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UCLA Football: National Signing Day Roundtable Discussion

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The writers and editors of Bruins Nation explore the UCLA 2015 recruiting class and what it means for the future of UCLA Football.

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

1. What is your overall impression of the class? If you were to give it a letter grade, what would it be?

AHMB: It’s an A- in my book. It’s really hard to do much better than that with a small class, but the only real misses were on the DL and possible MLB depending on whether Smith picks UCLA or not. Other than that, the class is really stocked with talent across the board.

IE Angel: For me, it is an A class everywhere except for the last minute issues at WR (although 4* Cordell Broadus helps a bit). On the defensive side there might not be any one recruit who I can instantly say will step on the field and start or play heavy reps right away, but the new Bruins are almost all blue chip players capable of being starters at some point. Offensively, this is a phenomenal collection of talent. 5* QB, RB, TE with a Jordan Payton-ish 4* WR and the #1 offensive line class in the nation. I am a huge fan. I would say that despite being ranked lower than the Vanderdoes class, to me, this is the best job the Mora regime has done.

Uclaluv: I agree with IE and would give this class an A. Getting the players we got on offense is exciting. In the past, we have looked stronger in recruiting on the defensive side of things and many people chalked that up to Mora being a defensive guy. Seeing elite players come in at TE, RB, QB, and on the O-line is a change. It is too bad that we missed out on our top DL recruit and at some point I am hoping IE might discuss with us what plan B might be after next year, but at last we are getting some a group of elite talent on offense. I would like to add that there are some other guys that I really like, that are not in that group like Meadors, Holiday and Spencer who could turn out to be elite college players.

gbruin: A-, and that minus is based more on the misses leading up to NSD and not on how things closed. We ended up a bit thin on the defensive line, and we are still missing that burner playmaker that freaks opposing defenses, but those are the only real holes in the class. Unlike last year, NSD this year was a lot of fun and really generated tons of momentum and optimism about the program from a national perspective. Looking at the incredible offensive talent and including guys like Keisean Lucier-South on the defense, you have to consider this an excellent class. If we hang on to Roquan Smith, then maybe that makes this an A.

JoeBruin15: Well, I really think the coaching staff has earned a C with this class, but, before you misunderstand me that C stands for coffee and coffee is for closers. After the disappointment of last year's class where it felt like every player who announced on NSD opted for a school other than UCLA, this year was the exact opposite. So, in a more traditional sense, I think the class stands as a A right now with the possibility of going to an A+ if Roquan Smith decides to choose a school rather than a coach.


2. Who is your favorite offensive recruit?

AHMB: Josh Rosen. Getting a quarterback was ket this year, and the staff stepped up and got the #1 QB in the country. The staff has had a hard time recruiting quarterbacks previously, remember Hundley came in under Neuheisel, but they hit a home run here and got the top guy on everyone’s board. Huge pickup.

IE Angel: I feel like everyone is going to say Josh Rosen, which is understandable since he could end up being UCLA’s starting QB for the next 3-4 years. To me though, it is 5* TE Chris Clark. I wrote off Clark as Bruin as soon as Jim Harbaugh got hired at Michigan. Honestly, Michigan still makes way more sense for Clark’s future as a football player in my mind. I am not sure I have faith in Noel Mazzone’s offense knowing how to use a traditional TE with NFL upside, but I am nonetheless excited to see what Clark can do. Two-way talent from a player that size helps your entire offense. Running game gets a huge boost from a TE and having someone like Clark will aid whoever ends up winning the QB battle (due to the tendency of young QBs to lean on TEs as safety blankets).

UCLAluv: Have to agree with AHMB, Josh Rosen. He is the linchpin of this great offensive class. Looking through all of the videos and articles, time and time again other players said they really loved Josh, not just as a quarterback but as a person. Cordell for one came straight out and said it, he wanted to play with Rosen. I also love all the two-way players that came in. There seems to be a lot of versatility in this group. Young men who are athletic, smart, and talented and can help fill in holes. I am over the moon excited about Clark and Soso as well, but love the players that came in early like Fred Ulu-Perry who was a cheerleader for all the others Mora was trying to recruit. And I love the Nigerian pipeline that is continuing with Soso, Olorunfunmi, and Wariboko. And yes, I will say it, it was exciting getting Cordell, especially with the things his father had to say about UCLA.

gbruin: I will give a nod to Josh Rosen, in part for being the best QB prospect in the country, but even more for the role he played as a recruiter himself. His early commitment and enrollment made such a big deal with other recruits around the country. No one had to wait to see where he was going. I will also give some love to Soso Jamabo. I loved watching him troll the media with his University of Phoenix and ITT Tech pledges, and pulling out two UCLA hats on NSD (same way Rosen did) shows his committment, but watching this guy on tape is a thing of beauty. He is so smooth and fluid and makes things looks so easy. I can’t wait to see him with the ball in space. Finally, you know I gotta give a shout out to the OL class as a whole. It’s the best recruiting class in the country. Now let’s expect Adrian Klemm to coach them up.

