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After looking at the offensive side of the ball yesterday, we turn our attention to UCLA's recruiting efforts 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.
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 Eddie Vanderdoes; DT Elijah Qualls; DE Kylie Fitts; DE Joe Mathis: DE Carl Lawson.
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 recent decommitments from USC. 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.
Joe Mathis and Carl Lawson may be the high quality end that UCLA would take if they wanted to come to Westwood, but both are currently committed elsewhere. Lawson is currently committed to Auburn, and Mathis recently committed to Washington.
UCLA is also still pursuing DT Elijah Qualls, who is also committed to Washington. He does appear to be a long shot at this point, but the staff is still putting in effort.
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 have seen 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. 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.
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.
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 graduating, 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.
Targets: Priest Willis; Johnny Johnson; 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 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.
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 chasing Johnson hard. Washington, Cal, and Stanford are the other teams to watch.
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 is probably the favorite to sign him, but Washington is pursuing him as well.
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: 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 Mossi Johnson and Jayon 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 will probably end up playing wide receiver, while Brown 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 prospects in the country. They're both 6'2 190 lbs., rangy athletes. 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. LSU is also a candidate for both Willis and Goodman.
Foreman is currently committed to Wisconsin, but UCLA may be in play with Badgers' fluid coaching situation. Andy Buh, Wisconsin's former defensive coordinator, has take the Cal defensive coordinator's position, and Cal is rumored to be making a push for Foreman as well.
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 post all-star game round-up of UCLA's 2013 recruiting efforts. Fire away with any additional comments.