LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 13: Jim Mora greets UCLA cheerleaders at a press conference introducing him as head UCLA football coach at the J.D. Morgan Center at UCLA on December 13, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
After taking a midsummer look at recruiting with regard to the offensive side of the ball, we'll now turn to defense. As mentioned yesterday, Coach Mora has gained commitments from highly touted DT Kenneth Clark and fast rising CB/WR Jermaine Kelly. Yesterday, OT Christian Morris jumped on the Bruin bandwagon, bringing the total number of recruits to 11 this year.
Many expected Coach Mora's defensive background to resonate well with recruits on the defensive side of the ball, and those expectations are correct. Coach Mora and his staff have started well on the defensive side of the ball, having gained commitments at each of the levels on defense.
We'll take a look at those commits, as well as some of the remaining targets, after the jump.
Status: After signing McCarthy and having Brandon Willis emerge in the Spring, DT looks like a position of strength on the defense. Seali'i Espenesa, Donovon Carter, and Kevin McReynolds provide excellent depth. However, Carter will be a Sr. and Espenesa will be a Jr., so the staff may take a DT if they can find a good one.
DE also looks strong with Sr. Datone Jones, Jr.'s Cassius Marsh and Owamagbe Odighizuwa on the two deep. We'll also likely see Iese and Castro play here, and Keenan Graham and Damien Holmes are obviously capable of sliding to DE after playing DE previously.
Commits: DT Kenneth Clark
Targets: DT Lowell Loutulelei; DT Kennedy Tulimasealii; DT Vita Vea; DE Joe Mathis
Outlook: Eddie Vanderdoes, Danny Mattingly, and Elijah Qualls each signed elsewhere since the last recruiting post. However, Coach Mora made a splash of his own signing 4* DT Kenneth Clark. At 6'2 285 lbs., Clark projects as a prototypical DT. He attended Junior Day and the UCLA Spring Game prior to committing and looks like a solid Bruin.
Lotulelei, Tulimasealii and Vea and are all 3* prospects with multiple Pac-12 offers. Lotulelei and Tulimasealii have prototypical size, each standing at 6'2 and weighing 300 lbs., but Vea has an impressive resume having played LB and RB at 6'3 285 lbs. Lotulelei is the cousin of Inoke Lotulelei, the 2* WR prospect committed to the program.
UCLA did make Mathis' recent cut, but he looks like a longshot to attend UCLA at this point. Another name to pay attention to is Carl Lawson. The 4* DE out of Georgia is currently an Auburn commit, but there are rumors about a budding relationship with UCLA.
Status: It looks like Spanos' defense is going to rely heavily utilizing hybrid DE/OLB's, and the coaching staff is not slowing down in recruiting them. Jordan Zumwalt and Damien Holmes emerged from the Spring on top of the depth chart at OLB, with Aaron Wallace, Keenan Graham, Aramide Olanyian and Anthony Barr behind them.
Inside, Patrick Larimore and Eric Kendricks need to stay healthy, and Aaron Porter will almost certainly have to contribute as a true freshman. Unfortunately, this isn't exactly a big year for ILB recruits out west, but signing one is all but a necessity at this point.
Commits: Deon Hollins; OLB Cameron Judge;OLB Myles Jack
Targets: OLB Michael Hutchings; OLB Kevin Palma; ILB Isaac Savaiinea
Outlook: Hollins, Judge, and Jack form an impressive trio of early LB commits. If the staff can retain all three, it'll be interesting to see if they continue to recruit any others.
Hollins is a Texas native who committed to UCLA despite never having visited. At 6'2 222 lbs., he has good size and projects as a good pass rushing OLB. The staff will have to continue recruiting him to fend off schools from all over the country who have shown interest in Hollins.
Jack is originally from Georgia and recently moved to Washington. At 6'3 230 lbs., Jack may be able to play inside. Judge is an Oaks Christian product where UCLA has been doing well lately. His father played at Oregon in the early 80's, but Coach Mora took advantage of the fact that Oregon has yet to offer. He is a little light at 6'2 215 lbs., but he has a solid frame and could add weight easily.
