Wednesday, February 2, 2011
UCLA Bruins address some needs
By Peter Yoon Special to ESPNLosAngeles.com
The UCLA Bruins' signing day class of 16 football players is absent the high-profile, four- and five-star recruits that dotted coach Rick Neuheisel's classes the past two seasons, but it addresses some areas of need.
Eight of the players signed are offensive or defensive linemen, three are linebackers and one is a tight end. UCLA has only one quarterback, one running back and one wide receiver coming in.
It's a small class, but UCLA had a small senior class that played its final game in December, so there weren't a lot of scholarships to hand out. UCLA, hampered by a 4-8 season last year and turnover in the coaching staff, didn't get everyone it wanted, but Neuheisel remained optimistic that the class was a good one.
Brett Hundley is an athletic QB and the only player among the ESPNU top 150 recruits UCLA signed -- but he's already enrolled.
HEAD OF THE CLASSBrett Hundley, QB, Chandler (Ariz.)
Hundley is a dual-threat, athletic quarterback and the only player among the ESPNU top 150 recruits that UCLA signed.
At 6-foot-4, 210 pounds, he has the ideal size for a quarterback and has plenty of speed to go along with it. In his senior season of high school, he passed for 2,348 yards with 20 touchdowns and only two interceptions and led the team with 856 yards rushing (7.0 yard per carry).
Hundley graduated early from high school and enrolled at UCLA in January. Had he waited until Wednesday to make his announcement, UCLA would have been lauded. He elevates the quality of this class.
BEST OFFENSIVE PLAYERDevin Lucien, WR, Encino Crespi
Hundley is far and away the best offensive prospect in the class, while offensive linemen Ben Wysocki (Los Alamitos), Torian White (Lakewood) and Jacob Brendel (Plano, Texas) give UCLA a solid foundation for a future front line, but receiver Devin Lucien would be next best behind Hundley.
Lucien, a 6-1, 190 pound wide out, was a late bloomer in high school, but drew lots of attention after making 71 catches for 1,259 yards and 17 touchdowns. He's an exceptional route runner and a good athlete who has great leaping ability and good hands.
He's a playmaker who can turn short catches into big gains and is a four-star prospect in some rankings, but is rated a three-star by ESPN.com.
BEST DEFENSIVE PLAYERKevin McReynolds, DL, St. John's College (Washington, D.C.)
McReynolds has been ranked as high as the top five defensive tackles in the nation and is No. 26 in ESPNU's rankings.
A SuperPrep All-American, McReynolds earned four stars from ESPN.com despite missing most of his senior season with a high ankle sprain.
At 6-2, 281, McReynolds still has a little growing to do before he can be effective at defensive tackle at the Division I level, but he's thick and strong and has a frame that can develop into a prototypical defensive lineman.
His strengths are plugging holes and stuffing the run, using his strong lower body to gain leverage. He plays with lots of energy and athleticism, and is considered a good tackler.
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LATE BLOOMERSteven Manfro, RB, Valencia
Manfro is only 5-10, 187 pounds and didn't get too much Division I interest because of his size, but Neuheisel sees a little of New England Patriots running back Danny Woodhead in him.
Manfro was prolific in high school, earning all-state honors after putting up 3,788 all-purpose yards and 41 touchdowns. He rushed for 2,553 yards and had 844 yards receiving.
He's very quick and shifty, as you would expect from someone his size, but lacks breakaway speed in the open field. He may project to more of a slot back type player rather than an every down tailback.
His only other offer came from Wyoming, but Neuheisel is convinced he will develop into an effective player at this level.
Given all the hurdles UCLA had to overcome this recruiting period, the class is about what you'd expect.
Hundley committed before the Bruins went 4-8 and before offensive coordinator Norm Chow left, and you have to wonder if he would have picked UCLA on signing day had he not been an early enrollee.
Had Hundley not signed with UCLA, this class would be seen as a disappointment, and after consecutive classes in the top-20 nationally, it probably still will be seen as disappointing, but Hundley makes a pretty average class passable.
The linemen may not be as exciting to sign as skill players, but they were a definite need. It is a group with above-average intelligence and while the four- and five-star recruits are missing, six of them are three-star players, which isn't bad considering many developed to become all-conference players.
FINAL GRADE: C+