Recently we had the pleasure to do a Q&A with Brandon Huffman, who in our opinion is one the premier college football scouts in the country, writing and tweeting (@BrandonHuffman) offering his thoughts as a recruiting analyst for Fox Sports/Scout.com. Huffman is a treasure for Scout.com but in our opinion he is also one of the reasons you should subscribe to BruinReportOnline.com. Also, besides being a fantastic recruiting analyst, Huffman is just a good guy. Here is Part 1 of our 3 part Q&A with Brandon in which he offers some answers to some of our questions on the general state of UCLA football recruiting in July. Part 2 and 3 will follow later this week. - BN EDs.
BN: So in recent weeks we have heard some chatter about UCLA recruiting going through a bit of summer funk. We lost one highly coveted OL recruit to Alabama. We are in a dog-fight for another one with Ohio State making a huge run. We lost a QB recruit to Texas A&M. So give us some big picture thoughts here. Recruiting wasn't making much noise last summer either but Mora and co. closed very strong. Can we expect a similar path this year or are there signs there is anything different?
Brandon Huffman: I think UCLA will be in position to close strong, rather than be strong early. Remember how few guys on their commitment list this time last year ultimately ended up elsewhere (Erik Bunte, Sean Dowling, Eddie Printz all come to mind). It's how you finish, not how you close. But at the same time, it wouldn't hurt to have the momentum going into the season.
BN: Are we still seriously in play for any solid to elite QB prospects?
Huffman: At this point, it doesn't appear as such, but there could always be a surprise like with Asiantii Woulard. There isn't an uncommitted player the caliber of Woulard that UCLA is realistically in it for (I don't think Brandon Harris is a legitimate option at this point). But like with Woulard, who was committed to South Florida, there could be a coaching change and offensive philosophy change that could open things up. Which is why I think you'll see UCLA still recruit Brad Kaaya, because with the threat of sanctions still looming over Miami, despite him saying he's not going anywhere, there is always a chance that Al Golden could leave, and that could test Kaaya's commitment to Miami.
BN: The Inland Empire is now a key supplier of recruiting talent from Southern California. Any recruit from that region UCLA fans should keep an eye on this year?
UCLA did pretty well in the Inland Empire last year, Kenneth Clark, Tahaan Goodman and Craig Lee (assuming he gets through the NCAA), all standouts from that region who ended up at UCLA. This year, it's not as strong as the 2013 class, but there are some serious prospects out there, such as Viane Talamaivao, who may be a commit to Alabama, but is still staying in contact with UCLA. Not sure Pomona is quite the Inland Empire, but keep an eye on Kammy Delp from Diamond Ranch HS. He and Viane are tight and they are also very close with Damien Mama, who UCLA is heavily targeting.
BN: Who is the one "make or break" recruit for this year's class?
Huffman: Not sure I would say there is a make-or-break recruit left, now that Kyle Allen is off the board. He would have been. Adoree Jackson could be in that realm, especially being that he's the No. 1 prospect in the West, but I don't think he necessarily breaks the class if he ends up elsewhere, nor would I say he specifically makes the class if he committed. But it would be a huge PR get for UCLA if they could get the No. 1 target in the West. It's been a long, long time since that happened.
Stay tuned for Part 2 and 3 of our Q&A with Brandon tomorrow.