Palma was a little under the radar, but his impressive summer circuit vaulted him up to the #15 OLB in Scout's rankings. At 6'3 248 lbs., he has the size to play right away. At this point, he has shown a lot of mutual interest with UCLA and he might be the next LB to commit to the Bruins.
Hutchings is one of the top OLB prospects in the country. He is out of De La Salle and is currently considered by most to be a USC lean. Our staff shouldn't and won't give up on this elite prospect, but he looks like a longshot at this point.
Savaiinea is a current Stanford commit that is easily the top ILB prospect in the west. He reminds me of another recent Hawaiian ILB prospect, Manti Te'o. Prying him away from Stanford would be a coup, but definitely worth a shot.
Status: With Aaron Hester, Sheldon Price, Brandon Sermons, and Anthony Jefferson, not to mention Marcus Rios and Ishmael Adams, the depth at CB looks good this year. However, given that Sermons, Jefferson, Rios, and Adams all have questions marks due to injuries and youth, as well as the fact that Hester and Price are Sr's, the staff is appropriately looking at bringing in multiple CB's.
Commits: Jermaine Kelly
Targets: LJ Moore; Johnny Johnson; Brendan Langley; Cole Luke; Daquawn Brown; Darius Allensworth; Tyree Robinson
Outlook: Quite simply, the defensive back class out west, both for cornerbacks and safeties, is loaded in the west this year. Recent commit Jermaine Kelly has excellent size (6'2 185 lbs.) for the position, but he may end up at WR depending on how the rest of the recruiting season goes.
Moore and Johnson both play for Central in Fresno, as does one of UCLA's top S prospects, Hatari Boyd. Moore is a prototypical big corner at 6'1 175 lbs., and Johnson is the opposite at 5'9 165 lbs. They both have offers from all over the country, and UCLA looks to be doing a little better with Moore at this point.
Luke is another top CB prospect out of Arizona. He has good size at 6'0 165 lbs. and has offers from all over the country. I don't know if he has a leader at this point, but he comes from the same town as Brett Hundley, Javon Williams, and Paul Perkins.
Langley is a Georgia native who has shown some interest in UCLA. At 6'1 185, he already has the size needed to play immediately. It's a longshot to pull him away from the South, but he's definitely worth the effort.
Brown, Allensworth, and Robinson are all less heralded than the others, but they do all hold UCLA offers. Brown is a Dorsey product and supposedly has favored UCLA for a long time. Allensworth is currently committed to Arizona but may camp at UCLA, and Robinson is a big corner (6'2 180 lbs.) whose twin brother is a top S prospect.
Status: While there may be decent depth this year at CB, the S positions looked depleted during the spring. Andrew Abbott and Tevin McDonald are very solid starters, and Stan McKay and Dalton Hilliard will back them up, with Hilliard attempting to play on both sides of the ball.
Targets: Hatari Boyd; Priest Willis; Max Redfield; Tahaan Goodman; Tyrell Robinson
Outlook: Each of the safeties recruited by UCLA are special talents. The depth of the safety prospects this year is incredible.
UCLA is probably doing the best with Byrd. Byrd is a big guy at 6'2 200 lbs. and projects as a SS. He's expressed interest in playing collegiately with teammate LJ Moore, who UCLA is also doing well with.
Willis plays CB/FS and will likely move to FS in college. He's 6'2 190 lbs. and is an explosive athlete. He has offers from all over the country, and the Arizona native does not appear to be ready to make a decision any time soon.
In other years, Redfield and Goodman could easily be considered the top prospects in the country. They're both 6'2 190 lbs., rangy athletes. Of the two, UCLA seems to have the better chance with Goodman. Goodman and Willis have not made it a secret that they intend to play college football together, and it would be an absolute coup to sign them both.
Tyrell Robinson is Tyree Robinson's twin brother. Tyrell is also 6'2 180 lbs. but projects as a safety. The brothers have indicated interest in playing both basketball and football in college.
That concludes our mid-summer round-up of UCLA's 2013 recruiting scene. Fire away with any additional comments.