Former five-star cornerback Priest Willis transfers out of UCLA

UCLA’s Priest Willis breaks up a pass intended for Arizona State’s D.J. Foster during the Bruins' 38-33 loss to the Sun Devils on November 23, 2013. (Hans Gutknecht/Staff)

UCLA’s Priest Willis breaks up a pass intended for Arizona State’s D.J. Foster during the Bruins’ 38-33 loss to the Sun Devils on November 23, 2013. (Hans Gutknecht/Staff)

Former five-star recruit Priest Willis has decided to transfer out of UCLA, becoming the second Bruin cornerback to do so in the span of a week.

The news of Willis’ departure, first reported by Bruin Report Online, follows Jalen Ortiz’s announcement last Tuesday that he would leave UCLA. Neither player was going to break into the Bruins’ starting lineup anytime soon, but Willis at least had a chance to be on the two-deep.

Instead, his UCLA career has ended after just two seasons, with the once-touted defensive back prospect appearing in 20 games. The Arizona native leaves Los Angeles with 27 tackles, three pass breakups and an interception.

Willis still has a redshirt year available, and will preserve two seasons of eligibility at his new school.

  • MPPBruin

    That’s too bad. I was pretty jazzed about his recruitment. It’s unfortunate that it hasn’t turned out the way he/we hoped it would have. Good luck to him nonetheless.

    • Danny

      I agree. It’s strange….Priest seemed to be on a path for a good amount of playing time this year and significant amount next year.

      Seems to be a lot of transfers lately. Obviously it’s a disconnect between their expectations and reality Maybe the recruits are being oversold during recruitment?

      • j metaphor

        Or oversold by their agents projecting what they need to do to go in The First Round.
        Too much talent is a good problem to have.

      • Laker Rod

        It was easy for both Jalen Ortiz and Priest Willis to transfer since they never redshirted.

        And I agree about Willis. Moreau is a senior this year. The spot was open for Willis in 2016.

        I really don’t know what’s going on here. The coaches better start developing the existing talent they have…otherwise all we do is wait for the next young guy to get up to speed.

  • TYtrueBRUIN300

    to be a great football program comes great competition. if we want to be the best, compete with the best!!!

  • ProbationU

    Transfers usually boil down to playing time. There could have been a number of possible contributing factors.

    During his recruitment, there were some that thought he was better suited to playing safety than cornerback. He definitely has struggled in coverage. It may be that he would have benefitted from redshirting his first year to evaluate him better and make the decision.

    It may also be true that he wasn’t really a 5-star talent. People miss on those things regularly. UCLA is very deep in the secondary and apparently Marcus Rios has really stepped forward. Rios has shown a lot of grit and tenacity to overcome a serious infection and he simply may have been hungrier to succeed. All of this is a guess on my part, however. Last year we heard about how great Fabian Moreau was and he struggled mightily the 1st half of the year.

    Either way, sad to see Willis go. I hope it works out well for him and now he can utilize his redshirt year during the transfer. All the best, Priest.

    • Tommy B Low Us

      Rios is a beast and I’d rather have him playing. Priest most of time looked lost and got burned often. He never seemed to be able to swing his head around to play the ball.

      • ProbationU

        Rios is a great story. Priest was struggling and safety may be his best spot but wasn’t going to move ahead of Goforth, Wadood or Goodman.

        • Tommy B Low Us

          Priest was prone to make dumb mistakes too. He caused the penalty that erased Adam’s kick return for touchdown against Virginia.

          • MPPBruin

            Watching him in the KState bowl game was borderline cringeworthy.

      • Laker Rod

        Rios is a beast. LOL!! What has Rios done up to this point. What Rios has shown is good promise that’s it. We have no idea if he can be durable enough to even last the season. He’s had a long lay off. He had a good spring.

        You’re the same idiot who was saying Devin Lucien was a beast too the past several years…right? LOL!

        Go ahead and keep promoting every newcomer or player who has yet to fully establish himself. Even a broken clock is right twice.

        I’ll trust Ishmael Adams and Fabian Moreau more than Rios at this point.

        And the fact that Goforth is coming off two shoulder surgeries doesn’t help that Willis and Ortiz decided to transfer out.

        Even Owa Odighizuwa started off slowly in 2014 after redshirting in 2013. Same for Datone Jones after he had a year off redshirting due to injury.

        All these dumb Bruin fans thought Datone Jones was going to have a monster season in 2011 after redshirting 2010….he struggled. Then the idiots out there said Ellis McCarthy was going to beat out Datone Jones. LOL!!!!!!

        • ProbationU

          The fact that you have to call those that disagree with you moron and idiot only proves two things. You are insecure and you are insignificant.

          • MPPBruin

            Originally I was thinking about just freezing the troll out, but at least he generates discussion. The threads where he comments always get more hits. He’s probably just a pseudonym for Wang to drive traffic.

          • ProbationU

            I don’t think Wang is all that interested in stirring it up. Seems beneath him.

          • Laker Rod

            No the idiot remark definitely applies to you. Arguing for true frosh to start. What an idiot.

          • ProbationU

            You never seem to be able to figure this out. While you “argue” for Woulard to start. I “predict” that Rosen will start.

            Argue: to present reasons for or against a thing.

            Predict: to foretell the future.

            Insignificant: unimportant, trifling or petty.

