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UCLA Football Recruiting Reset: Recruiting Season Primer - Part 1 - Defense

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Jim Mora and staff have put together three solid classes, but this year is crucial. Southern Cal's punishment for cheating has finally expired, and for the first time in his tenure, Coach Mora will be competing against a dirty program with a full load of scholarships. In Part 1 of this EARLY look at UCLA's recruiting efforts, we focus on the defensive side of the ball and note UCLA's current commitments, as well as others UCLA is actively recruiting. Please note that this list is not comprehensive, but rather highlights some of the local and national targets.

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Defensive Line

Commits:  DE Rick Wade; DE Cassius Peat.

Targets:  DT Jospeh Wicker; DT/DE Rasheem Green; DE Tyrone Wheatley; DE/DT Benning Potoae; DT Kyon Clark.

Update:  UCLA has done an excellent job recruiting along the defensive line in the past few years thanks in large part to Angus McClure, and in losing only Owa Odighizuwa this season, the line looks very well stocked going into next season.  However, UCLA could lose their entire projected starting line after next season if Eddie Vanderdoes and Kenny Clark both declare for the draft and exit along with Ellis McCarthy, so there really needs to be some careful planning here.

Last season, the staff added ends Jacob Tuioti-Mariner, Matt Dickerson, and Takkarist McKinley, as well as tackle Ainuu Taua.  This season is off to a good start with commit from Rick Wade out of Santa Margarita and Cassius Peat out of Arizona.  Both need to fill out in order to play at the next level- Wade measures in at 6'5 230 lbs. and Peat at 6'4 235 lbs.- but they are highly regarded 4* prospects with a lot of upside.  Peat really lands somewhere between an end and OLB, but I'll list him here.  Peat has also wavered a bit lately, so the staff still has some work to do there.

The staff is still recruiting ends Rasheem Green out of Serra, Tyrone Wheatley from New York, and Benning Potoae from Washington, and tackle Joseph Wicker from Long Beach Poly.  Green is big enough to play tackle, but he moves very well and would probably end up in a Vanderdoes type role where he lines up at both spots depending on the situation.  Unfortunately, he appears to be a Southern Cal lean at this point, but the staff is still on him.  Wheatley is a pure end that would add depth, and Potoae has potential at both end and tackle, but I really like Joseph Wicker as a potential DT for this class.  He's been rising in the rankings all season, and at 6'2 275 lbs., he could grow into a prototypical 3-4 DT.  There is a lot of competition for him, but I think our staff will zero in on him in the coming weeks.  The staff has also started to move on Kyon Clark, the younger brother of Kenny Clark.  Clark checks in at 6'2 335 lbs., and has some work to do in order to get his body in D1 football shape, but he has made strides and could get an offer from UCLA soon.  If he does, expect Clark to be a Bruin.

Linebackers

Commits:  OLB Keisean Lucier-South; OLB Joshua Woods; MLB Victor Alexander.

Targets:  OLB Osa Masina; OLB Malik Jefferson; OLB John Houston; OLB Jeff Holland; MLB Roquan Smith.

Update:  UCLA has had two excellent classes in a row at linebacker, and this year looks to be shaping up to fall right in line.  UCLA is losing Butkus Award winning MLB Eric Kendricks this season, and could lose Myles Jack to the draft after next season, depending on how he plays next year, along with Aaron Wallace to graduation.  The goal this season is to find a pure pass rushing linebacker, or two, or three, and MLB depth.

Keisean Lucier-South should step right in as a pass rushing linebacker.  At 6'4 210 lbs., he needs to add weight, but he has elite burst and should be able to fill a need on defense next season.  Similarly, Josh Woods needs to add bulk to his 6'2 210 lbs. frame, but he can play and will surprise quite a few folks with his speed and quickness.  He gets overlooked by a lot of fans because he's not a top 10 linebacker like the rest of the targets on UCLA's list, but the ranking is lower in part due to missing his junior year due to transfer.

