Reviewing UCLA’s 2014 recruiting class

The requisite caveat first: recruiting rankings are imperfect, and neither guarantee a program’s success nor ensure its failure. That said, recruiting rankings are still correlated with success, and since we can’t fast forward to see how the players develop, there isn’t a whole lot else to work with.

And without further ado, let’s take another look at the 2014 UCLA class (which you can look over in full here).

– It’s good, not great. I covered the five-star swing-and-misses generally in today’s Daily News story, but here’s the class in more detail.

There are three recruits in the Rivals top 100: No. 80 Jaleel Wadood, No. 88 Zach Whitley, No. 95 Kenny Young. That is more than UCLA had in 2013 (No. 56 Priest Willis, No. 80 Tahaan Goodman) and as many has it did in 2012 (No. 21 Ellis McCarthy, No. 37 Devin Fuller, No. 93 Jordan Payton).

Yes, the team needed to land just one five-star recruit to end Wednesday a winner, but the timing of the class also didn’t help perception. The staff pulled in the bulk of its class by early January, and missed on the big names it had left afterward. Imagine if, say, Whitley had flipped from Alabama to UCLA this past week instead of a month ago. There’d probably be a bit more buzz for him.

– Numbers factor in. Here are the scholarship players UCLA will graduate or lose to the draft after next season: quarterback Brett Hundley, running back Jordon James, linebacker Eric Kendricks, defensive back Anthony Jefferson, linebacker Ryan Hofmeister, defensive end Owa Odighizuwa and offensive lineman Malcolm Bunche. That’s it.

The Bruins loaded up with a 26-man class in 2012, so there wasn’t a lot of room to spare this year if they wanted to ensure flexibility for next season. They ended up with 18 incoming freshmen, short of the 20 maximum that Rivals.com counts toward rankings and the 25 that Scout.com counts.

Mora made the “quality over quantity” argument yesterday evening.

“We have egos just like anybody else so we look at the rankings,” he said. “We look at Rivals, we look at Scout, but what I’m proud of is — it’s a small class — but when you go to Scout and you go to Rivals, both of those websites I have a lot of respect for, have us in the top ten in average star rating.”

(USC’s class ranked almost 10 spots higher with one more recruit, but that’ll happen when you clean up the day with a pair of five-stars.)

– Needs were filled. There aren’t any glaring position groups that UCLA failed to address with the incoming class. The team needed some depth on the defensive line after losing a starter and two rotation players, so it added a trio of four-star recruits there. It lost just about every tailback to injury at some point last season, so it added four-star Nathan Starks. It graduated two starting linebackers, and got two out-of-staters who can make an immediate impact.

Nothing particularly flashy, but it did the job.

– Fixing strategy. Asked if pursuing major out-of-state recruits took energy away from chasing local targets, Mora said he He continued: “We have to make sure — like you do after every game, after every season — after every recruiting cycle, you go back and evaluate. We’ve already started that process. … We’re very critical of ourselves. I’m especially critical of myself because ultimately, the decisions are mine.”

Step one:

That’s Mora calling a 2015 five-star recruit, less than an hour after he wrapped up his National Signing Day media sessions.

Extra notes:

– All the national letters of intent came in, so there shouldn’t be any eligibility concerns like there was with Craig Lee last year. Four-star running back Nathan Starks’ was delayed a bit, but it came in by around 7 p.m.

– Four-star running back Kalen Ballage delayed his announcement yesterday when his Falcon High had a snow day, but officially signed with Arizona State today. He had visited UCLA last weekend.

– In addition to early enrollees Zach Whitley and Ron Robinson (and 2013 grayshirt Mossi Johnson), three other players are expected to be on campus in time for spring camp: cornerback Adarius Pickett, offensive guard NaJee Toran and offensive lineman transfer Malcolm Bunche.

– Mora, when asked about the hand signal Jaleel Wadood came up with: “It’s fun for these young men. If it gets them fired up, if it catches on, then I’m all for it. I’m excited Jaleel’s throwing them up for UCLA and not somebody else, because he’s a dynamic player.”

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  • Joseph B. Lowe

    From SBNation:

    The five biggest losers

    UCLA

    If everything broke their way, the Bruins could have
    risen as high as third or fourth in the recruiting rankings. Things did not, as
    the Bruins went one-for-eight on their big Signing Day targets, ending up with
    the 19th-rated class in the country (and third-best in the Pac-12). Bruins
    Nation calls Wednesday “extremely disappointing.”

    • Bruin 34

      Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha. Please. Pretty please with sugar on top. Please give us some more Bruins Nation quotes and news. Please! Lmfao!!!!!!!!!

    • http://amillennialist.blogspot.com Santiago Matamoros

      Going to bruinsnation for commentary on UCLA is like asking Joseph Goebbels for analysis of Israeli defense policy.