JoeBruin15: I find myself agreeing with gbruin here. It's not just that Rosen was the top QB in the country, but I also think that he's established himself as one of the top recruiters in the country. I think he's responsible for a lot of these guys coming on board and I think that's fantastic. Soso Jamabo has made an impression due to his University of Phoenix and ITT Tech tweet and for pulling out two Bruin hats. Sure, Rosen did that first, but to have a guy due that on NSD is just cool.


3. Who is your favorite defensive recruit?

AHMB: I’m going to stick with the obvious and go with Keisean Lucier-South. He’s long, lean, and explosive, and that’s generally a good combination for a pass rusher. Watching his tape, you can’t help but be impressed on how effortlessly he gets past blockers. He’s going to have to put on some weight, and obviously things won’t come as easily for him on the next level, but he deserves his 5* rating.

IE Angel: I’m going off the board with 3* Nathan Meadors. IE bias aside, he would have been a much more highly coveted player had he not been playing quarterback at San G. Blending his speed and the physicality he plays defensive back with is going to translate well at UCLA. Absolute worse case scenario for Meadors is becoming a special teams maven for the Bruins. Best case scenario is the second coming of 5-time All-Pro NFL safety Eric Weddle.

UCLAluv: I am with IE on this one. When I watched Meador’s speed and elusiveness at QB, I got really excited about him on defense. He hasn’t had the chance to really focus on playing safety. But he is smart and oh so athletic. I also like that he flew under the radar and worked his way to becoming a sought after recruit. He’ll be playing a different position, but he could be our next Eric Kendricks, a three star who contributed greatly to UCLA’s success.

gbruin: KLS is the easy choice, especially given his commitment just before we rolled Southern Cal for the third time in a row. I’ll also point out Colin Samuel. His size at 6-2 gives him a unique asset to match up against the big body receivers that typically outmuscle and outjump the average DBs. Plus, getting a player out of LB Poly is important in the grand scheme.

JoeBruin15: I think KLS and Rick Wade will prove to be two of the keys to our defense in the future. They add some needed depth to the LBs and D-Line, respectively.


4. Which recruit do you think will make the most immediate impact of the offensive side of the ball?

AHMB: Josh Rosen is an easy answer, but I think I’ll go with Chris Clark here simply because he’s going to change our offense. There wasn’t a player like Clark on the roster last year. He’s a big 6’6 250 lbs. target that will give Mazzone some more versatility due to his ability to catch and block. Get used to seeing Rosen to Clark on short yardage situations.

IE Angel: I think it will be Rosen because I believe he will get the first shot at the QB job and is too talented to let go of it. My ideal scenario is Asiantii Woulard working things out at QB and balling out to the point that Rosen is able to redshirt. So, if that situation works out, I agree with AHMB about Clark. My dark horse is Sotonye Jamabo because 5* RBs do not typically sit, even if they are competing with a player who led the Pac-12 in rushing. I would not be shocked if it instantly became a timeshare type of situation at RB (which I favor since I support the "back-by-committee" approach).

UCLAluv: This is a tough one. If Asiantii or Neu win the QB job, obviously it won’t be Rosen. If Rosen does win the job, I will choose him. I think it will be exciting when he is ready to play, to see someone with the elite passing skills he has. In the meantime I think it will be Clark. I think he will be like Fauria but even better. We will have a go to target in the redzone. I don’t know how he is with long passes, unlike Duarte who I know is good. But I can see him adding that Gronk aspect to that game. Someone you can rely on to get you that first down and that touch down. As a side note, getting Jamabo will free up Myles to focus on the defensive side of the ball. He has that kind of power.

gbruin: I expect Rosen will be the starting QB on September 5th. There will undoubtedly be some growing pains, but his high school ran the UCLA (Mazzone) system and getting spring ball and preseason camp should give him ample time to get comfortable running the game at D-1 speed. Beyond Rosen, I think Jamabo will flash on offense. I don’t think he’ll get a ton of carries because Paul Perkins is so proven and Nathan Starks will be the power back, but I expect the Bruins will do whatever they can to get the ball in Jamabo’s hands.

