-- We have been calling him a "surprise" recruit for a while, but we're now prepared to reveal that Matt Dickerson, the 6-5, 260-pound defensive lineman from San Mateo (Calif.) Serra who is committed to Notre Dame, is seriously considering flipping to UCLA. Dickerson, a four-star prospect ranked the #21 defensive end in the country, committed to Notre Dame back in August. At the time it was a bit of a surprise, since it was believed UCLA was leading for him. Dickerson then appeared completely committed to Notre Dame, but once the buzz of the commitment wore off, the word is that he started reconsidering. UCLA's Jim Mora and Defensive Line Coach Angus McClure had an in-home visit with Dickerson before the dead period. McClure is a very resourceful recruiter, especially in his region of Northern California; being from there McClure practically knows or is related to everyone involved in high school football. If you remember, the connections and relationships of "Uncle Angus" were instrumental in getting Eddie Vanderdoes last season. This would be the second Northern-Californian, Notre-Dame-committed defensive lineman in two years that UCLA and McClure has flipped.
It's probably safe to say that Notre Dame didn't send McClure a Christmas card this year.
-- We haven't heard that it's happened yet but that Zach Whitley should be enrolled at UCLA by Friday. Whitley is the Texas linebacker who was verbally committed to Alabama that flipped to UCLA the day before the U.S. Army All-American Game. There was a worry that Alabama would put more pressure on him to reconsider, but the word is that it's almost certain he'll be enrolled at UCLA shortly. His teammate, offensive lineman Najee Toran, who is also committed to UCLA and also intends to enroll early, could have some more complications with the NCAA in enrolling early. It's not considered serious, and if he doesn't enroll in Winter Quarter it's believed he'll be ready by Spring Quarter.
-- From Greg Biggins: San Jose (Calif.) Bellarmine quarterback K.J. Carta-Samuels has been a long time Vanderbilt commitment, where his older brother Austyn was the starter this past year. With Vandly coach James Franklin taking the Penn State job, Carta-Samuels could be on the market. We talked to someone very close with K.J. and he said UCLA would be one school he would love to hear from as academics are big in his family. He plays in a run-dominated offense so there isn't a lot of great film to evaluate but the UCLA staff is aware of him and his potential interest.
Carta-Samuels has some talent. He was the NorCal NIKE Camp QB MVP last year over a loaded group that included Keller Chryst, Manny Wilkins and Morgan Mahalakand participated in The Opening. He has a cannon for an arm, probably the biggest arm in the West and is a good athlete as well. He's just raw, since he doesn't throw a lot for his high school team but he's solid mechanically and a guy we liked a lot during the summer 7-on-7 circuit. He also impressed our national guys seeing him for the first time at the Semper Fi practices as well.
An interesting, related development: Michael O'Connor, the quarterback from Bradenton (Fla.) IMG who is verbally committed to Penn State, is considering looking elsewhere now that Penn State has a new coach. He has indicated that he could look at Rutgers, Michigan State and UCLA. Now, O'Connor could get re-recruited by Penn State and stick with his commitment. Or, Carta-Samuels could follow Franklin to Penn State, since he does have a deep connection with Franklin. Either way, UCLA could get a potential target at quarterback out of the deal. O'Connor is ranked the #25 QB in the nation and Carta-Samuels #23.
-- Trey Lealaimatafao, the defensive tackle from San Antonio (Tex.) Earl Warren, has completely de-committed from Texas. Texas defensive line coach Bo Davis moving to USC was the final factor in deciding to drop Texas, so you have USC to thank for that (USC, also, with limited scholarships due to NCAA sanctions, wouldn't be able to recruit Lealaimatafao). It now appears to be between Oregon, UCLA and ASU. He's visited UCLA and ASU, and will trip to Oregon on January 17th. Most bets are on the Ducks at this point.
-- We've heard that another Texas commitment, safety prospect John Bonney, could be in play. Bonney, the #13-ranked safety from Houston (Tex.) Lamar, has had a connection with UCLA and SoCal with his family. He participated in the B2G Camp at UCLA last summer. At that camp we were very impressed with him, with Bonney displaying good quickness and athleticism for being 6-1 and fairly big, and a great work ethic. We've heard that UCLA has, in fact, reached out to Bonney. An interesting element: Bonney goes to the same high school as John Plattenburg, and the two are close. Plattenburg recently flipped from UCLA to USC, since he had a connection with the former Washington coaches now at USC and it's his mother's alma mater. We would assume, if Bonney is wavering from his Texas commitment, that Plattenburg would be in his ear about USC, but again, there are those pesky NCAA sanctions. More than likely USC wouldn't have room for Bonney.
A bit of an aside: More current USC players are declaring for the NFL Draft, and due to NCAA sanctions, which limits the number of recruits they can take in 2014 to 15, they can't just replace a departed player with a recruit. Not only will the NFL defections hurt USC in 2014 in terms of talent but it will be a blow to its already-depleted depth.
