Jim Mora is set to welcome his second recruiting class to Westwood Wednesday, and it is a monster haul: The Bruins have just 18 commitments, but those include eight players with four-star ratings. Most of their incoming talent is on defense, with six of UCLA's top nine recruits projected to play defense at the next level. The result, though, is a 2014 class that projects as perhaps the Pac-12's finest.
|Total commits||Five-star prospects||Four-star prospects|
Update, Feb. 5: The Bruins have added four-star linebacker Kenny Young, beating out Texas A&M.
UCLA's top unsigned commitment is inside linebacker Zach Whitley, from North Shore High School in Houston, Texas. A top-five player at his position and the 92nd-rated player in the country, according to the 247sports composite, Whitley was formerly verballed to Alabama before opting to head westward in early January. He also had offers from LSU, Notre Dame, Florida, and Oklahoma, as well as from in-state powerhouses Texas and Texas A&M.
Not far behind Whitley is safety Jaleel Wadood, the 113th-rated player in the country on the 247sports composite. A product of Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco, the 5'11, 185-pound Wadood is considered a top-10 prospect at safety, and flipped his commitment from Cal to UCLA in December. Here's more on what he will be bringing to the Bruins:
Athletically, Wadood carries quick twitch explosiveness and impressive overall agility. Primarily lined up at safety, he comes downhill in a hurry and is an aggressive tackler. He plays fast due to his instincts and reactive quickness. He is also further along than most as far as the diagnostic aspects of his game. He reads his keys very well and seems to trusts what his instincts tell him, often directing himself towards the point of attack of the offensives play within moments of the snap.
Wadood is a coordinated athlete who stays balanced in his drop. His foot quickness and change of direction translate well to the cornerback position. He shows the necessary traits to mirror wide receiver on hard breaking routes.
Wadood also finds a backfield companion in El Cerrito (Ca.) cornerback Adarius Pickett, the 14th-rated corner on the 247sports composite and the 136th-rated player in the 2014 class. Although he received offers from Nebraska, Northwestern, Virginia and seven other Pac-12 teams, Pickett will be taking his talents to Westwood, and the Bruins will be all too happy to have his athletic talent on board:
In coverage, Pickett displays good reactive quickness. He has the ability to not only re-direct in space but can click and close. He flashes the necessary traits to function well within zone concepts considering driving on the ball is indeed one of his primary strengths.
In terms of defending vertical routes, Pickett carries above average speed but isn't necessarily a burner. However, he tracks the ball well and is a springy athlete who can go up the air to make plays. He has a good understanding of angles and how to cut off routes. He is aggressive supporting the run and is an authoritative tackler for his position.
Not all of the Bruins' focus was on defense. UCLA is also set to sign up a pair of four-star receivers. Austin Roberts, a 6'2, 211-lb. wideout/tight end out of Carmel, Ind., chose UCLA over offers from Ohio State, Alabama, Florida State, Stanford, USC and Florida, among a host of others. Roberts is the No. 2 player out of Indiana in 2014, and the No. 12-rated athlete in the class.
Fellow wideout Alex Van Dyke committed to UCLA in October. Van Dyke played high school football at Cosumnes Oaks High in Elk Grove, Calif., and is ranked as the No. 28 player in the state. Van Dyke earned a four-star rating, and chose the Bruins from an offer sheet that included Oregon, Cal, Oregon State, Utah, Washington State, Fresno State, and others. As SB Nation West Coast recruing analyst Derrell Warren writes, Van Dyke's 6'4, 205-lb. frame could allow for a move to tight end:
Van Dyke is a tall athlete with great length. At first glance, he appears to have average speed but is quicker off the release than his size and angular frame would suggest. Currently listed at 6'4" 205, Van Dyke should easily be able to put on enough bulk to get to in the vicinity of 235 pounds by time his college career is completed.
Four-star athlete Nathan Starks surprised everyone when he chose UCLA over Oklahoma in January. Starks projects as either a running back or safety at the next level and, as we saw with Myles Jack last year, Jim Mora has the ability to use a great athlete creatively. Starks played high school football at Cherry Creek High in Englewood, Colo., where he was named as the No. 2 player in the state. He also held offers from Arizona State, Notre Dame, Alabama, Arizona, Texas, USC, and Colorado.