UCLA is still chasing 5* OLB's Osa Masina, Malik Jefferson, and John Houston, and 4* OLB Jeff Holland.  It would not be surprising if UCLA missed on all of these targets, but Osa Masina would hurt the worst because he appeared to be a UCLA lean when the season started.  At 6'4 230 lbs., Masina would really fit nicely at OLB, and he could also grow into a DE.  Jefferson and Holland are from Texas and Florida, respectively, and although mostly considered longshots, UCLA is definitely in the mix for both.  Houston is yet another Serra star leaning towards Southern Cal, and until this staff shows that they can pull Southern Cal leans out of Serra, I'll always consider them extreme long shots.

At middle linebacker, our fanbase got quite a scare when Bruin Report Online falsely reported that Zach Whitley was leaving the program.  Whitley is the likely replacement for Kendricks to start alongside Kenny Young, but don't be surprised to see Myles Jack move to MLB either.  Regardless, getting at least one MLB is crucial this year as Isaako Savaiinea appears to have moved to DE/FB, leaving Jayon Brown and Cameron Judge as the only other options.

UCLA did gain an early commitment from 3* MLB Victor Alexander out of Florida, but Alexander has shown a lot of interest in Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech, and at this point I'd be more surprised if the commitment stuck than vice-versa.  It's a shame too, because at 5'10 220 lbs., Alexander is a missile of a MLB that would probably see the field next year.  Roquan Smith is another longshot recruit from Georgia, but Mora is using his Georgia ties and still has a chance.

Cornerbacks

Commits:   Colin Samuel; William Lockett.

Targets:  Iman Marshall; Donte Jackson; Dechaun Holiday.

Update:  UCLA is returning the top four corners from the depth chart, but will lose both Fabian Moreau and Ishmael Adams after next season.  The staff has done a good job at taking 2-3 corners every season, and this year should be no different.

Thus far, UCLA has gathered commitments from Colin Samuel out of Poly, and William Lockett out of Texas.  Samuel has prototypical size at 6'3 180 lbs., and his tape is really impressive.  He needs to add bulk, and many may not be blown away by his 3* ranking, but he looks much better than his ranking to me.  Lockett is a little smaller at 6'0 180 lbs., but he still has plenty of size and has the skills to play as a safety as well.

The remaining targets consist in two local products in Iman Marshall from Poly and Dechaun Holiday from San Marcos, as well as Donte Jackson out of Louisiana.  Marshall and Holiday are both big corners, measuring in at 6'2 195 lbs. and 6'3 210 lbs., respectively.  At this point, Marshall appears to be more of a Southern Cal lean, while Holiday appears to be favoring the Bruins.  Like Lockett, Holiday could easily move to safety given his size, but he'll be given a shot at corner first.   Jackson is a little smaller, tipping in at 5'11 175 lbs., but it would be a tall order to pry him away from LSU.

Safeties

Commits: None.

Targets: Ben Edwards; Nathan Meadors.

Update:  The team is losing starter Anthony Jefferson to graduation this year and Tyler Foreman to transfer, yet the staff has not shown much urgency at the safety spot.  Randall Goforth, Tahaan Goodman and Jaleel Wadood can be penciled in as regulars for the next couple of seasons, but there's not much depth behind them.  Ron Robinson is the only other safety the staff has signed in the past two seasons.  However, the staff has signed a number of big corners that should be able to transition to safety fairly easily.

Of the safety targets, Ben Edwards out of Florida and Nathan Meadors out of San Bernardino seem the most realistic.  Edwards attends the same high school as commit Victor Alexander and target Jeff Holland.  He's a natural SS, and at 6'0 195 lbs., he's got enough size to play early.  Meadors is a bit of a late riser, but he recently picked up an offer and labeled UCLA the front runner.  He checks in at 6'2 195 lbs., and is also being recruited by Notre Dame, Washington, and Berkeley.

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We'll keep you updated as the staff continues to recruit for the 2015 class.  Fire away with your thoughts and comments.