By most accounts, the coaching staff at UCLA entered Wednesday's National Signing Day optimistic about its chances to land several high-profile prospects from the Class of 2013, as well as some lesser-known players on the national level. Nailing down a well-rounded group was the goal.
Mission accomplished. Coach Jim Mora & Co. went above and beyond the call of duty. And a bumper crop of recruits was the end result. Best in years, in fact. In the 247Sports Composite Rankings, UCLA is No. 9 in the team rankings after signing 23 players to national letters of intent.
“For us, it was just about grinding and never letting up. Never assuming that we had somebody locked down or somebody totally committed,'' Mora said. "Until that piece of paper comes across the fax, it isn't over with any prospective student-athlete you're recruiting.''
On the offensive side of the ball, at the skill-player positions, UCLA did well and secured an important commitment from quarterback Asiantii Woulard of Winter Park (FL). His future targets are receivers Eldridge Massington (pictured) from Mesquite (TX) West Mesquite and Darren Andrews from La Puente (CA) Bishop Amat, along with tight end Thomas Duarte from Santa Ana (CA) Mater Dei. Jalen Ortiz of Peoria (AZ) Centennial can play multiple positions.
As for the big guys up front, on the offensive line, Caleb Benenoch from Katy (TX) Seven Lakes leads the way. At some point down the road, he figures to line up alongside Kenny Lacy from Phoenix (AZ) Mountain Pointe, John Lopez from Orange (CA) Orange Lutheran, Poasi Moala from Moreno Valley (CA) Rancho Verde, Christian Morris from Memphis (TN) East, Scott Quessenberry of Carlsbad (CA) La Costa Canyon and Alex Redmond from Los Alamitos (CA).
In terms of making a difference, UCLA did most of its damage on defense. Particularly up front, along the line of scrimmage. Kylie Fitts from Redlands (CA) Redlands East Valley is the marquee name. Also keep a close eye on Kenneth Clark from Rialto (CA) Carter.
At the second level, Isaac Savaiinaea from Honoulu (HI) Punahou leads a solid group of linebackers. Regardless of whether they play right away, he's joined by Myles Jack from Bellevue (WA), Cameron Judge from Westlake Village (CA) Oaks Christian, Jayon Brown from Long Beach (CA) Long Beach Poly and Deon Hollins from Missouri City (TX) Marshall.
The Bruins cleaned up in the secondary with safeties Tahaan Goodman from Rancho Cucamonga (CA) and Tyler Foreman from Encino (CA) Crespi. Both can contribute as freshman. Same thing can be about cornerback John Johnson from Fresno (CA) Central East.
Special teams was addressed as well. With Jeff Locke heading to the NFL, the Bruins picked up punter Sean Covington from St. Petersburg (FL) Saint Petersburg.
In terms of verbal commitments received before National Signing Day, 23 of the 26 are accounted for, not including Priest Willis. The cornerback from Tempe (AZ) Marcos De Niza didn't sign due to an odd scheduling conflict with a close family member. Westwood is option No. 1 for him and his name could be officially added to the list within the next couple of days.
Mossi Johnson from Los Angeles (CA) Crenshaw recently suffered an injury and the receiver plans to take a medical greyshirt this season. He'll be ready in 2014.
As for Craig Lee from Redlands (CA), the only running back commitment for the Bruins, he's been dealing with academic problems and his status is a bit uncertain.
That, in a nutshell, is a recap of the recruiting goings on for UCLA and its Class of 2013. After this haul of players, the bar will be set high for Mora & Co. next year.
Sean Ceglinsky has covered prep and college sports on the West Coast for the better part of the past 15-plus years. Follow him on twitter: @SeanCeglinsky
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