Eddie Vanderdoes cleared to play for 2013 season

Five-star defensive lineman Eddie Vanderdoes has been cleared to play immediately for UCLA after an appeal with the National Letter of Intent committee, officially ending his dramatic exit from Notre Dame.

The touted recruit initially committed to the Irish on National Signing Day in February, but asked out of his national letter of intent due to an illness in the family. The Placer High grad decided on UCLA to be closer to his home in the Sacramento area.

Rick Kimbrel of recruiting website BruinBru.com first reported Vanderdoes’ immediate eligibility, a boon for a UCLA defensive line struggling with health. Had Vanderdoes not been released to play, he would have had to sit out the upcoming fall as well as lose a year of eligibility — leaving him with only three seasons of college football.

Notre Dame had declined to release Vanderdoes from his letter of intent “in order to protect the integrity of that very important program,” head coach Brian Kelly said in a statement in early June. Many Irish fans argued that if Vanderdoes were allowed to leave, letters of intent would become meaningless — introducing more chaos into a recruiting world in which verbal commitments can flip week to week.

College coaches, of course, are not bound by any such restrictions; Kelly himself left Cincinnati for Notre Dame in 2009, buying out of a contract that extended to 2013.

As it now stands, Vanderdoes has regained all four years of eligibility. Rated the No. 3 recruit in California by Rivals.com, he will immediately bolster the Bruins’ defensive line if he lives up to his billing.

Already praised by head coach Jim Mora for his work ethic, the 6-foot-3, 310-pound freshman could immediately slide in as the Bruins’ starting defensive end.

All-Pac-12 selection Datone Jones graduated from the spot and became UCLA’s first first-round draft pick since 2006. Jones’ likely successor, rising senior Owamagbe Odighizuwa, underwent hip surgery in the offseason and is questionable to return. If Vanderdoes can impress enough early on, the UCLA staff could even elect to redshirt Odighizuwa — a former five-star recruit himself — to save him for a full season.

Defensive line depth also wasn’t helped when backup nose tackle Brandon Tuliaupupu tore his ACL near the end of spring camp.

The other side of the line, however, is held down by returning starter Cassius Marsh, a physical player who was an All-Pac-12 honorable mention. He had 50 tackles in 2012, and projects as a mid-round draft pick in next spring’s draft. Senior Seali’i Epenesa made 10 starts at nose tackle last season and should keep the spot this fall.