Pac-12: UCLA Bruins
It was a busy weekend in the conference, as 14 prospects made commitments between Friday and Monday night and several others backed out of Pac-12 recruiting classes. It looks as though this could be a sign of things to come, as the conference recruiting race is heating up with little more than a week until signing day.
It's tough to imagine a more exhausting and stressful conclusion to a recruiting process than the one Iman Marshall orchestrated. Over the past 10 days, Marshall has taken official visits to Florida State, LSU and Michigan, as well as hosted several coaches at his home and school. But just like on the football field, the nation's No. 4 overall prospect doesn't appear to be fazed at all by what's being thrown at him.
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The recruiting process can be stressful and serious for a lot of top recruits, which is why ESPN 300 running back Soso Jamabo decided to lighten the mood and crack a few jokes.
Jamabo is one of the more sought after uncommitted prospects in the 2015 class, with Texas and UCLA in the mix for the No. 28 ranked prospect. When asked in an interview who his top schools were, though, Jamabo named ITT Tech and the University of Phoenix as his favorites.
You heard it here first.. https://t.co/YW3zyTeqej— SOMI JaMITCHELL (@Soso_Jamabo1) January 26, 2015
Jamabo continued with the joke on Twitter with a photoshopped picture of himself with the logos of the two schools.
I just wanna thank God.. pic.twitter.com/cdnMiGzNQ4— SOMI JaMITCHELL (@Soso_Jamabo1) January 26, 2015
Jamabo will announce his real college decision with ESPN on national signing day.
Here's a look at how programs in the Pac-12 are faring on the recruiting trail heading into national signing day on Feb. 4.
ESPN 300 commitments: 1
Who they have: The Wildcats hit it big with their top two commitments in ESPN 300 offensive tackle Keenan Walker and ESPN JC 50 defensive tackle Anthony Fotu. Arizona also will add four-star tackle Cody Creason, three-star tackle Harper Sherman and three-star guards Alex Kosinski and Nathan Eldrige to the offensive line. There are a number of skill players on both sides of the ball, including running backs Orlando Bradford and Darick Holmes Jr., cornerbacks Shun Brown, Anthony Mariscal, Samuel Morrison and Dane Cruikshank, wide receiver Cedric Peterson and athletes Antonio Parks and Brion Anduze.
Who they want: There aren't many spots left in this class for the Wildcats, but there are a few important names left on the board. The wide receiver spot could see another addition with Jaylinn Hawkins, though rival Arizona State will put up a fight there. Arizona also will look to continue its run of success in Louisiana, as teammates Arthur McGinnis and Darrell Clark (New Orleans/Warren Easton) are two of the top prospects left for the Wildcats, as well as teammates of Arizona commit Kendal Franklin.
To read the rest of our Pac-12 recruiting class breakdowns, click here .
It's a fairly unusual year for recruiting when it comes to the two Los Angeles programs. While this is usually a zero sum war with a clear winner and loser -- as was the case with the 2014 class, when the Trojans finished 3-for-3 on the final three huge uncommitted prospects in Southern California -- this signing day provides the opportunity for both programs to either finish strong or fizzle out, without one much affecting the other.
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The 2015 Senior Bowl has come and gone, and there were plenty of great showings from Pac-12 players. Here's a brief compilation of some of the content you can find regarding the event:
- CBSSports' Senior Bowl stock report of 10 players who looked good -- one Beaver shows up on this list and it's not the one you're thinking of ...
- FOX Sports made a list of guys who helped their NFL draft stock the most. On this listing you've got a Husky and a Ute (these are probably the ones you're thinking of).
- Sports Illustrated had some similar praise to that of FOX Sports. SI's Chris Burke writes that "[Danny] Shelton's showing for the North team solidified his status as a likely first-round pick."
- The Atlanta Journal Constitution put together a photo gallery of the weekend.
- Former Wazzu receiver Vince Mayle does a video interview for the Senior Bowl.
- Former UCLA defensive lineman Owamagbe Odighizuwa also did a video interview at the Senior Bowl.
