Jayne Kamin-Oncea-US PRESSWIRE
We take a look at UCLA's recruiting commits and targets on the offensive side of the ball.
The month of December is always an odd recruiting month. On the surface, all is calm; college football is on pause save the coaching carousel, the high school season is coming to a close, and All-American games are just around the corner. However, underneath, there is a storm of activity, and a lot of recruiting battles are being won and lost. On Friday, UCLA received a big commitment in mammoth 4* OG Alex Redmond. There are rumors that another big commitment may be coming in the very near future.
Today, we'll take a closer look at UCLA's efforts on the offensive side of the ball. After an exciting and successful regular season, UCLA's staff has a good opportunity to make some serious noise in recruiting circles.
Status: Brett Hundley performed better than expected his freshman year. He'll have the position locked down for a while. However, the depth behind him is a bit of a concern. Kevin Prince and Richard Brehaut are graduating, leaving TJ Millweard, Jerry Neuheisel, Mike Fafaul, and potentially Devin Fuller behind Hundley. Fuller is now playing wide receiver, and while he has repeatedly said that he wants to play quarterback, he may be too gifted of an athlete to use as a backup quarterback. In a perfect world, I think the staff would sign a quarterback this year. It may not be a must sign, but it would be preferable.
Targets: Troy Williams; Hayden Rettig
Outlook: The staff locked on to Eddie Printz early and stopped recruiting the quarterback position, only to determine that Printz wasn't a good fit. In the meantime, the quarterback position dried up quickly, and the staff put themselves in the position to either flip one of the better local recruits, take a shot on an unheralded recruit, or not take a quarterback in this year's class.
Troy Williams and Hayden Rettig are both local prospects worth fighting for, but both are currently committed elsewhere. Williams plays for Narbonne HS while Rettig is at Cathedral and both expressed interest in UCLA before committing to Washington and LSU, respectively. Of the two, Williams may be the better option. Washington signed two elite quarterbacks in last year's class, and he adds an extra dimension with his mobility. Rettig, on the other hand, spoke very highly of Coach Mazzone and his offense before committing to LSU, and the staff's interest in Rettig played a role in the Printz fiasco. There hasn't been much word regarding these two lately, but I doubt the staff has given up.
Another interesting recruit is Darryl Richardson out of Florida. He's a very big guy (6'5 230 lbs.) who is being recruited as an athlete by some schools. He looks like a Y to me, but, like Fuller, he does want a shot at quarterback. He has offers from Tennesee, Ole Miss, and Missouri in the SEC, but he'd be an intriguing prospect for Coach Mazzone.
Status: Jonathan Franklin is graduating, leaving Damien Thigpen, Jordon James, Steven Manfro, and Paul Perkins at the position. Thigpen was very good this season prior to his ACL injury, but he hasn't had the chance to be a feature back, is coming back from a serious injury, and will be a senior. James and Manfro both had their glimpses, but were a bit underwhelming, and Manfro is more of an F. Perkins supposedly looked very good in summer camp. Although the group is serviceable, I think the staff would take two pure running backs and an F if they can get high quality backs.
Commits: Craig Lee; Jalen Ortiz
Targets: Terrell Newby; Cornelius Elder
Outlook: UCLA has gained commitments for 4* Craig Lee and 3*/4* Jalen Ortiz. Lee has good size at 6'0 188 lbs, and is a pure running back. Ortiz is only 5'9 170 lbs, but he has elite speed and is very shifty. Ortiz projects as an F, but I list him here because I think he has potential to be a ball carrier as well.
The staff is also recruiting 4* Terrell Newby and 4* Cornelius Elder. Newby had a monster season and is shooting up the recruiting charts. He has offers from UCLA, Nebraska, Oregon, Washington, and Cal, with Nebraska apparently in the lead at this point. Elder is a small back that looks like a perfect replacement for Damien Thigpen. Elder is 5'10 165 lbs. with elite speed. He is from Tennessee, and has offers from his in-state Volunteers as well as Ole Miss, Ohio St., and UCLA. He has visited Westwood and came away very impressed, but it will take some work to sign him.
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, Williams transferred, Goforth and Moreau ended up in the secondary (although Moreau may end up back at WR), Fuller switched to receiver part way through the season, and Perkins is playing running back. That leaves Fuller, Payton, Walker, and Harris as last year's wide receiving class. Of course, the receiving corps returns incumbents Shaq Evans, Devin Lucien, but Mazzone's offense requires a lot of bodies at the receiver positions. There is a lot of talented wide receivers out west in this year's class, so it would be a good time to nab an elite receiver or two.
Commits: Mossi Johnson; Darren Andrews.
Targets: Devon Allen; John Ross; Sebastian Larue;Demorea Stringfellow; Eldridge Massington.
Outlook: At this point, the only committed pure wide receiver is 3* Darren Andrews. Mossi Johnson is a wide receiver/safety, and Ammon Barker is also committed, but I consider Barker a Y. Andrews has good size to be a slot type receiver (5'10 160 lbs.). He is related to Eric Yarber, which undoubtedly helped in pulling the speedy wideout from Duke. Johnson has good size (6'1 185 lbs.) and athleticism, and the reports that I've seen indicate he's a little better on the offensive side of the ball.
