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Pac-12 Football Recruiting Profile: UCLA Bruins

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Our 9th edition of in-depth examinations into each Pac-12 school’s recruiting habits

NCAA Football: UCLA-Head Coach Chip Kelly Press Conference Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to a series in which I am profiling the recruiting trends and habits of each team in the Pac-12 conference over the past 5 seasons. That includes the 2014-2018 classes ending with the incoming freshmen for this upcoming season.

The data I used does not include every single offer and commit for every program but it does include the vast majority. The cuts I made were deliberate. To see more information about what specifically is in the data set and an explanation of any metrics I used, please check out this article here which has all of the information you could want and more.

You can also look at the previous editions profiling: Arizona, Arizona State, California, Stanford, Colorado, Utah, Oregon, and Oregon State. With that out of the way, let’s look at the UCLA Bruins.

Program Overview

There was every reason to think that the latter half of the 2010’s would belong to UCLA. An Alamo Bowl victory over Kansas State in 2014 gave the Bruins consecutive 10-win seasons in Jim Mora’s 2nd and 3rd years on campus. 2015 saw a dip to just 8-5 but at least UCLA defeated USC for the 3rd consecutive season. The bottom fell out in 2016 as a 4-8 campaign was seemingly inexcusable given the Bruins’ baseline talent levels. Still though Mora was given a year to turn it around with a likely top-10 draft pick at QB in Josh Rosen. That didn’t happen as Rosen missed some games and UCLA finished with another losing record at 6-7. The Bruin brass decided to make a change and Mora was replaced by Chip Kelly who has gotten off to an...interesting start in Westwood.

General Recruiting Statistics

Average Offer: 3.73 stars, 0.915 composite rating (3rd in conference)

Average Commit: 3.56 stars, 0.896 composite rating (2nd in conference)

Average # of Offers: 167.4 (3rd in conference)

Recruiting Style: Offers- Spray and Pray, Quality- High Roller

Mora was always among the conference leaders in players offered but didn’t take things to extremes. However, 2018 by far saw the most offers handed out for UCLA although that often happens in a coaching change year where the new coaching staff has an entirely different board than the previous one.

Despite that UCLA has managed to bring in premium talent. They’re 2nd in the conference in both 5-star and 4-star prospects signed. It certainly hurts that #1 in both categories is their crosstown rivals but the allure of being located in Los Angeles makes it difficult to imagine that UCLA won’t bring in a loaded recruiting class. Although someone may be testing that notion right now...

Best Recruiting Win: Class of 2017, OLB Jaelan Phillips, 5 stars, 0.9989 composite rating.

Any time you manage to bring in the top ranked player in the entire country it probably qualifies as your biggest recruiting win. His final 5 also included Notre Dame, USC, Washington, and Stanford and the Cardinal were the crystal ball leader at the time of the announcement. He only made the move to top player in the country after his senior season but UCLA was able to fend off any late moves for him. Phillips finished his freshman season with 21 tackles and 3.5 sacks in 6 games.

Worst Recruiting Loss: Class of 2018, CB Olaijah Griffin, 5 stars, 0.9849 composite rating.

Griffin was the #3 corner in the entire country and committed to Jim Mora in June of 2017. After his dismissal though Griffin opened things up initially placing Tennessee as his leader. But as could be expected Griffin instead decided to stay in Los Angeles but flip to USC.

Recruiting Map Profile

UCLA Offers 2014-2018

If you draw a line through the middle of California extending east across the country and then stay south of it you’d be able to figure out where the majority of UCLA’s attention in recruiting lies. Over 3/4th of their offers are extended to prospects either in California or what would be considered the southern part of the U.S. Some of those California offers go to the northern part of the state but the Bruins don’t really need to focus anywhere but the densest population centers. They don’t go for the sleeper prospect out of a small town. They go to the major feeder high schools and generally grab who they need.

Highest Success States

California: +37.01%, Nevada: +2.33%, Colorado: +1.16%

Unsurprisingly the 37.01% success rate for California is the 2nd highest success rate for any Pac-12 program in any state behind only their L.A rival. California is a big state and there’s a ton of talent there but the odds of any other Pac-12 school waltzing down there and plucking an elite player away from one of the L.A schools is incredibly difficult. The Bruin roster is made up almost entirely of Californians (67%) while they comprise only about 30% of their total offers.