- Catching up with Sean Mannion following the Senior Bowl.
- Henry Anderson wrote six "diary" entries from AL.com during Senior Bowl week. You can check all of them out right here.
- Nate Orchard picked up some MOP honors at the Senior Bowl.
- Arizona picked up a wide receiver commitment from a three-star player out of Louisiana.
- Redshirt freshman quarterback Manny Wilkins says ASU is ready to compete for a national title.
- Arizona wasn't the only Pac-12 school to get a commitment from the South this weekend. So did Cal.
- Colorado is finally putting some money into athletics, writes Kyle Ringo.
- Marcus Mariota isn't sure if he's going to throw at the NFL combine.
- Add UCLA to the list of Pac-12 programs that went South this weekend for verbal commitments.
- USC got a verbal commitment from a four-star linebacker, and his mom had some pretty clever shirts made.
- Washington picked up its 24th commitment for the 2015 class.
- Connor Halliday has signed with an agent an intends to start practicing sometime this week.
There was some #Pac12Trolling happening Sunday as former Arizona State defensive lineman Will Sutton decided to comment on Taylor Kelly and Jaelen Strong's autograph session. Always nice to see a few (fun) shots taken between teammates when it comes to this kind of stuff.
Also, if anyone has a chance, check out Sutton's photo at the top of his Twitter page. It's pretty fantastic. Especially if you're a fan of The Lion King ...
Bruins looking to close with Clark
UCLA and Michigan are in a neck-and-neck battle for ESPN 300 tight end Chris Clark. And after visiting the Wolverines two weekends ago, Clark was in Los Angeles this weekend.
The future ??? pic.twitter.com/T0uVlzglpU— Chris Clark (@Clark8Chris) January 24, 2015
The Bruins also received some help from former UCLA and current Jacksonville Jaguars tight end Marcedes Lewis.
Clark would be a significant addition for either program, and the Bruins are hoping they can sway him into becoming the lone true tight end on the roster and a potential immediate-impact player.
UCLA also hosted LSU offensive line commit Maea Teuhema. The nation's No. 71 overall prospect has been committed to the Tigers since February, but the Bruins are looking to make the nation's No. 2 offensive guard part of their strong finish in the state of Texas.
Throw them 4's up!=;=; pic.twitter.com/pI9WdLM0br— TRISTAN. (@MaeaTeuhema) January 23, 2015
And although not from Texas -- but close enough -- ESPN 300 offensive guard Josh Wariboko could also be part of a massive closing stretch for UCLA. The No. 105 overall prospect was in Los Angeles for the B2G West Coast Bowl over the weekend and had an opportunity to spend time with UCLA commits Colin Samuel and Bolu Olorunfunmi.
Arizona State hosted ESPN 300 defenders Rasheem Green and Porter Gustin this weekend, and the Sun Devils look to be in competition with USC for both prospects.
While Arizona State hasn't been discussed much in terms of top classes during this recruiting cycle, Todd Graham's program has an opportunity to close in a big way with some impact prospects still on the board. And speaking of impact, Green had an opportunity during his visit to meet an NFL superstar who can make an impact with any recruit (regardless of the typo in his last name).
Oregon State's big weekend
Rasheem Green and JJ Wyatt just chillin in Arizona State. SFG. pic.twitter.com/BZs0uyU1bJ— Serrahighfootball (@Serrahighsfg) January 25, 2015
The new Oregon State coaches hit the ground running when they took over the program after Mike Riley took much of his staff with him to Nebraska. Gary Andersen's staff has reshaped much of the recruiting class and added a big one recently when they were able to flip defensive end Keivonnis Davis from his Syracuse commitment. Davis was on his official visit this weekend and took some time to get to know the Oregon State mascot.
Me&Benny pic.twitter.com/fEgD8SnEBF— 1Double_Stick1 (@keivonnis) January 24, 2015
Oregon State is also in on fellow defensive end Simi Moala, who holds offers from Miami, Utah and Washington State. At 6-foot-7 and 220 pounds, Moala is an intriguing prospect along the defensive line.
