klemm had recruited him at SMU, and continued to do so after coming to Westwood. As UCLA's signing day release describes him:
The 6-5/300 lb. lineman hails from Moldova, a country located between Romania and the Ukraine. He graduated from high school in the Spring of 2009 and then headed to Santa Monica CC in 2010. While at SMCC in 2011, he played tackle and earned first-team American Pacific Conference honors. Ceachir also helped lead SMCC to their first conference championship in 20 years.
Colby Cyburt - Mission Viejo, CA (Mission Viejo)
Rivals: 3 Star, #48 Offensive Tackle, #59 California; Scout: 3 Star, #50 Offensive Tackle
Along with Carl Hulick, Colby's commitment was a nice way for UCLA's coaching staff and fans to celebrate the new year. He is considered one of the best offensive line prospects in California, and attracted the interest to prove it, receiving offers from Stanford and Southern Cal, among several others. While he was considering the Bruins all along, it was Coach Mora and his staff that sealed the deal.
... Cyburt said he quickly built relationships with new offensive line coach Adrian Klemm and Mora, who told Cyburt he wanted him to be "one of his guys." Cyburt said he fell in love with the staff after taking an official visit, immediately cancelling trips to Stanford and Colorado and, when a USC coach tried to contact him in the 11th hour, had his coach tell the Trojans no thanks.
"It’s a dream come true for me," Cyburt said. "I wasn’t so sure about the Neuheisel staff. When the new coaches came in, it was a sure thing. I want nothing more than to be on the ground level of the first recruiting class with Jim Mora. I think the program is on the rise."
Cody also discussed about Coach Mora's relentlessness during his conversation with Adam Maya.
Cyburt said Mora called him the week he was hired. And again the following week. and the week after that. And every week since.
"He doesn’t let up until he gets what he wants," Cyburt said Wednesday at Mission Viejo High, where the Diablos had nine football players and 24 student athletes sign their national letters of intent. "He has the drive and determination that you need as a head coach. He’s so hands on. I haven’t talked to a head coach more than Jim Mora."
Simon Goines - Keller, TX (Keller Central)
Rivals: 3 Star, #55 Offensive Tackle, #73 Texas; Scout: 3 Star, #37 Offensive Tackle
After T.J. Millweard, the second player to come out of Texas in this recruiting class, and another late flip to the Bruins, having earlier been a Mizzu commit while holding offers from Arkansas and West Virginia. As we noted earlier in the week, he was also recruited as a basketball player by a few mid-major programs. Sounds like a nice athlete to have preparing to hit the trenches.
Carl Hulick - Anaheim, CA (Esperanza)
Rivals: 3 Star, #14 Center, #100 California; Scout; 3 Star, #15 Center
The one-time SMU commit switched over to UCLA as soon as Adrian Klemm - his recruiter and O-Line coach to be left Fort Worth to join Coach Jim Mora's staff. Being able to play an hour from home could not have hurt, too. Carl shared his thoughts on making the flip, and on the program after committing to the Bruins:
"After spending 30 seconds with Coach Mora, I could tell the fire he had and knew the changes he wanted to make. And Coach Klemm, I feel like I have been playing for him for years."
Hulick also said, "There is a buzz going around" about UCLA. "Huge things are going to happen there. The opportunity to be a part of that and change things is exciting."
Lacy Westbrook - Compton, CA (Dominguez)
Rivals: 4 Star, #25 Offensive Tackle, #34 California, #238 Overall; Scout: 3 Star, #18 Guard
While I said that the offensive line falls under 'last but not least', the saying fits even better when it comes to Lacy Westbrook. Lacy was not the first player to commit to UCLA, nor was he the first elite-level recruit to state his desire to be a Bruin - Aaron Porter holds that honor. Lacy was one of the few top-tier players to take the Bruins seriously when the program was at one of its lowest points, after the debacle in the Arizona desert exposed the program's weaknesses on national television. Despite holding offers from the entire Pac-12 as well as Auburn, he saw in UCLA what we all once did and still do, and said yes to Coach Neuheisel. With the end-of-season ranking shakeups leading to Lacy losing one of his starts in Scout.com's ranking (albeit remaining as one of the top 3-star recruits) and the flood of elite recruits that Coach Mora's staff have brought to Westwood, Lacy did not get the highest level of attention yesterday. Don't look for that anonymity to continue too far into his time at UCLA.