UCLA Football Recruiting: Midseason Recruiting Update Part II - Defense

Stephen Dunn

We take a look at UCLA's recruiting on the defensive side of the ball in our second installment of the midseason recruiting update.

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, the coaching staff is off to a good start, and yesterday received a commitment from P Sean Covington, one of the best punters in the country. UCLA now has 17 total commits, and have a high quality of 3.41 average stars on Scout.

Defensive Linemen

Status: After signing McCarthy last year, DT looked like a position of strength. Seali'i Espenesa has been the starter all season, with Donovon Carter, and Brandon Willis providing solid depth. However, McCarthy is off to a slower start 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 Donovan Munger; DT Lowell Loutulelei; DT Kennedy Tulimasealii; DT Vita Vea; DT Eddie Vanderdoes; DE Joe Mathis

Outlook: 4* DT Kenneth Clark is a very good commit. 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.

Mathis may be the high quality DE that UCLA would take if he wanted to come to Westwood. He has a high number of suitors and hasn't trimmed his list much, but UCLA is still on it.

Munger is a very highly sought after recruit out of the state of Ohio. He could end up on the offensive or defensive side of the ball, and is being recruited by Coach Klemm, but I'll list him at DT. He does plan on visiting UCLA and the Bruins are definitely on his short list.

Vanderdoes is currently committed to USC, but UCLA is still recruiting him and will continue to do so until signing day. He is still taking visits, and the door is not closed at this point.

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. Jordan Zumwalt and Damien Holmes have split the other OLB spot. Jordan Zumwalt, Aaron Wallace, Keenan Graham, and Aramide Olanyian provide depth, but it looks as though Zumwalt may be moving inside.

Inside, in addition to Zumwalt, Eric Kendricks, Damien Holmes, and Dalton Hilliard have seen the majority of the playing time. True freshman Aaron Porter looks to be taking 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 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, which would fill a big need for UCLA. Washington and Oregon have been recruiting him hard, and the staff will have its work cut out in keeping him.

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.

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.

Palma was a little under the radar, but his impressive summer circuit vaulted him up to the #15 OLB in Scout's rankings, and he's currently committed to Stanford. At 6'3 248 lbs., he has the size to play right away, but it's unclear if UCLA is pursuing him any longer.

Cornerbacks

Status: With Aaron Hester, Sheldon Price, Brandon Sermons, and Anthony Jefferson, not to mention Marcus Rios, Ishmael Adams, Randall Goforth, and Fabian Moreau, the depth at CB is impressive on paper. However, Hester and Price are Sr's, Adams is injured, Goforth and Jefferson have looked better at S, and Moreau is making a question mark after making a position change from WR. 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: Jermaine Kelly

Targets: LJ Moore; Johnny Johnson; Cole Luke; Daquawn Brown

Outlook: Quite simply, the defensive back class out west, both for cornerbacks and safeties, is loaded in the west this year. Kelly really jumped in most scouts' eyes and is currently rated as a 4* by Scout. He has great size at 6'2 185 lbs. and is capable of playing WR as well. He did visit Washington during the Huskies' win over Stanford, but he remains a UCLA commit.

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 in the mix with both of them.

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. UCLA looks like a longshot at this point.

Brown is less heralded than the others, but he has good size at 6'0 170 lbs. and does hold a UCLA offer. Brown is a Dorsey product and supposedly has favored UCLA for a long time, but he appears to be deciding between UCLA, Washington, and Arizona St. at this time.

Safeties

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, Randall Goforth, and Dalton Hilliard have done a good job backing them up. The team may also get Dietrich Riley back next year.

Commits: Mossi Johnson; Jayon Brown

Targets: Hatari Boyd; Priest Willis; Max Redfield; Tahaan Goodman; Tyler Foreman

Outlook: Each of the safeties recruited by UCLA are special talents. The depth of the safety prospects this year is incredible. While Johnson and Brown are listed as safety commits, the reality of the situation is that neither may end up at safety. Johnson is a very good athlete that may end up playing wide receiver, while Brown is a bit of a tweener that may end up being a nickel linebacker.

One of the early surprises in the recruiting season was Byrd's commitment to Oklahoma, who seemed to have a lot of mutual interest with UCLA at the start of the recruiting season. 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, and UCLA has not given up on him.

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. Willis will likely take his recruiting down to the wire, and UCLA will have to finish strong in order to sign him.

In other years, Redfield, Goodman, and Foreman could easily be considered the top prospects in the country. They're all 6'2 190 lbs., rangy athletes. Of the three, UCLA seems to have the best chance with Goodman and Foreman, as Redfield previously committed to USC. 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.

That concludes our mid-season round-up of UCLA's 2013 recruiting scene. Fire away with any additional comments.

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