Cameron Judge's commitment to UCLA made Coach Mora downright giddy.
In late May, we took our first look at UCLA's 2013 recruiting scene on offense and defense. Coming off Coach Mora's excellent first signing day, we all have high hopes for 2013. However, after signing 26 players last year, we knew that this class would be pretty limited in size. Since May, a few things have changed.
The good news is that UCLA received a commitment from 4* LB Cameron Judge. Judge is out of Oaks Christian, which has become a bit of a UCLA pipeline lately, having provided highly sought after Jordan Payton, Ishmael Adams, and Malcolm Jones in the past couple years. The bad news is that 4* CB Dashon Hunt decommitted from the program. If you recall, he committed early to the program under Coach Neuheisel. There were some signs that a parting was imminent, but Hunt is the type of talent that we would all like to see stick with the program. Also on the decommitted side, unranked but elite long snapper Cole Mazza has flipped to Alabama per Scout.com. As good as he allegedly is, we're not going to worry about losing a long snapper, especially during a year with such limited scholarships.
With no other adjective available, the perplexing news is the commitment of 2* WR Inoke Lotulelei. Lotulelei may be a fine player. His tapes look good to my unprofessional eyes. However, he's not an unseen gem. His quarterback at Cottonwood HS in Utah happens to be Cooper Bateman, the nation's 4th best quarterback according to Scout.com. Bateman is an Alabama commit and holds offers from virtually all over the country. Any scout who evaluated Bateman, and there were a lot of them, had plenty of looks at Lotulelei. Despite the exposure, UCLA is the only school that offered Lotulelei early, although BYU has recently offered. Perhaps Mazzone wants an older receiver in the mix. Lotulelei may defer enrollment for two years and enter UCLA as a 20 year old freshman. He does play in a similar offense, so maybe that aspect played into it. Maybe Mazzone liked the maturity of XSF upon his return from his mission and thought a similar stabilizing influence may be good at the receiver position. I think that line of reasoning is faulty because XSF is also the most talented player at his position, but I can see how maturity could help.
Another possibility is lazy recruiting. We've heard that the coaching staff has not been pulling their weight equally on the recruiting front. If there is a position coach failing to recruit as well advertised, we expect Coach Mora to act accordingly. We're looking at you, Coach Yarber.
Status: UCLA's quarterback situation for 2013 is a little murky at the moment. Everyone assumes Brett Hundley will be the man and take over, but he hasn't played a game yet. Kevin Prince and Richard Brehaut will both graduate after this season, leaving TJ Millweard, Jerry Neuheisel, Mike Fafaul, and potentially Devin Fuller behind Hundley. Despite the limited scholarships, the coaching staff correctly believes that a quarterback is a must sign this offseason.
Commits: Eddie Printz
Outlook: The staff locked in to Eddie Printz and has apparently stopped recruiting any other quarterbacks. The commitment to Printz is somewhat risky given that Printz is out of Georgia and has offers from SEC, ACC, and BIG10 schools, but Printz has been involved with UCLA and even came to this year's spring game.
Status: Jonathan Franklin will be graduating, leaving Damien Thigpen, Malcolm Jones, Jordon James, and Steven Manfro at the position. Thigpen, James, and Manfro are all potential F/HB hybrids, and it wouldn't be surprising to see the staff sign two running backs this year.
Commits: Keyante Green
Targets: Craig Lee; Pierre Cormier; Lavon Coleman; Taquan Mizzell; Derrick Green; Khalfani Muhammad; Aaron Baltazar; Peyton Barber; Donnel Pumphrey
Outlook: Green is another Georgia recruit. At 5'9 190 lbs., he's a little on the small side. However, he's not a burner and does run with his pads low. Green has indicated that he intends to take his visit, and although he has also said that he remains committed to UCLA, the staff will need to fight for him as he holds numerous SEC, BIG10, and ACC offers. Georgia is a school to look out for. Green initially committed to Georgia but was told to look elsewhere due to the fact that Georgia had limited running back space and had a commitment from 5* Derrick Henry. Henry recently decommitted from Georgia with all signs pointing towards flipping to Alabama, so Georgia's recruitment of Green may pick up.
The three remaining targets are all from California. Lee is the tallest at 6'0 188 lbs, Coleman is the heaviest at 5'11 210 lbs., and Cormier is the smallest at 5'11 180 lbs. All three are getting interest from the majority of the Pac 12, and Cormier has a couple of BIG10 offers.
Mizzell and Green are both out of Virginia and appear to be very longshots at this point. Muhammad, Baltazar, Barber, and Pumphrey are all just a step below Lee, Cormier, and Coleman for various reasons. They all have multiple BCS offers, but are not quite up to the elite level at this stage. Of them, I think Muhammad is the most exciting. The Notre Dame HS product may have diminutive size, at only 5-7 160 lbs., but his tape is fun to watch.
Status: After a few lackluster recruiting classes, Coach Mora & Co. signed Jordan Payton, Javon Williams, Randall Goforth, Kenny Walker, Fabian Moreau, Paul Perkins, and Ahmaad Harris last year. However, Goforth may end up at CB, and Walker, Moreau, Perkins, and Harris all look like slot guys. There is also a lot of talented WR's out west in this year's class, so it would be a good time to nab an elite WR.
Commits: Inoke Lotulelei.
Targets: Sebastian Larue; Devon Allen; Francis Owusu; John Ross; Demorea Stringfellow; Samajie Grant; Xavier Shepherd; Juwan Dickey
Outlook: As mentioned above, 2* Lotulelei is the first commit at WR for this class, but he may defer enrollment to take his mission and probably won't crack the depth chart for three years. He has also mentioned his desire for a BYU offer, which he recently received, so he may not be "committed" for long.