The Golden Bears have done well at the wide receiver spot in this class, but head coach Sonny Dykes obviously feels there can't be enough talent at that position on his roster. High three-star Texas receiver A.D. Miller took an official visit to Cal over the weekend and had a simple question for Golden Bears fans.
Utes host commit
Do I look good in gold & blue? =›=™=; pic.twitter.com/fSoNc9i5IF— A.D. Miller (@Admiller_9) January 25, 2015
Part of Oregon State's recent run on the recruiting trail has come at the expense of Utah, as former Ute assistant coaches made their way to Corvallis and were able to flip two commitments in the process. But Utah still holds a strong class, especially with the recent flip of former Cal commit Johnny Capra. The offensive tackle makes four nice additions at that position for the Utes, including three-star Arizona prospect Nick Carman, who took his official visit to Utah over the weekend.
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Call it, Friendo.
Two quotes today... because Happy Friday.
In case you suffer from football withdrawals at any point this weekend, take solace in the fact that plenty of elite college talent will be suiting up for the Reese's Senior Bowl this Saturday. The Pac-12 is sending an entire gaggle of representatives to this game. Most will be representing the North team, but UCLA's Anthony Jefferson and Owamagbe Odighizuwa will play for the South.
There'll be a nasty collection of defensive line talent on the North team: Think Danny Shelton, Henry Anderson, Hau'oli Kikaha, and Nate Orchard -- all on the same unit. Seeing that group play together should create a fun dynamic for avid Pac-12 fans who have watched those players terrorize quarterbacks over the past few seasons.
On the other side of the ball, Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion may have a chance to throw to receivers from Stanford (Ty Montgomery) and Washington State (Vince Mayle).
Other Pac-12 representatives: Hayes Pullard and Josh Shaw (USC), Eric Rowe (Utah), Damarious Randle and Jamil Douglas (ASU)
This one will feature plenty of hustle, as it's the final live game opportunity for these seniors to raise their NFL Draft stock.
- Let's check in on former Arizona star Rob Gronkowski in the buildup to the Super Bowl. Seahawks cornerback Jeremy Lane doesn't think he's that good. #BulletinBoard
- Building smarter stadiums is a goal of the future, and ASU is part of the effort.
- There's a smattering of not-so-good Cal recruiting news here, including word of Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh taking a look at a current Golden Bear commit.
- Colorado's season will begin two days earlier than planned -- at Hawaii on Thursday, September 3.
- FishDuck.com delivers a nice Oregon recruiting update regarding official visits.
- New Oregon State coach Gary Andersen told Sports Illustrated that he left Wisconsin because of his frustrations with that university's admissions standards.
- Stanford basketball added backup Stanford football offensive tackle Nick Davidson to its roster. The 6-foot-7, 288-pounder did not see action in Thursday's game against Arizona.
- Who'll replace Brett Hundley as UCLA's starting quarterback? A true freshman named Josh Rosen is one option. There's more here.
- An interview with USC athletic director Pat Haden, who says the arrow is pointing up for Trojan football.
- A column that will make Ute fans smile: BYU football falling behind Utah.
- Chris Petersen is having some success on the recruiting trail. He tweeted the signature #Woof after the Huskies netted a four-star commitment.
- Did Washington State defensive lineman Xavier Cooper leave for the NFL draft too soon? Cougfan.com has its take.
Did you know Ronnie Lott played basketball at USC? That guy needs to be on the football team. Sign him up!
UTSA at Arizona
Michigan at Utah
Arizona State vs. Texas A&M (NRG Stadium, Houston)
Arkansas State at USC
Virginia at UCLA
Colorado at Hawaii
Weekend take: There's some early action to salivate over here. Jim Harbaugh will make his Michigan coaching debut on a Thursday night at Utah. It's hard not to love that: The Utes have developed into the same type of physical team that Harbaugh molded at Stanford and likely intends to create in Ann Arbor. Plus, that Rice-Eccles Stadium atmosphere is electric. Now just imagine it at night in front of a football-starved crowd against a traditional college football power. Yum.
