How UCLA’s newest recruiting class stacks up to previous years

Buena Park High defensive back Elijah Gates is part of an 18-player UCLA recruiting class that was heavy on defense and offensive linemen. (Photo by Bill Alkofer,Orange County Register/SCNG)

Six weeks ago, UCLA’s recruiting class was 47th in the nation, according to Scout. By the end of the Signing Day festivities, the Bruins had vaulted up to 21st.

UCLA made major moves in the month of January to make up for its slow start to the recruiting cycle to end up with the third-best class in the Pac-12, but the haul is the worst in the Jim Mora era, according to rankings from Scout and Rivals.

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UCLA wraps up 2017 recruiting class

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UCLA recruiting class broken down by state. Graphic by Thuc Nhi Nguyen/SCNG

UCLA announced its sixth recruiting class under head coach Jim Mora on Wednesday, an 18-player haul that includes two five-star studs and five offensive linemen.

The group, headlined by defensive stars Jaelan Phillips and Darnay Holmes, is ranked 21st in the country by Rivals and Scout and 18th by ESPN. It addressed several needs for UCLA (defensive line, secondary, offensive line), but lacks many playmakers on offense.

Mora said the staff felt confident in its young roster at running back and receiver, which was why the Bruins didn’t end up signing anyone at those positions. The coach admitted the staff was targeting one receiver who ended up falling through. UCLA returns all five running backs who took carries last year and lost only Kenny Walker and Ishmael Adams from the receiving corps.

UCLA graduated six regular starters on defense, including three on the defensive line. Adding Phillips, Odua Isibor, Greg Rogers and Martin Andrus was an important step in reloading the unit.

“I think our potential is limitless,” Phillips said of the defensive line recruits. “I think we can do a lot of great things together. Obviously it’s this 2017 class, but it’s people in the last class, it’s people in the class before that. … I think it’s going to be special.”

In the secondary, UCLA lost Fabian Moreau, Randall Goforth, Tahaan Goodman and Marcus Rios. Holmes leads what is likely one of the best defensive back classes in the country. Of UCLA’s four other defensive backs, two are four-star recruits according to Scout (Elijah Gates and Jaylan Shaw) and two are three-stars (Quentin Lake and Morrell Osling).

“We definitely have a great class coming in,” Holmes said. “It’s probably the best defensive back group I’ve played with in my whole entire life. I just can’t wait to compete against these guys each and every day and get to working with them after practice.”

The Calabasas High product is especially excited to join Gates, his childhood friend, in the defensive backfield after they played pop warner football together.

“We have some championships to get,” Holmes said with a smile.

Links to wrap up the Signing Day coverage:

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UCLA signs four-star OL Stephan Zabie

UCLA started National Signing Day with a big victory, reeling in four-star offensive lineman Stephan Zabie. The 6-foot-6, 290-pound lineman picked the Bruins on ESPNU over Texas and Ole Miss.

He only played one season at Westlake (Texas) High due to transfer ineligbility. He didn’t play his senior year and kind of fell off the radar in recruiting. UCLA came in late in the process and pulled him away from the hometown Longhorns.

He is one of two four-star offensive line recruits for the Bruins in this class, along with U.S. Army All-American Kanan Ray. UCLA also have Zachary Sweeney, whose NLI was the first to come in Wednesday, Jax Wacaser and Sean Seawards.

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UCLA enters National Signing Day eyeing a few more commits

Darnay Holmes is expected to sign with UCLA on Wednesday. Photo by John McCoy//L.A. Daily News

Darnay Holmes is expected to sign with UCLA on Wednesday. Photo by John McCoy//L.A. Daily News

It’s almost here.

National Signing Day is less than 12 hours away. UCLA has two five-star recruits already and a plethora of defensive backs, but is still in the running for a few more players.

Here’s a full list of the 20 commits heading into Signing Day. Below are some names to watch out for Wednesday and how they might fit in with this recruiting class:

  • RB Stephen CarrUPDATE: Carr, as anticipated, stuck with his USC commitment. Carr is a definite don’t-count-on-it for Wednesday. He would be UCLA’s last hope at a running back in this class.
  • LB Levi Jones —  UPDATE: Jones picks USC. The four-star linebacker from Westlake (Texas) is slated to announce his decision live on ESPN U at 5 a.m. PT. He’s choosing between Florida, Florida State, Texas A&M, UCLA and USC. UCLA only has one linebacker in this class in Rahyme Johnson, but lost three key seniors from the group in Jayon Brown, Cameron Judge and Isaako Savaiinaea.
  • WR DeAndre McNealUPDATE: McNeal tells 247 Sports that he’s picking Florida Atlantic. The junior college transfer recently received an offer from Missouri, which could complicate his decision. He was seen as a likely UCLA commit out of Fullerton College. The Bruins don’t have any receivers in this class, but also did not graduate any from last year’s team.
  • DE Cassius Peat — The one-time UCLA commit wavered when he went back to Michigan State for a visit, so it’s very possible he’ll be returning to East Lansing and spurning UCLA twice in his recruiting career after he passed on the Bruins out of high school too.
  • LB Mohamed SanogoUPDATE: Sanogo picks Ole Miss. UCLA is in Sanogo’s top three, along with Mississippi State and Ole Miss. He’s another four-star linebacker from Texas, and won the overall MVP for Team USA in the North American Championships. He’ll announce his commitment at 6 a.m. PT.
  • OL Stephan ZabieUPDATE: Zabie picks UCLA. Zabie will announce his decision alongside high-school teammate Jones at 5 a.m. PT. He’s also considering Texas and Ole Miss. The 6-foot-5, 290-pound four-star would be one of UCLA’s top-rated offensive lineman on this class, alongside Kanan Ray. UCLA had a big need at offensive line after last season and has four linemen committed heading into Signing Day.
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