JoeBruin15: I think the most immediate impact will be made by Clark. He gives us a weapon we haven't had since Big Joe Fauria graduated and he should be there regardless of who wins the starting QB job.


5. Which recruit do you think will make the most immediate impact on the defensive side of the ball?

AHMB: I think the most ready to play defensive recruit is Dechaun Holiday. He’s a 6’3 210 lbs. DB that should be able to play immediately, and really provides a lot of versatility to the DB group.

IE Angel: Like AHMB, the only defensive player that I can see making it into a significant role in the defensive rotation is Dechaun Holiday. Keisean Lucier-South is talented enough to be passable as a freshman, but I would prefer to see him redshirt and develop more physically. If he ends up at UCLA, Roquan Smith could easily step into a starting LB role. The most likely scenario is that none of these defenders end up contributing as freshman on the defensive rotation. The defensive backs are too loaded in my opinion. With a returning Randall Goforth, Fabian Moreau, Ishmael Adams, Jaleel Wadood, Priest Willis, Tahaan Goodman, Marcus RIos making up a 7-man rotation of proven Pac-12 DBs, where do you fit in Holiday? The defensive line is the same situation, but if someone shows they can get to the QB then they have to play. Linebacker is the only place where there could be a hole, but there is not an ILB in this class at the moment.

UCLAluv: I am going to go with Keisean Lucier-South. Even though there are others ahead of him at this position, I think he will be that pass rusher we have missed since Anthony Barr left. I agree though, that DeChaun Holiday is the most ready. Watching his film, he has incredible awareness of where the ball is going and sticks to the man he is covering like glue. We have a lot of good DB’s, but that kind of tight coverage is something I think many of us have been crying out for and Holiday just might be able to get himself in the mix with his skills.

gbruin: Like IE says, there isn’t a ton of room open on the defensive side of the ball, so this one is tough. But considering the way Angus Young like to rotate the defensive line, I think that KLS and Rick Wade may get to see some playing time as the season progresses. I think Holiday and Stephen Johnson may see more time on special teams and maybe at wide receiver than they will as DB.

JoeBruin15: KLS and Rick Wade will probably have an immediate because they will provide us with much-needed depth in the front seven on defense.


6. Over/Under on how many in this class play as true freshmen?

AHMB: The staff likes to play guys early, and I think this year will be no different. Out of a class of 19 (assuming Reed and Smith do not make it to Westwood next fall), I think I’d place the number at 12.

IE Angel: See, I think it is a lower number than that. I think Rosen, Clark, Jamabo, Zach Bateman and one other OL end up playing on offense. Holiday probably is too talented to not be a special teams contributor as a freshman, Meadors is probably too fast to not be one as well. Maybe one other athlete type sneaks onto a special team role. So that is 8 that I count, assuming Roquan Smith is not a part of this class. If Smith comes, then it’d be 9 out of 20.

UCLAluv: I agree with IE. Although there are many that could play, I think with so few players leaving the team this year fewer will be called upon. I agree with IE’s list and would add we might see a wide-receiver or two out there. Several of the guys we brought in as defensive players, could well end up on the offensive side catching passes. We shall see. One of the attractions for many players coming in I think was seeing how many freshman got to get on the field. Mora and company might choose to continue that tradition.

gbruin: 10: Holiday, Johnson, Lucier-South, Wade, Rosen, Clark, Zach Bateman, Josh Woriboko, Jamabo, and Cordell Broadus. Honestly, that’s probably more than should play as freshman, but this staff has no qualms putting the rookies on the field, and I don’t expect that to change.

JoeBruin15: The fact that so few players left after last season doesn't necessarily mean that these guys won't see immediate playing time. It may keep most of them from starting, but I think that the staff will use most of them for depth the same way they have over the past few seasons. If I had to guess, I would say 13, but, unlike gbruin, I'm not going to guess exactly who that might be.


7. Do you think the staff addressed the areas of need?

AHMB: No, I think there was a big whiff on the DL and a smaller whiff at MLB. The team is likely to lose Vanderdoes and Clark next year, which will leave only Taua and Ankou on the roster at DT. Only signing Rick Wade at DE is not as egregious as missing a DT, but it is still too light. The staff has signed a lot of LB’s in the past two classes, but they are mostly the OLB type, and getting a true MLB was key to this class. Sign Smith and all is fine. Miss on Smith, and there is a depth issue.