          • Laker Rod

            Oh brother. You have to be kidding. You were “arguing” for Rosen to start and you know it. Why else would you try to argue against me related to how true frosh get hurt more often. You tried to provide examples where that was NOT the case. You also said you were not concerned about Rosen’s thin frame, etc.

            You tried to argue that despite there being no historical evidence of true frosh doing well that didn’t necessarily mean Rosen could not do well, etc.

            Why would you even argue these points if all you meant was that you “predicted” Rosen would start. The discussion would have ended a long time ago.

            I already told you before that there are two points:

            1. It’s not just about who the coach ultimately selects because we have seen bonehead mistakes made before by many coaches.

            2. So the point is now with Woulard transferring….we’ll see how this all works out….right?

            I can only hope for the best but we shall see. You can bet if Rosen gets hurt and/or the team does not do well then you know you will not here the end of it.

            I’ll say this. Even if the Bruins don’t win a conference championship….so long as Rosen does not get hurt and plays well enough where nobody wants to see somebody else next season and the team finishes with around 9 wins. I’ll be pretty happy and will admit that…okay…some times true frosh QB’s like Rosen can indeed do well. I wouldn’t count on this happening though…I am rarely ever incorrect.

            YOU on the other I’m pretty sure you’ll disappear or even deny ever arguing for Josh Rosen or even admit that around 90% of Bruin fans wanted this to happen.

            Where have all the Brehaut supporters gone? Zach Whitley? Ellis McCarthy? Many fans wanted/predficted these guys to start as true frosh.

            And here is another thing for you. Why on earth would you even predict Rosen would win unless you felt this was absolutely the best for the team. You obviously feel Rosen can do quite well.

            All I said was that if the best player we have is a true frosh QB then we must NOT be very good at the position and the coaching staff (such as Mazzone’s son) should be questioned as they are unable to develop the talent they have on hand.

            This situation does NOT give me any confidence at all in this staff anymore. Jim Mora is a Del Harris at this point. That’s it.

            We are not winning a conference championship in 2015 nor will we even win in 2016 as we lose too much with Jack, EV, and Clark most likely departing.

            Again…this whole mess would have NEVER happened if Hundley stayed for his senior year. There was a good chance this could have happened if he didn’t even play in 2012 and learned more prior to starting.

            Mora better think of a better overall plan because in 3 years he has not won a conference championship and it doesn’t appear he will win at least for the next 2 either.

            Mora needs to convince guys like Jack, EV, and Clark to stay until they have accomplished something.

            Why on earth would you draft a player high from a college who can’t even make it to a BCS bowl game? You have to be one exceptionally talented player to make it to the first round. Hundley 5th rounder! Leaves early to become a 5th rounder!!! I guess that’s what UCLA is about. Sorry if the truth hurts.

          • ProbationU

            Wrong again on more counts than I need to discuss. You can’t understand simple English. And you can’t provide any proof that true freshman QB’s get hurt more often than older QB’s.

            I never said it was great to have a true freshman QB. I predicted that he would be selected based upon what I read that said he looked the best. It appears that either Mora pointed that out to him or he figured it out on his own.

    • Laker Rod

      Priest Willis should have redshirted you moron! LOL!! Told you. Yet another 5 star bust for UCLA

    • Tommy B Low Us

      Here we go with the insane diatribe. As if anyone here takes this guy seriously. I for one just like to laugh at his rants. Bring it. At least you are good for a laugh.

  • xtracool32

    This one of the many reasons, why those recruiting stars are way overrated. So many times a big time recruit will go to a school, and think they are better than they are. An then a lot of them transfer, because they feel disrepespected. This is why i actually was happy that ucla got two commitments from two 3 star players over the weekend.

    • Laker Rod

      If the 5 stars was overrated then the UCLA coaches should have noted this and not played Priest Willis as a true frosh.

      Do you see how stupid it is to play true frosh when they are not ready? Jalen Ortiz. Ellis McCarthy.

      All of these guys gone. You play them early their first couple of years and they struggle and they are gone. McCarthy had a mediocre career.

      Kylie Fitts lasted one year with hardly even played as a true frosh then transferred.

      Does anybody remember how good Shaq Evans and Fauria were. UCLA got the benefit of ND’s time and investment in both of these in their early years.

      Guys transferring is not a good thing. All the time wasted in reps. Down the drain.

    • MPPBruin

      By in large though stars are correlated with success. I think I’d prefer to take my chances with some 5 stars who wind up transferring or otherwise bust than relying on 3 stars transform into something greater.

  • JPKB

    UCLA gave out more scholarships to incoming freshmen ( or “Frosh” as Redshirt would say) than they had available based on the number departing seniors who were freeing up scholarships. This attrition was inevitable and started with Lucien. (Yes, I know he graduated but he still had another year of eligibility.)

    Upperclassmen at the fringe of the depth chart are encouraged to explore options that might afford them more playing time and they move on. This frees up the scholarships needed for the incoming freshmen.

    • ProbationU

      Do you have the numbers on this? I didn’t think we were over our 85 number for 2015. I don’t doubt that some kids are “encouraged” to explore other options if they aren’t going to see much time on the field. Perhaps they are freeing up spots for 2016?

      I saw a chart on another site that showed our transfer level is about the same as other schools in the league, so perhaps this isn’t so new at all.

      • JPKB

        As I recall they gave out 5 or so (maybe 6) more scholarships than they had departing scholarship players. Normal attrition after the signing date took care of some but they were still left with more scholarship players than available scholarships.

        It’s a numbers game. Can’t park them on the track team like they used to back in the day.