Although most of UCLA's excellent 2013 recruiting class has yet to enroll, the staff has been hard at work scouting and evaluating talent for next year's class. UCLA is off to a slow start so far, but with a limited number of scholarships available, the staff has been concentrating on the elite prospects.
The big news of the day, of course, is that 4* elite JC OT Dominick Jackson committed to the Bruins. Jackson had offers from all over the country, and the battle came down to UCLA and Alabama. UCLA now has two commitments to the 2014 class in Jackson and 3* WR Barry Ware.
Status: Brett Hundley will have the starting position locked down for a while, and the depth behind him looks promising with RS Fr. TJ Millweard, RS So. Jerry Neuheisel, and Fr. Asiantii Woulard in the mix. So. Devin Fuller will also take reps at quarterback this Spring, but I believe his future is at receiver. RS Fr. Mike Fafaul should also be mentioned for depth. Although he is a walk on, he has performed well. The staff will likely look to take one quarterback this year, but I do not believe that taking two is out of the question.
Outlook: The staff lucked into Asiantii Woulard last year after botching the quarterback recruitment, and this year is already off to a rough start. The staff's clear top target has been Kyle Allen, the #1 rated quarterback in the country, but Allen recently committed to Texas A&M and left the staff scrambling. Unfortunately, the staff essentially ignored the rest of the quarterback class, and that did not go unnoticed. Manny Wilkins of Novato, one of the top dual threat quarterbacks in the state recently committed to Arizona St., and Brad Kaaya, a local product from Chaminade College Prep recently committed to Miami, and both have made it known that they were not really interested in being a fallback option.
Of the targets listed above, only David Cornwell and Brandon Dawkins are uncommitted. Cornwell and Dawkins are both big prospects at 6'5 215 and 6'4 215, respectively. Cornwell is from Oklahoma, while Dawkins is a local Westlake Village prospect. Unfortunately, Cornwell is in the heart of Big 12 country and has a few local offers, and Dawkins appears to be very interested in Notre Dame.
Foster Sawyer and Jalen Greene are both committed elsewhere, but UCLA may still make an attempt to go after them. Sawyer plays for All Saints' Episcopal in Texas, and actually took over quarterback duties for TJ Millweard after Millweard signed with UCLA, but he is committed to TCU and it could prove difficult to pry him away. Greene is simply an amazing athlete but it might be a reach to consider him a Pac-12 quarterback. He plays for Serra and needs some work mechanically, but he has the kind of play making ability that pops on tape. He has committed to Boise St. and has indicated publicly that he is not interested in any other school, but a Pac-12 offer could prove tempting.
Status: Damien Thigpen, Jordon James, Steven Manfro, Paul Perkins, and Malcolm Jones will compete for carries at tailback this season. Thigpen was very good last 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, and if he's as good as advertised, I wouldn't be surprised to see him getting the lion's share of the carries by the end of the year. The wild card in the group is Malcolm Jones, who is walking back on to the team after quitting last season. The former Gatorade Player of the Year has plenty of talent, and he could be a good option for short yardage carries. The staff did sign Craig Lee and Jalen Ortiz, but Lee has some work to do for admissions and Ortiz is a likely F candidate. If Lee can work his way through admissions, he'll have a good chance to play next year.
The team will also get a big boost either next season or the year after from Rushel Shell, the transfer from Pitt. The former 5* recruit has the ability to be an immediate impact player, and hopefully Coach Mora can help with the off the field distractions.
Outlook: The backs UCLA is after can be broken into two categories; running backs and F backs. Racean Thomas, Joe Mixon, Nathan Starks, Nick Wilson, Royce Freeman, and Demario Richard are the running backs of the group, while Myles Autry, Tony James, and D.J. Riggins project as F backs.
Racean Thomas is a bit of a long shot at this point. He is the #3 rated running back in the country and an Alabama native. Although he has said that he is open to playing out of the area, it'll be tough to pry him from the SEC.
Joe Mixon is the top in state running back. He plays for Freedom HS in Oakley and has offers from all over the country. At 6'0 195 lbs., he has the size to step in and play immediately. The staff will fight for his services, but at this point it is anyone's guess where he'll end up.