      In other words, you’ll fit in over there just beautifully.

      • UCLA Owns the Rose Bowl

        That is pricess, Santiago. However, Joe’s inauspicious educational background might not have afforded him knowledge of a one Joseph Goebbels–but still, very clever!

        • http://amillennialist.blogspot.com Santiago Matamoros

          Thank you.

  • Tommy B Low Us

    I remember when i had my first beer. Cry On!! Loser

  • Danny

    Before this gets too out of control let’s thank those fine student athletes who selected UCLA.

    I am reminded of Hoosiers (slightly edited)

    “I would hope you would support who we are, not who we are not. These individual have made a choice to work, a choice to sacrifice, to put themselves on the line to represent you and this school. This kind of commitment deserves and demands your respect. This is your team”

  • The EDGE

    This class came in with numerous 4*s that are top ten for their respective positions. It shouldn’t be understated that UCLA has the 10th highest AVERAGE star rating.

    UCLA should continue this strategy, along with the swinging for the 5*s. I am sure this is also a learning experience.

    With sc coming off their sanctions and the next class looking great in CA, NV and AZ. UCLA needs to be cleaning up in its own background.

    Please get a GREAT QB next year! I’m sure this is UCLA’s thought also…

    • Sean Zavala

      BRUINS ……….UCLA…………………#1

  • EncinitasBruin

    24/7 Consensus ranking: UCLA 19, USC 11
    ESPN: UCLA 26, USC 14
    Rivals: UCLA 18, USC 10
    Scout: UCLA 20, USC 10

    This is a good class, and nothing to be in a panic about. Let’s not forget that we are loaded with young talent–one of the top 4 youngest teams in the nation. Mora’s approach to player development–like Stanford and Oregon– is to find players that work in the Bruin system. No one will argue that Stanford and Oregon are the class programs of the P12 right now, yet Stanford’s class is #13 and Oregon’s class is #21. They aren’t panicking because they go after a certain type of player, and are less concerned with star ratings. SC’s roster is currently loaded with “5 star” talent, but what has it gotten them?
    Mora > Sarkiffian
    #threepeatintherosebowl
    #hundleyforheisman
    #bruinrevolution

    • Joseph B. Lowe

      We don’t even TRY to compare ourselves to ucla. We compare to teams like Alabama, Florida, Auburn, etc. Let’s review your recruiting class:

      Five Stars: None

      Next!

      • EncinitasBruin

        SC probably should aspire to our level of players. Number of wins of your vaunted 5-star teams against Mora? Zero. Better coaching, better players, more guts. Man, the way SC gave up in the Coliseum was sad…no heart.

        • Joseph B. Lowe

          SC does not want to go DOWN to ucla FBs level. It’s a long way down.

          • EncinitasBruin

            Oh, we waved to you as you free-falled past our floor long ago, before your program slammed into the pavement. 35-14. 38-28. SC teams that gave up. Sad.

          • Joseph B. Lowe

            Not going to bite. 2 wins a Heritage does not make.

          • EncinitasBruin

            Because SC has no bite right now. Come on, Joe, you know it, we know it–all of L.A. knows it.

          • Joseph B. Lowe

            Sure, the FIVE STARS know it Right EB?

          • EncinitasBruin

            Not saying SC didn’t have a good class. Nice close on the NSD. Can Sark develop the talent? That’s all that matters. Mora–unlike any coach UCLA has had since the Clinton Administration–can develop talent. Jack was a 4-star, as was Redmond. And both made the all-am team for freshmen. Surprised, actually, that Cravens didn’t make it. Kid’s a stud.

          • Joseph B. Lowe

            Look, I’m going to delete this in 10 min as it wrecks my persona.

            1. Look, I know ucla has gotten better.
            2. You beat us 2 in a row.
            3. Doesn’t mean you’re better than us in FB, now or overall.
            Hundley makes a HUGE difference.
            4. Mora is a really good coach, ala Harbaugh. But a d i c k.
            5. Sark will take talent and mold his scheme to it. He changed the O at UW with Price. His problem was the OL. Much harder to recruit at UW than SC. He will make a HUGE difference.
            6. ucla will NEVER approach SC Football in stature, just as SC will NEVER approach UCLA BB in stature. Just the way it is.
            6. Enjoy SC’s downtime. The sanctions are over in June. So beware. We will be BACK. Maybe sooner than later.
            7. Hope a team doesn’t take out Hundley. Bruins have injured several QBs. Don’t for a minute think it won’t come back to haunt them at some point.
            8. Stay dry, I’ll photo shop you in a pix of me courtside!
            9. And this is why I will delete this post: I actually like you, you have coherent posts, unlike many of your cohorts, who take bait faster than a FAT BASS.
            10. Stay dry. OUT.

