Yes coach, you deserve a hand. - Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
We take a look at UCLA's impressive signing day, led by the massive overhaul of the offensive line.
With signing day behind us, we are now certain who will Bruins next year. This was a different sort of recruiting classes than what we saw last year or the years with Coach Neuheisel. Previously, we saw a lot of late movement and surprises, but this class was more of a slow burn. That might lead to a little tempered excitement, but it shouldn't. This is an absolutely fabulous class. The staff did not see a single defection on signing day, and the only prospect that they did not sign that had a signing day announcement was 5* DT Eddie Vanderdoes, who chose to attend Notre Dame.
UCLA currently has 26 commitments, but one has not qualified academically, one will be grey shirting for medical reasons, and two will be early entries. The class will also include two grey shirts from last year, Lacy Westbrook and Jeremy Castro. Scout has the class ranked 5th in the country at this point, while Rivals has the class ranked 11th in the country. Both sites give UCLA a high average star rating; Scout indicates that our average recruit is 3.77 stars while Rivals places it at 3.65 stars.
Today, we'll recap UCLA's efforts on the offensive side of the ball.
With Brett Hundley looking like he'll have the position locked down for a while, the staff did not make signing a quarterback a priority. However, the depth behind Hundley is a bit of a concern, and it would have been a mistake to not sign a quarterback this year. The only quarterbacks behind Hundley are TJ Millweard, Jerry Neuheisel, Mike Fafaul, and potentially Devin Fuller.
Thankfully, the staff lucked into Asiantii Woulard. Woulard is a 4* prospect out of Florida who had committed to South Florida early and decommitted once Skip Holtz was fired late in the recruiting process. He is a dual threat type quarterback with good size at 6'4 200 lbs. He has only played quarterback for a couple of seasons, but he was voted the Elite 11 MVP. Woulard did break his ankle during his last high school game, and it's unclear what kind of impact he can make early, but it's nice to know that there is another viable quarterback on board.
Like quarterback, running back was not a real priority in this year's class. Yes, Jonathan Franklin is graduating and Damien Thigpen will be recovering from a torn ACL, but Jordon James, Steven Manfro, and Paul Perkins are all capable ball carriers. UCLA will also be welcoming Malcolm Jones back onto the team, and hopefully he can regain some of the form that made him the Gatorade National Player of the Year in high school. 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.
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, but he has not qualified academically and will not be available next fall. 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. If you want to watch some fun highlights, check out Ortiz's senior year clips.
The staff is also still recruiting 4* Cornelius Elder. While UCLA looks like a very long shot at this point, Coach Mora made it very clear during the signing day event that the staff is not done looking at the position, which was a clear message to Elder. 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.
After a few lackluster recruiting classes at the receiver position, Coach Mora & Co. signed a good class last year consisting of Jordan Payton, Kenny Walker and Ahmaad Harris, and Devin Fuller moved from QB to WR as well. The receiving corps also returns incumbent starters Shaq Evans and Devin Lucien, but Mazzone's offense requires a lot of bodies at the receiver positions.
UCLA got a big prize in landing Eldridge Massington. Massington is a 4* receiver out of Texas that decommitted from USC and flipped to UCLA after looking at Alabama. He is a big, fast athlete, but is recovering from a summer knee injury. He has enrolled at UCLA early, which also helps with the scholarship count.
Darren Andrews has good size to be a slot type receiver (5'10 160 lbs.). Andrews played his high school ball at Bishop Amat, and he has excellent speed. He is related to Eric Yarber, which undoubtedly helped in pulling the speedy wideout from Duke.
Mossi Johnson has good size (6'1 185 lbs.) and athleticism, and is listed as a S/WR. Reports that I've seen indicate he's a little better on the offensive side of the ball, and he should be expected to play WR as a Bruin. Unfortunately, Johnson injured his knee and will likely grey shirt this upcoming season while recovering from a torn ACL and MCL.
Tight Ends/Y Receivers
Replacing Fauria at the Y will be a tough proposition; 6'8 athletic tight ends simply do not grow on trees. However, Mazzone utilized Fauria well and UCLA should be a good destination for tight ends in the future. With Ian Taubler, Darius Bell, John Young, and Jordan Barrett as the Y receivers on the roster, the staff needed to sign an athletic receiving type tight end, and they did just that with Thomas Duarte.
Duarte is a Mater Dei product who committed to UCLA during his all-star game. Duarte stands an impressive 6'4 225 lbs., and he moves very well. He is a much better receiver than blocker and really looks like a perfect Y receiver in Mazzone's offense. He'll play early and has a good chance at contributing next year.
The number of injuries really exposed UCLA's offensive line depth during the year. Getting Xavier Su'a Filo back was huge, but the line needed more depth and talent across the board. The line was also young, starting three freshmen and a sophomore, which normally make signing elite talent to come on board difficult. Enter Coach Klemm.
Coach Klemm and UCLA has done a wonderful job securing a lot of highly rated offensive line recruits despite the incumbent youth. All of the committed lineman were highly sought after players in the high 3* or 4* category.
Christian Morris and Kenny Lacy are both highly touted out of state prospects, and the staff really had to fight to keep them on board. It was particularly impressive to keep Morris away from Ole Miss and Tennessee, two local schools that recruited Morris very hard. At 6'6 285 lbs., Morris has good size and can probably play immediately if necessary.
Lacy is the top OT prospect in Arizona and has drew interest from Michigan, Nebraska, Ohio St., Arkansas and Oklahoma. He is 6'6 270 lbs. and projects as a very good OT, but he likely will need to bulk up somewhat before playing.
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. He had a great senior season and his stock has rose to the point that many scouts believe he's the best OT prospect in the West.
At guard, UCLA has commits from Caleb Benenoch out of Texas, and Alex Redmond and John Lopez from Southern California. All three have excellent size; Benenoch is a massive 6'6 317 lbs., Lopez is 6'5 305 lbs., and Redmond isn't far behind at 6'5 295 lbs. All three of these commits have an opportunity to play early at UCLA. While Su'a Filo will undoubtedly man the LG position, all three will be able to compete for the RG position as well as compete for a spot on the two deep.
Scott Quessenbery is the sole center of the class. He 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. With Jake Brendel only being a RS So. next season, Quessenberry will have the opportunity to red shirt next season.
That rounds up our post signing day recap of UCLA's recruiting efforts on the offensive side of the ball. Fire away with your thoughts, comments, and analysis, and be sure to check back in a couple days for the recap of the defensive side of the ball.