With a maturing defense and plenty of experienced, explosive pieces returning on the offensive end, there's a feeling that ASU can do some more damage in 2015. They'll have an early chance to prove that on the massive stage that is Houston's Reliant Stadium against Texas A&M. A Pac-12-SEC matchup is a relative rarity. Think of the last one we had at a gigantic "neutral" site: Oregon-LSU in 2011. This game won't generate the same massive level of hype as that one did, but it's sure to drum up its share of buzz.
The UTSA-Arizona and Virginia-UCLA matchups have a key connecting thread: Those two opponents made the Wildcats and the Bruins sweat last year. There's not a single gimme on this opening weekend slate for the Pac-12 South.
Arizona at Nevada
Cal Poly at Arizona State
Idaho at USC
UCLA at UNLV
UMass at Colorado
Utah State at Utah
Weekend take: Nevada pushed Arizona deep into their meeting this past season, and that was in Tucson. The Wildcats must be wary entering Reno -- elevation can make for an unpleasant playing experience. Otherwise, the most notable Week 2 nonconference game for the Pac-12 South is the battle of the Beehive State: Utah State has seen plenty of success over the past few seasons, and they'll take their shot at the Utes very seriously. In-state rivalries are fun.
Outside of that, there's not much intrigue here. UCLA fans will get to make the weekend trip up I-15 through the desert to Las Vegas, though. There's some fun in the schedule for the Bruins there.
Northern Arizona at Arizona
New Mexico at Arizona State
BYU at UCLA
Colorado vs. Colorado State (Sports Authority Field at Mile High Stadium, Denver)
Utah at Fresno State
Weekend take: They might have tried to purge this from their memory, but there are certainly some UCLA fans who remember the last time the Bruins played BYU. The year was 2008, and the Cougars walloped UCLA 59-0. Any player connections from that shellacking are long gone by now, but BYU's visit to the Rose Bowl will be a key early-season game for both programs. Taysom Hill should be back under center for the Cougars while the Bruins will be adapting to life after Brett Hundley.
Following a winless Pac-12 campaign, Mike MacIntyre faces a massive season in Boulder, and it would behoove the Buffs to win the Rocky Mountain Showdown this time around. The game against Colorado State is played at a neutral site in Denver and promises to be an important early tone-setter for both programs.
Meanwhile, Utah has assembled quite the satisfying nonconference slate. The Utes follow those aforementioned exciting match-ups against Michigan and Utah State with a road trip to Fresno State that shouldn't be taken likely. The Bulldogs are known to circle the wagons and put up vicious fights against Power 5 opponents in their home fortress, so Kyle Whittingham's team will be tested.
Nicholls State at Colorado
Weekend take: It would be disingenuous to pretend that this game is intriguing. Colorado finished winless in Pac-12 play last season while Nicholls State ended 0-12.
USC at Notre Dame
Weekend take: Now we're talking. The Trojans embarrassed Notre Dame 49-14 to close the 2014 regular season. That sets up a revenge factor here -- though motivation should never be an issue in this storied rivalry. Both teams harbor high hopes for 2015, so this mid-October tilt is showing plenty of promise.
In case you missed the first three installments, check out Nos. 21-25 here, 16-20 here, and 11-15 here.
Now, on to the next batch ...
No. 6: Washington DE Hau'oli Kikaha
Statistics: 25 tackles for loss (139 TFL yards), 19 sacks, 2 pass breakups, 3 forced fumbles
To contextualize the sheer amount of damage Kikaha inflicted on opposing offenses this season, imagine the length of a football field -- plus 40 yards. The Washington senior led the nation with a staggering 139 tackle for loss yards, and he also edged Utah's Nate Orchard for the national lead in sacks (19, though Kikaha played in one more game). The 6-foot-3, 246-pound senior was a speed-rushing force of nature in Seattle throughout his collegiate career, one in which he successfully fought back from two ACL tears. He was consistent, too: Kikaha registered at least a half-sack in all but one of Washington's games this season.