Ideally, a class of Larue, Owusu, and Ross would be excellent. They are all local and have each shown interest in UCLA. However, there have been some rumors that our recruiting efforts for WR's has not been stellar, particularly with those in the LA area. If Coach Mora and Coach Mazzone want to land elite talent, they had better ensure the recruiting in charge of those areas are pulling their own weight.
Stringfellow and Owusu are all big, physical receivers. They both stand 6'3 and are each getting a lot of national attention. Of the two, Owusu appears to favor UCLA the most, but it will be difficult to pry him away from Stanford should he admitted. Darrell Daniels was a similarly sized target out of Northern California, but he recently committed to Washington.
Larue is out of Santa Monica HS, so the staff should have plenty of opportunity to convince him to come to Westwood. At 5'11 185, he has good size and is also getting a lot of national attention.
Allen is another big receiver with good straight line speed. He stands 6'1 190 lbs. and has offers from all over the country. UW does appear to be his leader partly due to family ties in the area, but he's a guy to keep an eye on. After UW's Daniels commitment, one has to wonder how many WR's they can take in their small class this year.
Ross is a bit smaller at 5'9 175, but he's electric with the ball. He plays at Jordan HS in Long Beach, and has potential as a return man as well as CB.
Grant, Shepherd, and Dickey are all a little less heralded than the others, but UCLA has shown interest in all of them. Dickey is the biggest at 6'1 185 lbs. He doesn't seem as willing to leave the southeast as Printz is, but Printz will have an entire season to work on him. Grant also has good size at 6'0 175. He's also a candidate to play CB. Shepherd is another smallish slot that Mazzone loves. He's only 5'9 165 lbs., but is said to have been tearing up the summer circuits.
Status: Replacing Fauria at the Y will be a tough proposition; 6'8 athletic tight ends simply do not grow on trees. However, how Mazzone utilized Fauria may go a long ways towards gathering interest with the tight ends who are out there. Last year, Ian Taubler and Nate Iese were both signed with potential to play the Y. However, Taubler may grow into an OT and Iese looks dynamic at OLB/DE.
Targets: Thomas Duarte; Charlie Reid
Status: Duarte is a Mater Dei product, while Reid hails from All Saints Episcopal in Texas, so they both have good pedigree. They're both similar in size at 6'4 225, and both are much better receivers than blockers. Duarte has family ties to UCLA and probably looks like a UCLA lean at this point.
Status: While Rick Neuheisel left the offensive in exponentially better shape than the condition it was in when he arrived, we all saw in spring practice that it still where it needs to be. Getting Xavier Su'a Filo back was huge, but the line needs more depth and talent across the board.
Commits:OT Erik Bunte; OT Sean Dowling
Targets: OT Nico Falah; OT Christian Morris; OG Scott Quessenbery; OG John Lopez; C Khaliel Rodgers; OG Sean Harlow; OT Kenny Lacy; OT Aaron Cochran; OG Cameron Hunt; OT Riley Sorensen
Outlook: Once again, Coach Klemm and UCLA are pursuing a lot of targets. Klemm is quite the recruiter, and each of the above listed include UCLA at or near the top of their lists. Obviously, UCLA won't sign all of them, or even half of them for that matter, but it will be interesting to see how the recruiting dominoes fall here.
Bunte is a mammoth at 6'7 310 lbs. He certainly looks like he may be able to step right in and play. Dowling is a little smaller at 6'6 265 lbs., but if he is able to put on weight this year, he may be able to provide depth next season as well.
Of the targets, Falah is the highest rated. Scout lists him as the #3 OT prospect in the country. His father went to UCLA, so Klemm may have a recruiting advantage despite the fact that Falah essentially has his choice of where to go to school. It appears that he is deciding between UCLA and USC. He camped at USC, but his ties to UCLA will hopefully sway him to Westwood.
Morris, Rodgers, and Lacy are all out of state prospects. Out of the three, Morris does appear to favor UCLA the most. At 6'6 285 lbs., he has good size and could probably play immediately if necessary. He has plenty of offers closer to home in Tennessee, and I do think it would be a coup to keep him away from the Volunteers. Rodgers is one of the top C prospects in the country, and UCLA is said to have a decent chance despite Rodgers having many offers closer to home. Lacy is the top OT prospect in Arizona. He is 6'6 270 lbs. and has quite a few offers to choose from. Of the three out of state prospects, Lacy looks like the longest shot.
Quessenberry, Lopez, and Harlow may be competing for a spot or two at OG. Lopez and Harlow are both Orange County products, and Quessenberry isn't much further south in Encinitas. Lopez is the biggest and most heralded at 6'5 305 lbs., and UCLA has been recruiting him for years, but Harlow and Quessenberry have been climbing the ranks.
Cochran, Sorensen, and Hunt are all a little less heralded, and only Cochran currently holds an offer. At 6'8 350 lbs., Cochran dwarfs all of the other prospects. While Sorensen and Hunt do not currently hold offers, I do think they are likely candidates to receive them in the near future. Hunt has been lights out in the summer circuit and Sorensen is Bunte's teammate at Santa Margarita. The knock on Hunt is his lack of size (6'4 255 lbs.) and possible inability to get much bigger.
That rounds up our second early look at UCLA's recruiting efforts on the offensive side of the ball. Be sure to check back in Friday where we'll take a look at the defensive recruiting scene.