Royce Freeman may be the most intriguing of the prospects. At 6'1 220 lbs., the Imperial HS product is already built like an NFL back. He doesn't look like any of the running backs on UCLA's roster, and could be penciled in early as the short yardage and workhorse back.
The staff offered Nathan Starks out of Bishop Gorman HS in Las Vegas, but they have work to do as Starks does not include UCLA in his top 5 at this point. At 6'0 190 lbs., he can also come in and play right away.
The other two in state running backs UCLA is after are Nick Wilson and Demario Richard. Wilson plays for Central in Fresno and is currently committed to Arizona. He's a stout, powerful back with interest from all over the country. Richard plays for Palmdale HS and adds more elusiveness. He does hold an offer, and plans on camping at UCLA this summer.
At the F, UCLA is chasing Myles Autry out of Georgia and Tony James out of Florida. Both players are highly sought after and would be excellent fits in the offense. D.J. Riggins does not yet hold an offer, but the Oaks Christian product would also be a good fit at F. Riggins is related to Ishmael Adams, and is high on UCLA.
Status: UCLA will lose top receiver Shaq Evans after next season, but has an exciting group of receivers in So.'s Devin Lucien, Jordan Payton, Devin Fuller, and Kenny Walker, as well as incoming Fr. Eldridge Massington. Of course, in Noel Mazzone's offense, you can never have enough receivers, and I think the staff will look to sign 2-3 more this season.
Commits: Barry Ware.
Outlook: UCLA's sole commitment to date is Barry Ware, a 6'3 205 lbs. receiver out of Centennial HS. Ware's big body will fit nicely into the offense and it would not be surprising if his recruiting rankings make a big jump this season.
UCLA is chasing the top wide receiver in the country in Michiah Quick out of Central HS in Fresno. The 5'11 170 lbs. has UCLA in the mix, but the staff is going to have to fight a long battle to land him.
Malachi Dupre is an elite receiver from Louisiana and has shown some interest in UCLA. Dupre is 6'3 175 lbs. and has visited UCLA on a couple of occasions. Pulling him out of the south would be a coup, but he does have ties to southern California.
UCLA is also after two elite receivers out of Arizona (three if you count Mark Andrews, who I include as a Y receiver). Jalen Brown is extremely athletic at 6'2 175 lbs. He's also a very good S prospect. Cameron Denson is currently committed to Arizona, and given the fact that he is from Tucson, it may be difficult to pry him away. UCLA is also looking at Dionte Sykes, a more unheralded prospect from Chandler HS. Some outlets indicate Sykes is committed to UCLA, but it's not entirely clear where his commitment stands at this point. Sykes is another big, powerful receiver that fits the offense well.
UCLA has offered Rahshead Johnson and Erik Brown out of Jordan HS in Long Beach and Summit HS in Fontana, respectively. Johnson is currently committed to UW, but the staff will continue to chase the local product. Brown initially showed a lot of interest in UCLA, but he seems to be looking around a lot more recently and is also very high on UW.
Finally, Alex Van Dyke is a big target out of Elk Grove that has seen his stock rise over the past few months. At 6'4 210 lbs., Van Dyke has elite size already and is still growing. He seems to be picking up offers quickly, and it wouldn't be surprising to see him wait the process out a bit.
Tight Ends/Y Receivers
Status: Signing Thomas Duarte to team with Ian Taubler, Darius Bell, John Young, and Jordan Barrett as the Y receivers on the roster was huge last season. This season, the staff will again look to sign one Y, but they could take more under the right circumstances.
Status: This is a very good year for Y types on the west coast. Of the targets, only Milan Richard is from a state east of Utah.
Dalton Schultz and Milan Richard are more typical tight ends. Schultz is the #1 rated tight end in the country, and he appears to favor Stanford at this point. At 6'5 230 lbs., he brings outstanding size and athleticism to the table. Richard is a Georgia native with good size at 6'3 220 lbs. Richard is related to Herschel Walker, and it will be tough to pry him out of the south.
Mark Andrews is technically a wide receiver, but at 6'6 220 lbs., he would be the perfect Y in Mazzone's offense. Andrews has offers from all over the country, and he doesn't appear to have any leaders at this point.