IE Angel: My biggest need was impact playmakers at WR on the offensive side of the ball. Landing just one of the set of Ryan Newsome, Alize Jones, Carlos Strickland, Christian Kirk, Malik Lovette or Equanimeous St. Brown would have made this a slam dunk Yes. It is not exactly a miss because I can easily see both Sotonye Jamabo and Chris Clark will play in the NFL at some point. Defensive line is also a bit of a miss as well, just because there was so much talent in the interior DL in California that UCLA missed on. I’m less concerned about LB because UCLA goes Nickel so much that Myles Jack and Kenny Young can shoulder the load for a year while depth develops.

UCLAluv: I think the biggest miss was at DL. I think AHMB explained the situation very well. I do think we will have some real talent at WR. Besides Cordell, there are a couple athletes coming in and DB’s that might end up playing on the other side of the ball, that might turn out to be top notch receivers. I also think we redshirted some guys last year, like Jordan Lasley that could be breakout receivers. I think the whole Newsome situation is heartbreaking on many levels. As IE said, he is a special and we sure could have used his talent in Westwood.

gbruin: The biggest needs were depth of the D line, and middle linebacker (assuming the current class without Roquan Smith) so in that sense, no. The current WR group is more than functional, so adding the big time playmaking WR is more of a luxury. But the team really needs to have an effective DL and linebacking crew to have an effective defense. I think they’ll be fine for 2015 with the current roster, but these areas will be critical in 2016 when we both depth and talent and don’t have players developing now to fill those spots.

JoeBruin15: Well, on one hand they addressed some of the needs like QB, TE and RB, but DL and LB are still areas of need after this class (I'm assuming that Smith is not included). It also provided much needed depth on the Offensive Line. But, the D-Line and LB situations will need to be addressed in the next class for sure now.


8. After swinging and missing on a lot of national recruits last year, the staff once again cast a wide net with much better results this season. Do you like the emphasis on recruiting nationally?

AHMB: There is no question that pulling the #1 RB out of Texas and #1 TE out of Connecticut is impressive, as is pulling the #1 MLB out of Georgia if that pans out. The work on those three is definitely worth the risk, as in putting in effort on any elite national recruit. I’m not sure if the risk is really worth it for lesser recruits, especially when there is ample local talent. I don’t know how much effort went in to recruiting Victor Alexander, but there were plenty of LB’s in SoCal at his talent level. Maybe a local recruit wouldn’t have flipped simply because the staff was bringing in another talented player at their position.

IE Angel: I think you have to recruit nationally (specifically Texas and the South) if you are expecting to ever be a contender for national titles, so I support what the staff has done the last few years even if they missed. I do not understand everything about recruiting, but I believe that winning games will win recruiting in California, and only work/time will win recruiting nationally.

UCLAluv: I agree with everything AHMB and IE said. If you want to compete for championships, you have to bring in elite players from around the country. I think AHMB makes a really great point about focusing our efforts in the west for those less than elite players.

gbruin: Recruiting nationally is necessary, and success in that area will make the process more successful the next time around, too. At the same time though, out-of-state recruiting is costly and time consuming, and we saw that the distance issue played a big role with several recruits and/or their families, so I think it’s important to be very focused on those out of state kids. It seems the staff was much more prudent with their targets this season, so maybe the staff learned some lessons from 2014.

JoeBruin15: As strange as it sounds, I think the success we saw this year was the direct result of the failures we saw last year. Last year, we were in the conversation, but we missed out on every national recruit. This year, we locked down one of the top recruits early in Rosen who then helped lock down more national recruits who were probably more receptive to the idea of UCLA because we were in the conversation last year and the this year's team finished in the top 10. Basically, the momentum is building and should continue to build. The staff definitely needs to continue recruiting nationally if we are going to become a nationally elite program.


9. Taking the result of the class out of the equation, what do you think about the staff’s approach to the recruiting cycle this past year? Any differences from last year? What should they change next year?

AHMB: I think this year’s class was much better organized. It seemed more streamlined from a targeting standpoint, and generally very well balanced. Next year, the west is loaded at the WR position, and the staff should put a lot of emphasis at that position along with DL.

