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Wednesday, February 19, 2014
Early Offer: Mora’s must-get guy for 2015

By Jeremy Crabtree

The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a daily dose of recruiting in the mornings.

Wednesday's offerings: After several swings and misses on signing day, UCLA has all the ingredients to turn things around with the 2015 class, and it all starts with the nation’s No. 1 quarterback. Also, Wisconsin is using Gary Andersen’s ties to the West to land quality prospects.

Rosen key for UCLA’s momentum
UCLA was the recruiting story of the West in 2013 when the Bruins closed as strongly as anyone and finished with the nation’s No. 12 recruiting class. The 2014 class was a different story. UCLA got four-star linebacker Kenny Young on signing day but whiffed on its efforts to land No. 1 receiver Malachi Dupre, four-star linebacker Rashaan Evans and five-star cornerback Adoree' Jackson. “We were the bridesmaids,” UCLA coach Jim Mora told reporters at his signing day news conference. “Heck, we might’ve even been the ring girl on a couple of guys today. But we were in the wedding. We were in the church.”

The Bruins cast a wide national recruiting net, went head to head against some of the biggest recruiting powers in the SEC and came up mostly empty. Yes, UCLA’s class was still full of quality players and ranked No. 26 in the country, but the Bruins saw rival USC grab national headlines on signing day and climb all the way to the top spot in the Pac 12 recruiting rankings. That, coupled with UCLA’s lack of signing-day success, makes a strong 2015 effort vital for the future of the program.

The good news is there’s plenty of elite talent in California in 2015, and much of it has eyes on the Bruins. Josh Rosen (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco) is the top quarterback in the country and the top player in the state, and he said over the weekend UCLA continues to be the team to beat for his commitment. Michigan and Texas are going to get unofficial visits in the coming months, but a commitment from Rosen could turn the momentum back UCLA’s way.

“He’s the type of player other players want to play with,” one Pac 12 North assistant said. “If UCLA gets Rosen then that will help them land a lot of other good players in L.A. I think it also helps them with their national recruiting approach. Everything’s easier when you have the best quarterback in your class. He’s a must-get guy for them.”

Badgers continue to cast wide net
In the past under Barry Alvarez and Bret Bielema, Wisconsin’s recruiting focus was primarily centered around the Midwest and stockpiling skill talent from the Southeast. However, with Gary Andersen’s strong ties to the West as an assistant coach at Utah and head coach at Utah State, the Badgers have expanded their recruiting footprint dramatically. A great example of that shift is the commitment earlier this week of ESPN 300 tight end Kyle Penniston of Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei. The No. 7 tight end in the country had offers from Florida State, Miami and Washington State and surely would have picked up more from Pac 12 schools had he waited, but Penniston wanted to play for Andersen. Wisconsin’s other 2015 commitment comes from quarterback Austin Kafentzis of Sandy (Utah) Jordan, and the Badgers 2014 class featured players from 12 states.