Sunday, May 13, 2007

2008 Recruiting off to a Fast Start

The recruiting season has been in full swing for the last 3 months and the Bruins have been racking up an impressive list of commitments. UCLA's 14 commitments are the most in the conference at this point. In fact, the other nine PAC-10 teams have a combined 20 recruits, so the Bruins have been gaining commitments at a blistering pace. Of course, how you finish the recruiting season is more important than how you start; but it is great to see Dorrell and company landing some good recruits early in the year.

“I’d say this is by far the fastest start Dorrell’s got at UCLA,” said Brandon Huffman, the West regional analyst for Scout.com. “This is one of the best starts UCLA’s had in probably a decade.”

This class is very pivotal to the future of UCLA football. Every year recruiting is important, but more so for this group of players. The 2008 season represents a changing of the guard for the program as 30 Seniors ( 18 of whom are starters) will be leaving the program after this year. The Bruins will have openings at almost every position and recruits from this class will probably be asked to fill many of them. Usually very few true freshman see significant minutes, but I think we'll see a lot of these guys in the two-deep if not the starting lineup by the end of next season.

Offense

Eric Scott, the new wide receiver coach, has been drawing in some great players for 2008. Scott has a lot of connections to inner-city L.A. schools and he is using his influence to bring in some great players on both sides of the ball. New offensive coordinator and QB coach Jay Norvell has also landed his first recruit for the Bruins and the first quarterback for a PAC-10 team.

Aundre Dean (RB) leads the list on the offensive side of the ball. Landing Dean was a bit of a surprise to many Bruin fans. He lives in Katy Texas which is outside of UCLA's primary recruiting area. At first Dean had given an oral commitment to the Texas A&M Aggies, but an unofficial visit to Westwood changed his mind. Dean is now committed to playing for the Bruins.

Dean is tall and slim as a junior, but he will probably pack on another 15-20 lbs of muscle before stepping onto Spalding field. He reminds me of DeShaun Foster as he runs with a lot of power. He will have Carter and Bell ahead of him his Freshman year, but he could play his way into some minutes each week.

Kemonte Bateman (WR) is the latest star player from UCLA's Crenshaw pipeline. He has been tearing it up at the combines this summer and putting up some very impressive numbers. With a mass exodus of receivers after this season, Bateman could definitely find his way into the starting rotation. He has a few academic issues he needs to clear-up, but if he takes care of business he should be in the blue and gold next year.

Nick Crissman (QB) is the only quarterback so far to commit to a PAC-10 school. The coaching staff took a long time in deciding which south land quarterbacks to offer and Crissman got the nod. He is a pro-style QB, who is very smart and an accurate passer. Those are definitely two skills crucial for UCLA's complex west-coast offense. Crissman doesn't strike me as a player who will start for a few years. He will have Ben/Pat ahead of him in 2008 and Chris Forcier as a red-shirt freshman waiting in the wings.

Rounding out the other offensive commitments are Antwon Moutra (WR) and Jerry Johnson (WR). Both look like solid players but neither has really stood out as future impact players at this point. We'll see what they can do during their Senior seasons.

Defense

It is not a coincidence that the best players to commit this year are on defense and in the secondary. Dewayne Walker has been hard at work on the recruiting path; it turns out Walker is not only a great defensive coordinator and secondary coach, but also a very good recruiter as well. Many considered him a key reason why the Bruins landed Brian Price last season and why Carter and Price stuck with UCLA even when they were getting a lot of pressure from Pete Carroll.

Rahim Moore (S), a Dorsey safety, is definitely the highlight of the recruiting class so far. Moore has been ranked as one of the top-10 players in the west for 2008 and he will likely be a 5-star recruit when the final rankings come out this fall.

He continues to get offers from BCS schools including Auburn, USC, Michigan, Georgia, Florida, and Nebraska. There have been reports that Pete Carroll is still aggressively pursuing Moore. I'm sure one of Walker's primary goals this recruiting season is to make sure the Bruins stay on top of Rahim's list. Moore said that the hiring of receivers coach Eric Scott sold him on UCLA. Moore's Dorsey team played against Scott, who used to be the offensive coordinator at Crenshaw.

E.J. Woods (S) of Crespi Carmelite is another standout player who will join Moore in the secondary in 2008. He is also being pursued by some big schools like Michigan and California. He committed on the same day as Rahim and the two will be a deadly duo in the UCLA defense for years to come. With the departure of Keyes and Horton after this season, Brett Locket will be the only experienced safety available. I think either Woods or Moore could start early for the Bruins.

Damien Holmes (DE) and Datone Jones (DE) are two stellar defensive lineman that committed early in March. I'm sure the success of Davis and Hickman this last season under Walker's tutelage was a key reason these two decided to commit to UCLA. Holmes is a lot like Davis, a bit small but very fast and athletic with great pass rushing instincts. Jones is a highly recruited end from Compton High School. He has received offers from USC, Notre Dame, Nebraska and a number of PAC-10 schools. Jones is also small for the end position, but he has a large frame and will undoubtedly add some weight and muscle before coming to Westwood.

Uona Kaveinga (LB) has been pursued aggressively by BYU, but the standout linebacker from Arizona has not wavered from his desire to be a Bruin. He is a bruising linebacker who is extremely aggressive and loves to take off the ball carrier's head. Uona has great size already as a Junior and he should come in and compete for playing time right away.

Patrick Larimore (LB) is a an unheralded linebacker from Hart high school. He racked up a ton of tackles last season and he has a great instinct for finding the ball. He has good size and good speed. Since the Bruins have been undersized at the linebacker spot for years, I think Patrick will stand out early. He should have a great Senior year at Hart and I expect his stock to rise a lot this year.

Aaron Hester
(CB) and Anthony Dye (CB) are two quality defensive backs to add to the star-studded secondary. Hester is a bit undersized but he has some good speed and could even play wide receiver. Dye is also a bit small for a corner, but he is very tough. He played a lot of hockey growing up and even participated in some youth hockey tournaments. You got to love a guy who brings the mental toughness and agility of a hockey player to the gridiron.

Johnathan Franklin
(S) is fellow teammate of Rahim Moore at Dorsey. While not as talented as Moore, Franklin is a solid recruit that will help add depth to a secondary that will be full of new faces and inexperienced players in 2008.

2 comments:

Jason said...

Great write-up. I was a little concerned about the lack of offensive playmakers UCLA seemed to be focused on, but Dean and Crissman's committments have helped address those areas, I think.

One area where we're definitely weaker than we have been in the past is on the O-Line. I'd like to see us start shoring up those areas soon - hopefully we can land some good kids.

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