No. 7: Washington DT Danny Shelton
Statistics: 93 tackles, 16.5 tackles for loss, 9 sacks, 3 QB hits, 5 fumble recoveries
Kikaha -- and other 2014 Washington defensive stalwarts such as Shaq Thompson -- are quick to credit a large part of their statistical success to the disruptive force that Shelton generated inside. First off, this guy checks in at 6-2, 342 pounds, and he can move. That's obviously a rare combination, and it's the reason Shelton is dominating at Senior Bowl practices. But unlike most good defensive tackles who occupy double-teams without lighting up the stat sheet, Shelton went the extra mile: He racked up statistical productivity, too. This season saw 93 tackles, 16.5 TFL and nine sacks -- all absurd numbers for a tackle.
No. 8: UCLA QB Brett Hundley
Statistics: 3,155 passing yards, 69.1 percent completion rate, 22 TD passes, 5 INT, 871 rushing yards, 10 TD
Hundley showed the type of improvement NFL teams wanted to see out of him in 2014. He became more accurate (he upped his completion rate to 69.1 percent from 66.8 in 2013), and he cut his interception tally down to only five. In short, Hundley did a better job avoiding mistakes despite feeling significant pressure throughout the season -- the Bruins surrendered 40 sacks, the 113th-worst protection performance in the nation. Hundley showcased his dual-threat explosiveness throughout the year, and he saved a stellar performance for hated rival USC, throwing for 326 yards and three TDs. Hundley finished 3-0 in his career against the Trojans. In Westwood, that's a huge deal.
No. 9: Utah RB Devontae Booker
Statistics: 1,512 yards, 5.2 per carry, 306 receiving yards, 12 TD
In the regular season, Booker rushed for 759 yards after contact, 187 more than any other Pac-12 player. That statistic alone is enough to demonstrate Booker's value as a runner who has brought an impressive speed-power combination to the Salt Lake City backfield. Booker finished second in the Pac-12 rushing rankings behind only UCLA's Paul Perkins with 1,512 yards. Booker also registered 306 receiving yards as the centerpiece of Utah's offense. Booker's performance was made more impressive by the fact that defenses could frequently key on him since Utah's passing attack was so inconsistent. His return next year is critical news for Kyle Whittingham's team.
No. 10: UCLA LB Eric Kendricks
Statistics: 149 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss, 4 sacks, 3 INT, 5 passes defended
Kendricks led the nation twice in solo tackles over the course of his UCLA career, and one of those campaigns came in 2014, his final go-round in Westwood. This guy was a tackling machine throughout his time in Bruin blue, so it's fitting that he was the only player in the nation to eclipse the century mark in solo tackles this past season. The other statistical inventory here might be even more impressive: When Kendricks led the nation with 150 tackles in 2012, he recorded the highest tally of any UCLA player since 1978. Given his consistently excellent productivity from the second level, it's no surprise that Kendricks leaves college as the Bruins' all-time leading tackler. He also has the Butkus Award in hand. Well deserved.
The NCAA is investigating 20 colleges, according to Brad Wolverton of the The Chronicle of Higher Education.
Wolverton reports that 18 of the cases are with Division I programs, so Pac-12 fans should certainly pay attention. Even if it's not affecting one of your programs it might be affecting a program that you're playing in 2015.
The cases are at various stages, from preliminary inquiry to awaiting a hearing with the Division I Committee on Infractions, and they involve a variety of missteps, including allegations that players received impermissible assistance from professors, academic advisers, or people outside of an athletic department.News/notes/team reports:
- One reporter caught up with former Arizona defensive lineman Dan Pettinato at the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl.
- Arizona State could possibly get a late commitment from a player who's currently committed to UCLA and has some familial ties to Stanford.
- The California Golden Blogs has got you covered from a recruiting perspective. It had not just one, but two recruiting updates on Tuesday.
