Four-star running back Brandon Stephens commits to UCLA

For the second straight year, UCLA has landed another top running back from Plano, Texas.

After reopening the recruiting process again in late January, Brandon Stephens officially announced his commitment to the Bruins on Wednesday morning in a ceremony at Plano Senior High. The 6-foot-1, 200-pound prospect is the first tailback to join UCLA’s 2016 class, which already has fullback Jalen Starks.

Scout ranks Stephens as a four-star recruit and one of the top 10 running backs coming out of Texas, while Rivals slots him at three stars while giving him the No. 20 spot at his position nationally. He had decommitted from Stanford less than two weeks ago.

UCLA running back Soso Jamabo, who could vie for the starting job vacated by former Pac-12 rushing leader Paul Perkins, starred at Plano West High before joining the Bruins as a five-star recruit. Jamabo rushed for 404 yards and four touchdowns as a true freshman, though he did most of his work in the fourth quarter.

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Four-star safety Brandon Burton of Gardena Serra commits to UCLA

Four-star safety Brandon Burton pulled out a UCLA hat and gloves during a SportsCenter announcement on Tuesday night.

Four-star safety Brandon Burton pulled out a UCLA hat and gloves during a SportsCenter announcement on Tuesday night.

Safety Brandon Burton has committed to UCLA, becoming just the third Gardena Serra product to pick the Bruins in over a decade.

The four-star prospect was slated to announce his decision on SportsCenter on Tuesday night, but a pre-taped video was released on Bleacher Report nearly half an hour earlier.

He picked UCLA over Florida State, USC and Arizona.

When he sends in his letter of intent, Burton will become the highest-ranked Serra player to sign with the Bruins in recent memory. Receiver Jordan Lasley and linebacker Dwight Williams, both of whom were three-star prospects, landed in Westwood in 2014, while two-star offensive lineman Tony Lee did so in 2004. (Four-star receiver Paul Richardson also signed with UCLA in 2010, but was dismissed after being arrested on suspicion of felony theft. He signed with Colorado the following August.)

A consensus top-150 national recruit, Burton is ranked the fourth-best safety in the country by Rivals and the No. 13 athlete by Scout. The 6-foot, 185-pounder is just the third defensive back prospect in UCLA’s 2016 class, joining three-star recruits Keyon Riley and Leni Toailoa.

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DT Garrett Rand reaffirms commitment to Wisconsin

A little over a week after visiting UCLA, defensive tackle Garrett Rand has reaffirmed his commitment to Wisconsin.

The four-star recruit out of Chandler (Ariz.) Hamilton told azcentral that he will fax his letter of intent to the Badgers on Wednesday morning, sticking with the school he picked back in September. The 6-foot-2, 275-pound lineman had second thoughts on his choice after defensive coordinator Dave Aranda left in early January for the same job at LSU.

In the interview with azcentral, Rand also credited New Way Academy in Phoenix for helping him overcome a childhood battle with dyslexia.

The Bruins have a quartet of three-star defensive line recruits in Jake Burton, Marcus Moore, Osa Odighizuwa, and JUCO transfer Nick Terry. They are also in position to add four-star defensive tackle Boss Tagaloa, who will announce his decision a little after 12 p.m. tomorrow on ESPN2.

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A look at UCLA football’s remaining 2016 recruiting targets

Can UCLA close out its top-10 recruiting class by landing five-star linebacker Mique Juarez? (Brad Graverson/Staff)

UCLA already has a top-10 recruiting class in 2016. Can push even higher with prospects like five-star linebacker Mique Juarez? (Brad Graverson/Staff)

Less than 36 hours from National Signing Day, UCLA’s 2016 recruiting class is already in very good shape. With 23 commitments — five of whom are already enrolled — the Bruins’ latest haul currently stands at No. 10 in the country.

Now, Jim Mora and his staff has a chance to finish at the top of the Pac-12 for the second time in his tenure. Here are the prospects left on the board.

Star power

Five-star linebacker Mique Juarez isn’t just one of the most talented players coming out of high school this year. If he signs with UCLA, he’ll be just the second consensus top-10 prospect that Mora has landed, following quarterback Josh Rosen.

Since he decomitted from USC back in October, the 6-foot-3, 220-pounder has been closely linked with the Bruins, who offered him two summers ago. If he picks UCLA, Juarez could immediately become the dynamic linebacker that the Bruins have missed since Myles Jack tore his meniscus in September. Although the team’s defensive struggles this past season weren’t limited to a single position, Jack’s presence often cleaned up mistakes made elsewhere — something that even fellow linebacker Deon Hollins pointed out.

Juarez isn’t going to play at that level immediately, but producing something close to what Jack was able to do as a true freshman would help. Continue reading

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