Tyler Luatua would also be a good fit for the Y position. Unfortunately, the #2 rated tight end out of La Mirada favors Alabama, where his brother plays, and USC. He has a number of other suitors as well, and UCLA does have a season to showcase how he could be used in Mazzone's offense.
UCLA has offered Bryce Dixon out of St. Bonaventure, and it does figure to be a battle between UCLA and USC for his services. Dixon is a perfect match at the Y, but at 6'4 220 lbs., he may also grow into a prototypical TE.
Status: After taking a seven man class last year, UCLA has rebuilt depth along the offensive line and can be selective this year. That said, there are a few elite targets in the west that UCLA is chasing, and it's not out of the question to take a 5 man class this year.
Commits: OT Dominick Jackson.
Targets: OT Casey Tucker; OT Jamarco Jones; OT Damien Mama; OT Jordan Poland; OT Toa Lobendahn; OT Jermaine Eluemenor; OT Ja'Merez Bowen; OG Roderick Taylor; OG Natrell Curtis; OG Viane Talamaivao; OG Jordan Sims; OG Austin Hall.
Outlook: UCLA landed a big commit in 4* JC OT Dominick Jackson. Jackson has perfect size at 6'7 315 lbs., and can step in and play immediately. He had offers from all over the country, but UCLA gained his commitment over the likes of Alabama, Florida, Florida Dt., Ohio St., Oregon, USC, and UW.
At this point, the remaining target list can be broken down into four categories; out of state longshots, current and former USC commits, uncommitted west coast linemen, and elite JC prospects. None of the groups are any better than the other, but the groups form a convenient way of breaking them down.
Out of state longshots include Jamarco Jones and Ja'Merez Bowen from the midwest, and Roderick Taylor and Jordan Sims from the south. Jones is a big, athletic tackle at 6'5 285 lbs. He is from Chicago, and has offers from all over the country. Ja'Merez Bowen is similarly sized at 6'5 275 lbs. and is from Ohio. He's not as highly regarded as Jones, but he does have ACC, Big 10, Big East, and SEC offers.
In the south, UCLA is after Roderick Taylor out of Mississippi and Jordan Sims from Alabama. They are both interior linemen with good size, Taylor at 6'4 295 lbs. and Sims at 6'4 333 lbs. Taylor is the higher rated of the two, but they both hold offers from all of the top SEC programs.
UCLA targeted three USC commits in Casey Tucker, Jordan Poland, and Toa Lobendahn. Tucker is the #4 rated OT out of Hamilton HS in Arizona, and he formally decommitted from USC and is back on the market. Poland is a massive 6'8 335 lbs. tackle that UCLA has yet to offer. He has yet to show as much willingness to look around despite committing very early, but if he does, the staff would be interested. Lobendahn, like Poland, committed to USC very early and has not expressed much willingness to look around. UCLA offered the 6'5 285 lbs. tackle before he committed to USC, and there is no doubt that UCLA would be interested if Lobendahn started to waver.
The uncommitted targets from the west are all highly regarded. Damien Mama was recently offered by UCLA, and the 6'5 340 lbs. tackle out of St. John Bosco has plenty of interest in UCLA. Coach Klemm will have to fight off suitors from all over the country, but the chances for the Bruins are good. Natrell Curtis and Viane Talamaivao are both good sized guards at 6'2 300 lbs. and 6'3 285 lbs., respectively. Curtis is yet another Arizona product, while Talamaivao plays for Centennial. The pair are both highly regarded and have offers from all over the country, but UCLA is in a good spot with them. Finally, UCLA is one of five Pac-12 programs to offer Austin Hall out of Brophy Prep in Phoenix. Hall is big guard at 6'6 295 lbs., and looks like he has even more room to grow. He's not as highly regarded as Curtis or Talamaivao, but he's not far behind. It doesn't appear that he has a leader at this point.
Finally, UCLA is also in the hunt for Jermaine Eluemunor, another JC prospects that can step in and play immediately. Eluemunor is 6'5 315 lbs. and has offers from all over the country. He's originally from Britain, and his upside is through the roof.
That rounds up our first 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.
It should be noted here that this list is somewhat selective. At this stage, UCLA has shown interest in a lot of recruits, and I simply can't list them all here. If there is someone else you would like to bring up, feel free to do so in the comments.