- Colorado athletic director Nick George said he knows the defensive coordinator search is taking longer than expected but he hopes to make a hire soon.
- OregonLive.com is counting down the top 10 Oregon football commits -- No. 8 was on Tuesday.
- Oregon State has flipped a former Syracuse commitment with just a few weeks left in the 2015 recruiting circuit.
- A current San Francisco 49er is pulling for his younger brother -- a three-star safety from Louisiana -- to commit to Stanford.
- Bruins Nation took a fun look back at the 1947 UCLA Rose Bowl team.
- A former four-star recruit who redshirted this past year at USC will be transferring.
- Former Utah head coach Ray Nagel has died at the age of 87.
- A review of the 2014 Washington defensive line, and a look at what the future holds for the position group in 2015.
- CougCenter checked in with former Wazzu receiver Vince Mayle at the Senior Bowl.
Pac-12.com did a fun #ExplainThe90s theme today on Twitter and the results are quite entertaining. Anytime there's a 90's throwback, the Pac-12 Blog is there, so we're all about this.
Offense: The Bruins featured plenty of explosive talent in 2014. When it came to dual-threat quarterbacks, Brett Hundley was a household name. Paul Perkins ended up leading the Pac-12 in rushing (1,575 yards, 6.3 per carry), and Jordan Payton represented some of the fine receiving skill on this team. As a result, points were the expectation in Westwood this year, and the Bruins delivered them much of the time. But their season was also plagued with frustrating dry spells, most of which were rooted in UCLA's inability to effectively protect Hundley. The Bruins surrendered 10 devastating sacks in their first loss to Utah, and they later saw Hundley go down five times in their defeat to Stanford. By the end of the season, UCLA had surrendered 40 sacks, ranking them way down at 113th nationally in pass protection. The offense finished sixth in Pac-12 scoring (33.5 points per game) despite its explosive punch -- a rather disappointing tally. Still, Hundley and Perkins pushed their team over the top of most -- but not all -- of those struggles. Grade: B-
Defense: Late in the year, Jim Mora contended that his defense had followed a "jagged upward trend" throughout the season. That evaluation helps illustrate the difficulty of pegging UCLA's performance on that side of the ball. The Bruins' defense delivered three defensive touchdowns to bail the offense out in a tenuous season-opening victory at Virginia. It then forced three turnovers -- including a game-changing Ishmael Adams pick-six -- in a resounding 62-27 blowout at Arizona State.
But then came severe struggles, best exemplified by sideline drama against Oregon, when frustrated defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich tried to surrender his play card to Mora. It was an embarrassing moment caught on national television cameras, and the Bruins leaked oil for two more games after that. They finally reached their defensive potential in a stifling 17-7 win over Arizona. More consistent defensive success seemed to come after the emergence of defensive lineman Takkarist McKinley helped sparked a pass rush: UCLA averaged 1.3 sacks per game through its first eight contests, but that number shot up to nearly four sacks per game over its final five. The Bruins registered 13 combined sacks against USC and Kansas State, bringing the kind of heat that allowed Butkus Award winner Eric Kendricks to truly shine as a tackling machine on the second level. Grade: B-
Special Teams: Ka'imi Fairbairn delivered a solid season for UCLA, missing only one field goal from inside 40 yards. Adams also posted solid kick return numbers, housing a 100-yard dash against Arizona State. Football Outsiders' FEI ratings indicate that the Bruins were solid -- but not great -- across the board on special teams, with the exception coming in their below-average punt return performance. Grade: B
Overall: Given soaring preseason expectations and the rather mercurial play described above, UCLA's season isn't easy to firmly evaluate. The Bruins finished 10-3 and they walloped hated rival USC -- both important feats, no doubt. But they also followed that huge win over the Trojans with a 31-10 home flop to in-state rival Stanford with a Pac-12 title game berth on the line. In Hundley's final season, this program was hungry to make that jump to elite status, but they had to settle for another good year instead. Grade: B-
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