Allen is 4* receiver with track speed out of Arizona. He stands 6'1 190 lbs. and has offers from all over the country. Right now, UCLA, Oregon, Stanford, and Florida St. are the leaders for him.
John 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. He also has a four team shortlist of UCLA, Oregon, Oregon St., and Washington. He did appear to be Oregon bound just a few weeks ago, but the other three schools have all made up ground.
Two committed players that UCLA is still pursuing are Demorea Stringfellow and Sebastian LaRue, who are committed to Washington and USC, respectively. Stringfellow is a big, prototypical wide receiver listed at 6'3 215 lbs. LaRue is more of a slot type at 5'11 175 lbs. He's also a very good cornerback and could easily end up on the defensive side of the ball.
Eldridge Massington is a 4* receiver out of Texas that recently decommitted from USC. He is a big, fast athlete and is visiting UCLA this month. Apparently he intends to enroll early wherever he ends up.
Tight End or Y
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. With Ian Taubler, Darius Bell, John Young, and Jordan Barrett as the only viable Y receivers on the roster, the staff could easily take two in this class.
Commits: Ammon Barker.
Targets: Thomas Duarte; Danny Mattingly; Siale Fakailoantonga; Darryl Richardson.
Status: Thomas Duarte is a Mater Dei product who stands an impressive 6'4 225 lbs. His is a much better receiver than blocker and really looks like a perfect Y receiver. He has family ties to UCLA, but he doesn't appear to have a favorite at this point. Right now, his leaderboard consists of Notre Dame, Oregon, UCLA, USC, and Washington, but USC has yet to offer.
Danny Mattingly is a gifted player that can end up at either Y or linebacker. He's the same size as Duarte (6'4 225 lbs.), but he's not really the same player. Mattingly is more physical and a little less gifted as a receiver. Mattingly is a longtime Notre Dame commit, but UCLA has fought hard for him.
Fakailoantonga is similarly sized at 6'4 215 lbs, though a little less heralded than Duarte and Mattingly. There were some whispers earlier in the year that he is UCLA's to lose, with the primary suitors being BYU and Cal.
As mentioned above, Darryl Richardson is a quarterback/athlete that most likely projects as a Y. Given his 6'5 230 lbs. frame, he has the potential to become a weapon at the Y position.
Status: While Rick Neuheisel left the offensive in exponentially better shape than the condition it was in when he arrived, the number of early season injuries have really exposed UCLA's offensive line. Getting Xavier Su'a Filo back was huge, but the line needs more depth and talent across the board. Coach Adrian Klemm has done a masterful job recruiting the offensive line this year, and is looking to build a deeper, more talented unit.
Commits: OT Christian Morris; OT Kenny Lacy; OT Sean Dowling; OT Poasi Moala; OG Alex Redmond; OG John Lopez; OG/C Scott Quessenbery
Targets: OG Caleb Benenoch; OG Sean Harlow; OT Riley Sorensen ; OG Cameron Hunt
Outlook: Coach Klemm and UCLA has done a wonderful job securing a lot of highly rated offensive line recruits. All of the currently committed lineman are highly sought after players in the high 3* or 4* category. If Coach Klemm can keep the group currently committed to stick with UCLA through signing day, this could be one of the best offensive line classes in UCLA's history.
Erik Bunte; and Sean Dowling were UCLA's first offensive line commits of the class, but Bunte unsurprisingly decommitted earlier this week. 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.
Poasi Moala is a big guy at 6'5, but he's only 265 lbs. and will need to gain some weight before playing at the next level. He was previously committed to Washington, but flipped to the Bruins after his official visit. Although he appears firmly entrenched with the Bruins, he has been performing at a very high level and has begun to draw more interest. Our staff will have to fight to keep him.
Christian Morris and Kenny Lacy are both highly touted out of state prospects, and both have made it clear that they are still looking. It may be hard to keep Morris from Tennessee with Butch Jones coming aboard. At 6'6 285 lbs., he has good size and could probably play immediately if necessary. Lacy is the top OT prospect in Arizona and has drawn interest from Michigan, Nebraska, Ohio St., and Oklahoma. He is 6'6 270 lbs. and projects as a very good OT.
Scott Quessenberry and John Lopez are the two committed interior lineman recruits. Lopez has excellent size at 6'5 305 lbs., and UCLA has been recruiting him for years. Quessenberry is one of the top ranked centers in the country, but at 6'3 265 lbs., he clearly has to bulk up before playing at the next level.
UCLA has also made recent gains with elite guards Caleb Benenoch out of Texas and Alex Redmond, who was previously committed to Oregon before committing to UCLA. Benenoch is a massive 6'6 317 lbs., and Redmond isn't far behind at 6'5 295 lbs. Benenoch is likely choosing between Baylor and UCLA. If Benenoch joins Redmond in Westwood, this could shape up to be one of the best offensive line recruiting classes in UCLA's history.
That rounds up our end of season look at UCLA's recruiting efforts on the offensive side of the ball. Be sure to check back in tomorrow where we'll take a look at the defensive recruiting scene.