          • EncinitasBruin

            You crack me up, man. That’s the best post you’ve ever made, and I think we are actually seeing behind the mask of Joe Blow here… I won’t disagree with anything you say. I HOPE (and that’s what it is right now) that UCLA can become a national-championship contending program. Why not? Beautiful campus, great school. However, this next year really is critical. We have done nothing, really, in a decade or more except pulled out a few nice wins. Need to build those gorgeous new facilities though–just like SC, Oregon, etc. Also, I’m taking a screen shot of this page to remind myself of the real JB…

          • http://amillennialist.blogspot.com Santiago Matamoros

            (Says the one with two losses.)

          • http://amillennialist.blogspot.com Santiago Matamoros

            USC’s looking up at the Bruins.

      • jameskatt

        Come on. You’re nicer when sloshed.

      • jameskatt

        Please give us advice on botany.

      • jameskatt

        USC would be flattened like a pancake by Alabama, Florida, Auburn, etc. There simply is no comparison.

        • Joseph B. Lowe

          You mean like when the NC was on the line and Miami kicked ucla to the curb after 20 wins in a row! hahahahahahahahahahahaha

    • Bruin 34

      Encinitas you are wrong. Ucla is #9 on scout in regards to stars per player at 3.6

  • Joseph B. Lowe

    ucla at THE Galen Center…..Come Meet the Famous Joseph B. Lowe! RSVP today. Limited autographed programs. Photo ops available at halftime, courtside.

    • EncinitasBruin

      Okay, I actually did laugh out loud on this one… You actually going?

      • Joseph B. Lowe

        Of course. I’ll give you a freebee

        • EncinitasBruin

          I’d take you up on it, but I’m in San Diego, and it’s raining…

          • Joseph B. Lowe

            lol

          • http://amillennialist.blogspot.com Santiago Matamoros

            youtu . be/8vY-4zWKsJM

            :)

  • jameskatt

    Go Bruins!

  • jameskatt

    Certainly a “problem” for recruiting this year is that we recruited a lot of players in previous years who are still on scholarship and staying to graduate. This leaves fewer scholarships for new recruits.

  • Tommy B Low Us

    When OJ Simpson is one of your past USC football players, not sure you can boast anything or even compare the two programs. Joe B Lowe will be at the Galen Center tonight with OJ’s bloody glove. Cry On!!!

    • Joseph B. Lowe

      Even though you’re trying to kiss up to me, you still have to RSVP, Marc.

      • Demosthenes

        Fortunately Open Table says there is no line or wait so I guess everyone is in luck

  • Tommy B Low Us

    Joe Blow…don’t get your ketchup and mustard USC panties in a bunch. We all know OJ Simpson is your hero.

    • Marv Elapes

      He’s also my college football hero. But he still ended up a lowlife loser. And the ruins whiffed on every big name recruit.

      • Tommy B Low Us

        They probably have a class at USC called Low Life Loser 101 that all USC students take to graduate. I guess most pass that class….

        • Marv Elapes

          I heard Torian White took the same class at Fucla, plus they have purse snatching, and Handicap parking fraud 101.

  • Joseph B. Lowe

    UPDATE: SOLD OUT!

    ucla at THE Galen Center…..Come Meet the Famous Joseph B. Lowe! RSVP today. Limited autographed programs. Photo ops available at halftime, courtside.

    Looking forward to seeing all of you. For those that missed out, you can email me for a private photo at:

    josephblowe@iloveuclafootball dot com

    • Demosthenes

      By the way Joe. Tomorrow night is basketball. That’s the game they play indoors with a round ball. You know. The one where SC has no track record of merit.

      • Joseph B. Lowe

        No delusion there for me. But it’s a SELL OUT CROWD and I know EVERYONE wants to meet me. So I’ll be there. Sorry you were not able to make the RSVP list for a personal photo op.

        • Demosthenes

          That’s OK, Joe. Not a UCLA roundball fan. I played for another school so my loyalties lie elsewhere.

    • Tommy B Low Us

      Come one, Come all….
      The official Joe Blow Ketchup and Mustard Panty Raid Party on the campus of SUC. Joe Blow will dance to the SUC fight song while we throw cans at his head.

      • Joseph B. Lowe

        Next time RSVP EARLY. Your anger is your own fault. I’m SOLD OUT!

  • Jakub Ramir

    Two full recruiting seasons with two separate strategies and outcomes. Sure the ranking systems ranks our current class lower than last year’s. It doesn’t mean much! Can they be coached and do they have upside is want we want? Over in south central there are plenty examples of 5*s not doing squat for the TEAM. Our guys in this class are going to fill the holes and or redshirt, mature, study than contribute the following year! Mora and Co. know what to do believe that. Btw if you re-rank last year’s class, it’s safe to say UCLA had the finest class in CFB!

  • lifetime Bruin Fan

    Call me crazy, But I can’t wait for football to begin.