Lowest Success States

Florida: -10.83%, Texas: -6.61%, Georgia: -4.66%

The same three schools end up in this category for essentially every Pac-12 school just in varying orders. UCLA has gotten a commitment from 11 of the 277 players they’ve offered from these states combined for a rate of 3.97% including 0% from Georgia. That rate is 15.9% for prospects from all other states combined.

Out of Conference Profile

Non-Conference Rival- Notre Dame Fighting Irish, 51.79%.

The Bruins and Irish don’t play a yearly game like two other California conference schools but they go head-to-head in recruiting basically all the time. There are 11 prospects per year with offers from both that choose one or the other. That edge has been slightly in UCLA’s favor on an overall basis with a 29-27 advantage. But it gets more one-sided looking at the quality of the recruits as UCLA has won the battle for all six of the 5-star prospects meeting this criteria.

Non-Conference Big Brother- Ohio State Buckeyes, 24.39%.

Technically this should be the Texas Longhorns but they’re the winner for basically every Pac-12 program so I’m mixing it up here since it’s close. Of the 41 players with offers from both it’s been 31-10 in Ohio State’s favor. That includes the Buckeyes winning for the 4 most highly rated players and 27 of the 30 most highly rated overall.

Non-Conference Little Brother- San Diego State Aztecs, 90.0%.

It’s not exactly a shock that UCLA’s cachet is better than SDSU’s with southern California recruits. That results in a lopsided 27-3 scoreboard in the Bruins’ favor. UCLA has won out on the 12 most highly rated players choosing between the two although give San Diego State credit for managing to reel in a pair of 4-star players with UCLA offers.

UCLA Pac-12 Recruiting Win % (2014-2018)

Year Conf H2H % Conf. Rank
Year Conf H2H % Conf. Rank
2014 14.91% 4
2015 13.33% 5
2016 14.57% 3
2017 9.33% 6
2018 11.63% 4
Overall 12.60% 4

The downturn in record of the last few seasons and the coaching change at the end of last season had a clear impact on UCLA’s recruiting abilities. Chip Kelly was mostly able to hold together the 2018 class after Mora’s dismissal but it was still a tier below what Mora had done from 2014-2016.

UCLA Weighted Pac-12 Recruiting Win % (2014-2018)

Year Conf H2H % Conf. Rank
Year Conf H2H % Conf. Rank
2014 58.86% 4
2015 65.93% 2
2016 62.53% 3
2017 50.00% 4
2018 41.40% 4
Overall 55.74% 4

The Bruins look better in the weighted category but there’s still a dramatic dropoff between 2014-16 and 2017-18. Whereas in the non-weighted numbers it looked Kelly actually did better, here they drop off between Mora’s last year and Kelly’s first.

The previous category views every prospect with at least two Pac-12 offers as equal whereas this one adjusts things based on how many Pac-12 offers they have. More than one-third of UCLA’s commits in 2018 had no more than one other conference offer. They still got some of the highly sought after talent as 40% of their commits had offers from half the conference but the lower end was a tier below what Mora had been getting.

Early Outlook for 2019 and Beyond

It’s a good thing we didn’t run this edition a week earlier or else we’d be talking about UCLA having a big fat goose egg on the recruiting scoreboard. The Bruins finally got their first commitment for 2019 last week and it was a QB with a...0.83 composite rating and no other Pac-12 offers. Hmm. (They also added a 3-star California TE this morning in Michael Martinez).

Most programs don’t see a dramatic shift in recruiting philosophy when a new coach takes over but Kelly has brought a new era to UCLA recruiting for better or worse. The Bruins are almost tied with Stanford for the fewest offers handed out in the conference which is totally new for them. The average offer is essentially the same as previous years so they’re still going after top-end talent but they haven’t reeled any big fish into the boat yet.

UCLA is a fascinating case study right now. Kelly had huge success at Oregon but he was already established in the program and had the culture and philosophy that aided his style built in when he took over. That’s not the case at UCLA and there are numerous red flags demonstrating that it might take a roster rebuild and a few bumpy years for Kelly to get his system ingrained. And that’s before raising concerns that his innovative style which took the college football world by storm while in Eugene might not be that innovative anymore.

If Kelly sees success right away it might ease recruits’ fears and UCLA might have a strong close to the 2019 recruiting class. But if the culture clash is evident then Kelly may have to sacrifice a year or two of recruiting in order to bring in lower rated players who fit his system/culture better first. That approach might breed more success in the long run (look at Washington) but it goes against the expectations of the UCLA fan base and will certainly poke a lot of bears if it plays out that way.

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