UCLA is in a precarious position right now, with several contributing factors making this class a very important one. First, USC’s recruiting efforts have not slowed – and actually seem to have increased – under the new regime, making the in-state battles all the more difficult. Second, the retirement of Nik Abele due to injury causes even more need on the line, which was already a position of need. Third, UCLA could only have around 14-17 scholarships to hand out.
At quarterback, Rick Neuheisel and Co. are targeting several quarterbacks, and most likely trying to land two, if not three. Scout.com’s Brandon Huffman told me Jerry Neuheisel would likely greyshirt and count toward the class of ’12, but they’d still want two. The Bruins have six offers out to quarterbacks, including the recently committed Max Wittek. UCLA covets the No. 4 prospect, Kiehl Frazier, from Arkansas, but with 24 offers and no list of favorites, it’s much too early to tell where they stand on him. In a relatively weak class out west, the Bruins have only offered Wittek and Brett Hundley. Additionally, UCLA has offers to No. 1 QB Braxton Miller(a long, long, LONG shot), Marquise Williams , and Stephen Rivers, Philip’s younger brother, and an intriguing possibility given Norm Chow’s work with the elder.
“If the last two years are any indicator, they probably won’t offer any other quarterback until the one-day camp in June,” Huffman said. “Two years ago, they didn’t offer to Brehaut until Memorial Day weekend. Last year, they didn’t offer Nottingham until the end of June.”
“I think it will be one from the upper tier and maybe one from the second tier,” Huffman said. “Gretzky is the most likely one in that second tier, just because he didn’t have all that game experience. Same with Michael Bercovicci; neither of those guys have a lot of film. Those are the kinds of guys where I see them taking an upper-tier guy early and then a guy like this second. Kyle Boehm and Cody Kessler are upper-tier guys, but (UCLA wants) to see more. Boehm is a guy they just want to see more of – he only had 600 yards last year because they run so much, but he’s camped there the last two years, planning on the one-day camp in June and he’s gotten double-digit offers. Same with Kessler. But he’s not a guy they need to see a whole lot more of.”
Though quarterback seems to be the highest priority among fans, offensive line should also be of chief concern for the Bruins (this coming from a former lineman). The loss of Nik Abele is absolutely crushing; they had huge hopes for him and invested a lot of time and effort in his development.
Only one small problem…
“The problem is, this might be the weakest year California has seen on the line that you’ve ever seen,” Huffman said.
Hobbi looks the most promising, given his relationship with a future Bruin. Another one to watch is Crenshaw’s Marcus Martin, who is an absolute beast and just picked up an offer from Washington.
“The thing with Hobbi is he and Kody Innes played together last year in high school,” Huffman said. “But now LSU has offered him, and he’ll probably get a USC offer, so UCLA will have a lot of work cut out for them. A guy I really think they ought to go after more are Siaosi Aiono and Marcus Martin from Crenshaw. Both of those guys are very good linemen, but they’re guards, and UCLA needs tackles.”
The transition of Morrell Presley from tight end to F-back creates a need at tight end, and the Bruins are still huge on Austin Seferian-Jenkins.
“Seferian-Jenkins is the one they really like; he got an early verbal offer from the staff before they’d even been there a full year,” Huffman said. “If he ends up picking another school, I could see them making a bigger push for Troy Niklas from Servite and Dillon Van Der Wal from Oaks Christian. Like most Servite guys, I think he’s looking to see where he could be at USC. For Seferian-Jenkins, it’s a Washington, Florida, UCLA battle, but I think UCLA and Florida are in the best position with him. He could commit before the season starts if not sooner.”
USC’s absolutely stunning haul at the skill positions last year gives some hope that UCLA can land some major targets, simply because of the numbers across town. While Serra’s George Farmer a near-lock for the Trojans, UCLA is spreading its interest around.
“He’s such a lock there that other recruits are looking at him going there – I’d be surprised if he picked anywhere else,” Huffman said. “When they have the opportunity to tell Kenny Stills, a top-5 wideout last year, ‘We don’t need you,’ wow. I mean, any other year Victor Blackwell has an offer from USC at this point, but he’s high-interest. You have Blackwell, Devon Blackmon and Junior Pomeefrom Rancho Verde who is a big-time UCLA lean. He’s in that Morrell Presley mode. They need to bring in a minimum of two receivers this year. They could end up with that trifecta of Blackwell, Devon Blackmon and Pomee.”
But Huffman says another prospect piques his interest.
“Devon Lucien at Crespi who I love could end up getting that position as well,” Huffman said. “Lucien is very much in the Ricky Marvray mode. He’ll catch everything, he’ll battle for everything, he’s very physically strong. The thing he lacks is elite breakaway speed, but he still has that speed.”
With a standout running back class in ’10, the need isn’t as pressing in the backfield, but they’d make (Mamba) and exception (Mamba) or two (Mamba…and Harvey Langi).
“If they can get Mamba, (otherwise known as DeAnthony Thomas) they’ll take him anywhere,” Huffman said. “Running back is not a huge pressing need this year, however if Mamba or Harvey Langi would come, they’d certainly make room for them. UCLA has offered Mamba as an athlete, too. They see him potentially playing in the spot or playing DB or in some kind of playmaker role. I would say 60-40 USC right now. Maybe 59-39 and two percent he goes out of LA.”