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Saturday, January 4, 2014
UCLA flips ESPN 300 ILB Whitley

By Erik McKinney

UCLA coach Jim Mora didn't take the Texas head coaching job, but that didn't stop him from making an impact in the Lone Star State, as the Bruins gained a commitment from ESPN 300 linebacker Zach Whitley Jr. (Houston/North Shore) on Friday night.

Whitley had been committed to Alabama since early May, but the Bruins -- led by assistant coach Adrian Klemm -- had been pushing hard for the nation's No. 189 overall prospect and No. 8 inside linebacker. Momentum truly began building for the Bruins when the four-star defender took an official visit to Westwood in early December.

The 6-foot-2, 220-pound linebacker -- in San Antonio for the U.S. Army All-American Bowl -- made the decision to switch Friday, which could spark a big weekend for the Bruins. ESPN 300 running back Joe Mixon (Oakley, Calif./Freedom) and ESPN 300 tight end Bryce Dixon (Ventura, Calif./St. Bonaventure) are both expected to announce their decisions during the game Saturday, and neither would surprise many people if they selected UCLA.

With Whitley in the fold, the Bruins continue to make a huge impact in Texas, as Whitley joins teammate NaJee Toran and fellow Texan John Plattenburg (Houston/Lamar) in this class. In the 2013 class, the Bruins landed ESPN 300 prospects Deon Hollins Jr., Eldridge Massington and Caleb Benenoch out of Texas.

The commitment from Whitley gives UCLA a recruiting win over a national power in Alabama and gives the Bruins their fifth ESPN 300 prospect and No. 14 commitment overall in the 2014 class.