UCLA Football Recruiting: Pre Signing Day Reset - Part II - Defense

Ronald Martinez

We take a look at the pre signing day outlook on the defensive side of the ball.

Yesterday, we took a look at the status of UCLA's recruiting efforts on the offensive side of the ball. While the outlook is impressive on that side of the ball at this point, especially with the excellent offensive line class, the defensive side of the ball is what really stands out to me. If, and it is a big if, UCLA retains the current commits as well as closes on some of the targets that UCLA is currently finalists for, UCLA could be looking at an entire defense of 4/5* recruits.

Defensive Linemen

Status: After signing McCarthy last year, DT looked like a position of strength. Seali'i Espenesa started all season, with Donovon Carter, and Brandon Willis providing solid depth. However, McCarthy got off to a slower start than most expected and may be better suited for DE, and Carter is a Sr. and Espenesa is a Jr., so the staff has been recruiting DT types.

DE is definitely a position of strength with Sr. Datone Jones, Jr.'s Cassius Marsh and Owamagbe Odighizuwa on the two deep. We'll also likely see Nate Iese and Jeremy Castro play here next year, and McCarthy may also end up at DE. While taking a DE may not be ruled out, it's not a position of need and only worth taking a very special talent.

Commits: DT Kenneth Clark.

Targets: DT Eddie Vanderdoes; DE Kylie Fitts.

Outlook: 4* DT Kenneth Clark is a very good commit. At 6'2 285 lbs., Clark projects as a solid 3-4 DT. He attended Junior Day and the UCLA Spring Game prior to committing and looks like a solid Bruin.

Eddie Vanderdoes and Kylie Fitts are both former USC commits. UCLA is actively recruiting both, and will continue to do so until signing day. Vanderdoes is one of the truly elite DT's in the class, currently ranked #2 in the country by Scout, and Fitts is ranked as the #10 DE in the class. Notre Dame and USC are both also fighting for the two, and Alabama has made a late push for Vanderdoes.

Linebackers

Status: Spanos' defense relies heavily utilizing hybrid DE/OLB's, and the coaching staff is not slowing down in recruiting them. Anthony Barr has been absolutely dominant, and the staff will be hard pressed to find another outside backer like him. Damien Holmes locked down the other OLB spot after spending some time in the middle. Aaron Wallace, Keenan Graham, and Aramide Olanyian provide quality depth, but there is definitely room for playmakers.

Inside, Eric Kendricks, Jordan Zumwalt, and Dalton Hilliard took the majority of the playing time. True freshman Aaron Porter took a red-shirt year, and the only other backer to see time this year inside is Wallace. 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/ILB Cameron Judge; OLB Myles Jack.

Targets: ILB Isaac Savaiinea.

Outlook: Deon Hollins, Cameron Judge, and Myles 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 a similar role as Anthony Barr. He is very athletic and has been shooting up the ranking boards. Scout currently lists him as the #4 OLB. Washington, Oregon, and Mississippi State are thought to be UCLA's main competition for his services.

Judge is an Oaks Christian product where UCLA has been doing well lately. He is a little light at 6'2 215 lbs., but he has a solid frame and could add weight easily. His father played at Oregon in the early 80's, but Coach Mora took advantage of the fact that Oregon has yet to offer. However, it does look that Oregon may offer, which would likely get Judge's attention. Arizona St. has also been pursuing Judge, and out of all the committed linebackers, Judge is the most likely to end up elsewhere.

Savaiinea is easily the top ILB prospect in the west, and he is rumored to have UCLA very high on his list. He was previously committed to Stanford, but it now appears to be a two horse race between UCLA and Texas A&M. Texas A&M currently has 5 committed MLB's, which puts UCLA is a very strong position.

Cornerbacks

Status: With Aaron Hester and Sheldon Price graduating, UCLA has Brandon Sermons, Marcus Rios, Ishmael Adams, Randall Goforth, and Fabian Moreau at CB next season. However, Sermons has not done much this season, Goftorth spent last season at S, and Moreau may end up back on the offensive side of the ball. At this point, CB is a position of need and the staff is pursuing a number of targets. The need for top flight CB's is magnified by Spanos' aggressive scheme, which relies on a lot of man coverage on the outside.

Commits: Priest Willis; Johnny Johnson.

Targets: Patrick Enewally.

Outlook: Quite simply, the defensive back class out west, both for cornerbacks and safeties, is loaded in the west this year. Priest Willis plays CB/FS and will get a shot at CB in college. He's 6'2 190 lbs. and is an explosive athlete. He had offers from all over the country, but the Arizona native does chose to come to Westwood.

Johnny Johnson plays for Central in Fresno in a secondary that includes LJ Moore and Hatari Byrd. Johnson is smallish at 5'9 165 lbs, but the staff has made an exception to their preference for big corners and are chased Johnson hard. Some scouts believe that he is the best pure cover corner in the West, and he'll get a shot to play early.

Patrick Enewally is a late addition to the board, but he has good size and is receiving quite a bit of Pac-12 interest. At this point, UCLA and Washington have been in a two way battle, and Cal is coming on late.

Safeties

Status: UCLA is losing Andrew Abbott but returning Tevin McDonald at FS, as well as Stan McKay and Randall Goforth. The team may also get Dietrich Riley back next year.

Commits: Tahaan Goodman; Tyler Foreman; Jayon Brown.

Targets: None.

Outlook: Each of the safeties recruited by UCLA are special talents. The depth of the safety prospects this year is incredible. Jayon Brown is listed as a safety commits, but he is a bit of a tweener that looks to end up being a nickel linebacker.

In other years, Tahaan Goodman and Tyler Foreman could easily be considered the top safety prospects in the country. They're both 6'2 190 lbs., rangy athletes. Goodman and Willis made it clear that they intended to play college football together, and it is an absolute coup to sign them both.

Foreman was formerly committed to Wisconsin, but he flipped to the Bruins after Wisconsin's coaching change. Foreman will pair with Goodman to form a good set of interchangeable safeties capable of supporting the run and playing deep coverage.

Specialists

UCLA has a commitment from P Sean Covington, one of the best punters in the country. He'll take over for Jeff Locke next year.

That concludes our pre signing day round-up of UCLA's 2013 recruiting efforts. Fire away with any additional comments.

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