Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Team Recruiting Countdown: No. 14 UCLA Bruins

No. 14 UCLA Bruins (Pac-10 No. 2)

2008 Haul: 23 signees, 3 Athlon Consensus 100

Scouting Report:

Maintaining class stability was likely the first task of new head coach Rick Neuheisel when he arrived in Westwood. Therefore, keeping Dwayne Walker employed as defensive coordinator could be the most productive move Neuheisel will make this offseason. Many of the talented recruits in this class were open about the fact that they would decommit from UCLA if Walker was not a hold over. He stayed and the kids remained true to their word and signed with the Bruins.

This offense was devoid of playmakers last season. The 2008 class is loaded with big play threats. At the running back spot Aundre Dean (Katy, Texas), Milton Knox (Lake Balboa, Calif.), Jonathan Franklin (Los Angeles, Calif.) and Derrick Coleman (Fullerton, Calif.) take a point of weakness for the Bruins and turn it into a major strength. Dean is clearly the most talented and should see the field very early. Coleman is a bit of a sleeper and is more of a fullback than running back. He runs very hard and is a beast to tackle.

Although not star studded, the wide receiver spot is loaded with talent. Again, this spot on Neuheisel’s roster was a point of weakness. They certainly have options now. Nelson Rosario (Oceanside, Calif.), Antwon Moutra (Culver City, Calif.) and Jerry Johnson (Venice, Calif.) are all 6-3 or taller and will be instant impact players on the outside. Cory Harkey (Chino Hills, Calif.) could dramatically overachieve his recruiting rankings.

The defensive backfield was also a point of major concern for this recruiting class. As a result, the Bruins landed what is possibly the best secondary class in the nation. Anthony Dye (Corona, Calif.) and Aaron Hester (Compton, Calif.) could be the starting cover corner combo for the years to come in Los Angeles. E.J. Woods (Encino, Calif) is a human missile from his safety spot and Rahim Moore (Los Angeles, Calif.) might be the fastest safety prospect in the nation. The defensive backfield will be in good hands for the next few seasons.

Depth along both lines was also needed. The offensive line will be a major focus of next year’s recruiting class as the Bruins only landed two prospects in 2008. The defensive line was addressed, at least on the outside. Damien Holmes (Colton, Calif.) and Datone Jones (Compton, Calif.) project as the next set of bookends for the Bruins.

Neuheisel, the former UCLA quarterback, has three quality signal callers coming in this class. The 6-5 JUCO Kevin Craft (Walnut, Calif.), the 6-3 Nick Crissman (Huntington Beach, Calif.) and 6-2 Kevin Prince (Encino, Calif.) will all add depth to a position that was riddled by injuries a season ago.

The kicker of the future for the Bruins is Jeff Locke (Phoenix, Ariz.). Locke is the No. 2 kicker prospect in the nation.

It is no surprise that 21 of 23 prospects (Dean-Texas and Locke-Ariz.) in this class are from California. USC can’t sign them all, right?

There is a clear jump in level of recruiting class with this UCLA class. The top-14 are elite classes and a cut above everyone else in the nation.

Top Prospect: Aundre Dean – RB – Katy, Texas (6-1, 200) AC100 No. 54

This upright running back is a great inside-outside threat. He is very comfortable running between the tackles and is physical enough to pick-up the dirty yards. He also has great lateral quickness and burst out of his cuts. Dean has a nasty stutter step move that he uses to get to the edge. He does not have elite speed but rarely gets caught from behind. He uses his quickness and acceleration to mask his lack of top-end speed.

Dean’s cuts have no wasted movements as he plants and goes as quickly as any running back in this class. He is also a threat out of the backfield in the passing game. He has solid hands and good enough ball skills to be an impact player in the screen/swing passing game.

His running style is the only worry. He runs very upright much like the former Colorado Buffalo Chris Brown, Oklahoma’s Adrian Peterson and Arkansas’ Darren McFadden. All of those runners have dealt with injury issues their entire careers.

Best of the Rest:

Rahim Moore – DB – Los Angeles, Calif. (6-1, 190) AC100 No. 51
Aaron Hester – CB – Compton, Calif. (5-11, 190) AC100 No. 99
E.J. Woods – S – Encino, Calif. (6-1, 210)
Anthony Dye – CB – Corona, Calif. (5-11, 180)
Datone Jones – DE – Compton, Calif. (6-4, 250)
Nick Crissman – QB – Huntington Beach, Calif. (6-3, 200)
Milton Knox– RB – Van Nuys, Calif. (5-9, 200)
Damien Holmes – DE – Colton, Calif. (6-4, 250)
Jerry Johnson – WR – Venice, Calif. (6-3, 190)
Nelson Rosario – WR – Oceanside, Calif. (6-5, 210)

Sleeper: Cory Harkey – TE – Chino Hills, Calif. (6-4, 240)

This could have been the big, bruising runner Derrick Coleman from Fullerton, Calif. However, the lack of depth at the tight end spot makes Harkey a prime sleeper candidate. He is a solid pass catcher already. With some added weight to his big frame and development of blocking skills, Harkey could end up being a solid all-around prospect. Make no mistake, however, this kid will have an early impact in the passing games, especially in the red zone.

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