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2019 Early Signing Period Day 1 Recap: UCLA Bruins Sign 16 Recruits

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The 2019 UCLA football recruiting class is taking shape as 16 recruits signed today.

NCAA Football: UCLA-Head Coach Chip Kelly Press Conference Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

After a flurry of letters that mostly came in before lunch, almost all of UCLA’s commits to date have signed including a few surprises.

In all, sixteen National Letters of Intent were sent in to the UCLA Bruins.

The good news is that almost every recruit who had committed before today stuck with UCLA and signed today. The only outstanding recruit who didn’t sign today is Mater Dei tight end Michael Martinez, who has announced he will sign in February but is still 100% committed to being a Bruin. He has also received offers from Washington, Michigan, Arizona State, Southern Cal, Utah, Alabama, LSU, and others.

Additionally, UCLA didn’t have any commits flip to other schools and, in fact, the Bruins actually added four new recruits in the past 24 hours. The first was Datona Jackson, who essentially joined the class last night with the news that he would be coming to Westwood after Southern Cal pulled their offer to him. The second was JUCO transfer WR Jaylen Erwin, who announced his decision this morning. Then, this afternoon, UCLA picked up two more commitments. The first was from defensive lineman Siale Liku from Oakland and the other was from offensive lineman Josh Carlin.

The bad news is that the quality isn’t what Bruin fans have become accustomed to. UCLA currently sits at just the 55th best recruiting class, according to 247Sports.com. Comparatively, the highest-ranked Pac-12 team is Oregon which has the 5th-ranked class so far.

Then, of course, there’s the ugly.

According to SB Nation recruiting analyst Bud Elliott, there is a lot you can criticize with regards to Chip Kelly’s recruiting strategy. Elliott quotes Bruin Report Online’s Tracy Pierson, who wrote:

I think the staff believes it’s doing better with certain recruits than we believe.

For whatever reason, they aren’t recruiting with the persistence of other programs. It’s uncertain if they perceive it that way -- whether they believe they are recruiting as persistently as other programs or they are knowingly choosing not to.

It’s one thing to lose a recruit like Jayden Daniels to Arizona State, but, frankly, there is no excuse for losing a four-star recruit like Joshua Calvert to Washington, considering that Calvert’s older brother Beau signed with UCLA just last season.

It would be easy to sit hear and blame a 3-9 season for poor recruiting results, but Elliott points out that “new coaches typically do most of their work with hype and selling a vision.”

In light of the disappointing nature of the overall quality of the 2019 class, I found an article titled “A New Perspective on Chip Kelly’s Program: Being a ‘Crue’,” written a few days ago by Tracy Pierson to offer some good insight.

On one hand, Pierson writes:

[E]ventually he’s going to have to bring in a good dose of four- and five-star equivalent recruits.

Notice we said “four- and five-star equivalent recruits.” That means that if Chip Kelly can find them with superior evaluation, then that’s absolutely great. We’re all for it. Let’s just all sign off on Kelly not going by the 247Sports star system and perhaps being capable of finding high-level prospects that exist outside of it. Some will be within it, but some others might be four-star equivalents without actual 247Sports stars next to their names in the database. I personally can attest that I think Kelly is fully capable of doing this, of out-evaluating the rest of college football and certainly the rest of the Pac-12....

Where things have to change, however, for Kelly to be successful, is to actually bring in the four-star-or-better Jimmys and the Joes, and not get out-recruited for them.

But, at the same time, Pierson adds:

I think, from what I know, that Kelly will change his recruiting approach as a result of it. I’m confident, from what I’ve been told, that he recognizes some of the aspects of the approach to the 2019 class that failed and will make changes going forward in recruiting. Watch for a sign of it between now and National Signing Day, particularly how much work the staff puts in on recruiting during the Dead Period. Now, it might be too little too late for the 2019 class, but it might be a little sign of Kelly’s willingness to recognize the mistakes in the approach to the 2019 cycle and make improvements.

So, there seems to be indications that the staff may start changing and adapting their processes immediately and that bodes well for the future of UCLA recruiting. After all, continued recruiting failures are not an option.

Here is another way to look at UCLA’s not so distant past. Under Head Coach Jim Mora, recruiting took a huge jump. In 2013, UCLA had the #7 recruiting class in the country, however, in the 2013 season, UCLA went 6-3. Hardly a success as compared to recruiting for that year.

If you follow UCLA records down the road and look at what should have materialized when the 2013 recruits became upperclassmen, the 2015 season should have been a major success. UCLA went 8-5 and lost to Nebraska in the Foster Farms Bowl. 8-5 isn’t exactly amazing, considering the amount of four-star and five-star recruits in the 2013 class.

Recruiting classes in the Jim Mora era were always pretty high in the rankings, but the Bruins never really saw on-field results. The bottom line is that stars mean nothing unless the coaching staff is capable of developing them. Chip Kelly’s unorthodox recruiting may very well be a sign that the staff sees something in these recruits that fit the system even though composite rankings aren’t what fans would like to see, like Pierson noted above.

Here is a complete list of Bruin commits and signees:

2019 UCLA Football Recruiting Class

Recruit Name Position Current School Composite Rating NLI Submitted?
Recruit Name Position Current School Composite Rating NLI Submitted?
Sean Rhyan OT San Juan Hills HS (San Juan Capistrano, CA) 4-Star December
Shamar Martin CB Morse HS (San Diego, CA) 3-Star December
Charles Njoku WR Wayne Hills HS (Wayne, NJ) 3-Star Yes
William Nimmo S Mater Dei HS (Santa Ana, CA) 3-Star December
Duke Clemens OG Punahou HS (Honolulu, HI) 3-Star December
John Ward LB Palmdale HS (Palmdale, CA) 3-Star December
Datona Jackson OLB College of the Desert (Palm Desert, CA) 3-Star December
Beau Taylor OG Bishop Gorman HS (Las Vegas, NV) 3-Star December
Chase Griffin QB Hutto HS (Hutto, TX) 3-Star December
Siale Liku DT Oakland HS (Oakland, CA) 3-Star December
Jahmon McClendon RB Monte Vista HS (Spring Valley, CA) 3-Star December
Carl Jones DB Bakersfield HS (Bakersfield, CA) 3-Star December
Kain Medrano ATH East HS (Pueblo, CO) 3-Star December
Jaylen Erwin WR Hutchinson CC (Charlotte, NC) 3-Star December
Noah Keeter OLB Bucholz HS (Gainesville, FL) 3-Star Yes
Hayden Harris ATH Eastside Catholic (Sammamish, WA) 2-Star December
Josh Carlin OG Sierra Canyon (Chatsworth, CA) 2-Star December
Keegan Jones RB Cleveland HS (Cleveland, TN) 2-Star December
Michael Martinez TE Mater Dei HS (Santa Ana, CA) 3-Star Yes
Composite Ratings are from 247Sports.com.

The bottom line is that fans are going to have to give this time to play out. This was just the Early Signing Period, with the National Signing Day still in early February. UCLA is far from done recruiting and it will only be in the spring and beyond that proper judgement can be passed.

Bruins Nation managing editor Joe Piechowski will be discussing UCLA’s recruiting class, along with UCLA basketball, later this evening on KABC’s Behind the Mic with Brad Dalius at 11 pm PT. Feel free to call into the show with your questions at 800-222-5222.


Go Bruins!