IE Angel: I don’t follow closely enough to judge, but my instincts tell me that getting that high profile QB to commit out of the gate was probably the biggest difference. Had Kyle Allen picked UCLA instead of Texas A&M last season, UCLA probably would have closed much, much better. But, like AHMB said above, focus for 2016 class was to be on landing a blue-chip WR that is a game-changing talent. Ideally a couple more than one if the West is as loaded as the hype is making it seem. Restocking the DL/LB cupboard will be key as well.

UCLAluv: I don’t follow recruiting enough to have anything to add to what AHMB and IE have said. The results are better. Is that because of better planning and execution? Was the key bringing in Rosen early (I think that made a big difference)? Or is it something astrological (probably not)? I do think in the future there will be more recruiting battles with schools like ours (Michigan) and our approach is going to have to continue to improve. I think if we can continue to win and if we can win the big games, we will also have a better chance with elite local recruits and the Southern Cal generation will have outgrown itself.

gbruin: Getting Rosen on board early was such a win. Whether that was an intentional push by the coaches or not is unknown to me, but the value of getting not just a commit, but a recruiter like him, early in the process is really important for building a class when you see how many of the top talents want to play together. The staff needs to consider that next season when we need some big time defensive recruits. Bringing in a top DL or LB early in the process, in part to fill the need, and in part to help sway his peers, will be key. Also, the West is loaded with some high end WR talent in 2016 and we should really look to bring in one of those high end WR that can blow the top off of opposing defenses.

JoeBruin15: They need to stay hungry and tenacious. I think that's the key.


10. What are your final thoughts?

AHMB: This was a very fun and bizarre signing day. From the early am commits, to the clusterfu@k coaching change, to the conversion of Snoop Dogg to the Bruins, it was a pretty crazy ride.

IE Angel: Adidas and the UCLA athletic department are seriously horrendous at branding. How "4’s Up" isn’t being marketed is beyond me. And the hat selection of the kids picking UCLA is another indictment. Get some better product out there, really is not that difficult. But, on a more positive note, I am already excited to get to see this team again during spring practices, but mostly in the Fall when they head out to CSUSB.

UCLAluv: Man Wednesday morning was fun. Watching those young men pick UCLA was such a different feeling. I also like the quality of people we are recruiting. The statement Snoop made about our locker room and the kind of guys that are in it really speaks volumes. I wish all parents of kids considering UCLA would listen to that. I also really enjoyed learning about the under the radar guys like Nate Meadors. Watching him on the local selection show brought tears to my eyes. This meant so much to him, to get to play for his dream school, and I know this day is so special for all of them. I just wish the BSPN circus would end. Watching the pain of Smith was almost unbearable. I also really loved it when late Wednesday night I saw this tweet that a two star recruit from Loyola High School had chosen to walk on at UCLA rather than taking scholarships at Brown, Dartmouth, Penn, Villanova, Air Force and Cal Poly, because his dream was to go to and play at UCLA. The picture of him standing with his proud parents reminded me that this is really about the young men and their dreams and sometimes I forget that. Welcome Jason Baker and all the other incoming Bruins! And congratulations to you all.

gbruin: What a difference a year makes, huh? Wednesday was insane. Getting Clark, Jamabo, Wariboko, and Smith, seeing Snoop in blue, but then losing Wicker and maybe Smith and maybe Ulbrich, all in about a 12 hour period? What a crazy day. Overall, the success of this year’s recruiting class, especially with the high profile commits on NSD, should answer the people who were questioning the ability of this staff to recruit. My bigger (and legitimate) concern is whether the coaching staff can get all they can from this talent. We’ve wondered aloud whether the QB and OL positions specifically are developing the way they should. Well, both spots are loaded with talent so it’s reasonable to expect those positions to play like it on the field. We’ll see. In the meantime though, welcome to everyone in the 2015 class. 4sUp, Bruins!

JoeBruin15: This year was very successful for the Bruins. Heck, you've got one of the biggest Southern Cal fans out there saying that he's getting rid of his Southern Cal drawers and adding, "We Bruins now." That quote for me ranks right up there with Brett Hundley's declaration that "UCLA owns LA. Everybody knows that." It's the kind of thing that turns heads. Just as long as Snoop Bruin insists that Will Ferrell stay across town. We don't want his kind as a part of the Bruin Revolution. That said, congratulations to all the new Bruins and their families! Welcome to Westwood! 4's Up!

Go Bruins!!