USC's NCAA sanctions: The gift that keeps on giving.
-- One recruit USC is holding a scholarship for is Adoree Jackson, the all-word athlete from Gardena (Calif.) Serra. He's been a tough kid to read, since he doesn't reveal anything -- except that he's not originally from the SoCal area and doesn't have a true deep connection with the local schools. It was thought he was leaning to Florida for a long time, and then recently the thought has been USC, and that very well could be the case. We keep hearing, though, that UCLA is stepping up its recruitment of Jackson, and the possibility is increasing that he could at least take an unofficial visit during one of UCLA's big upcoming recruiting weekends. Jackson recently announced a final six of Florida, LSU, Oklahoma, Tennessee, UCLA and USC. He has taken official visits to Florida State, LSU, Oklahoma and Tennessee, and has one visit remaining.
-- We continue to hear that UCLA's chance with Juju Smith, the other all-world athlete from Long Beach Poly, are improving. As we've detailed, there is an influence close to Smith getting him to keep an open mind about UCLA, and it could result in at least one uofficial visit to Westwood over the next few weeks. UCLA running backs coach Kennedy Polamalu is recruiting Smith, because of the Polynesian connection. We still believe, however, that USC is the leader, with his uncle being the running backs coach there. 10:45 a.m. Update: Smith talked with Mora Wednesday night and sources close to Poly said the conversation went well.
-- We are prepared to reveal that Rashaan Evans, the #1-ranked outside linebacker in the nation from Auburn (Ala.), could unofficially visit UCLA the weekend of January 31st. Right now it's a battle between UCLA and Auburn; most SEC-based sources are saying he's sewn up for Auburn, but others are leaving open the option of UCLA since he has expressed a leaning toward the Bruins at times. He has already officially visited UCLA, and has plans to visit Alabama (Jan. 17th), Auburn and/or Georgia (Jan. 24th) and Ole Miss (Jan. 31st), with the Ole Miss visit obviously conflicting with a potential UCLA unofficial visit. It would be a tremendous coup, first, if UCLA could get that unofficial visit, since it's UCLA's biggest recruiting weekend, with the Louisiana Three visiting (In fact, the LT, we've heard, have been trying to compel Evans to take unofficial visit). Then the big coup would be if UCLA could actually get the signed NLI from Evans, after he ended January with official visits to an SEC gauntlet. UCLA Linebacker Coach Jeff Ulbrich, regardless of what happens, has done an excellent job in recruiting Evans (as well as pulling Whitley away from Alabama).
-- Brad Kaaya, the quarterback from West Hills Chaminade, had a tentative official visit date for UCLA on January 17th, but we've heard that its up in the air at this point. Kaaya pretty much has to decide whether he is truly done and fully committed to Miami. Once Al Golden turned down the Penn State job and decided to remain at Miami the sentiment has been Kaaya is a done deal. But this has been a bit of a peculiar recruitment -- with Kaaya on one hand indicating he was decided on Miami but showing UCLA quite a bit of love. UCLA could very well lose patience with three weeks remaining before Signing Day.
-- UCLA Offensive Line Coach Adrian Klemm is looking for just a couple of good men to play tackle. He has a commitment from Toran as a center, and now just needs a couple of tackle prospects. Nick Gates, the 6-5, 275-pounder from from Las Vegas Bishop Gorman, has quickly moved to the top of the list after his performance in the Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl. Kolton Miller, the 6-8, 295-pound prospect from Roseville (Calif.), will visit on the 17th and the word is that UCLA leads. UCLA also has picked up its recruitment of Kenyon Frison, the 6-5, 290-pound prospect from West Valley City (Utah) Granger, who is considered a soft verbal to Utah, but has official visits arranged to ASU (Jan. 17th) and Nebraska (Jan. 24th), having already visited Utah and Oklahoma. UCLA might try to get him in on the 31st. Academics were thought to be an issue previously but it looks like he could be in good enough shape academically. UCLA also recently offered Derrick Kelly, the 6-6, 286-pounder from Havana (Fla.) East Gadsen. Kelly is ranked just the 109th-best tackle by Scout, but is a late-bloomer and has garnered offers from LSU, Florida State, Florida and Tennessee after de-committing from Kentucky. It's uncertain what kind of chance UCLA has with Kelly at this point.
-- We've heard that UCLA has shown some interest in Kalen Ballage, the 6-2, 215-pound running back from Falcon (Col.) verbally committed to ASU. Kennedy Polamalu had a connection with Ballage. After UCLA got a commitment from Nathan Starks, and it appears he'll be a good bet to qualify academically, and with Marlon Mack, the Florida running back committed to UCLA still taking his official visit January 24th, and UCLA still not giving up entirely on Joe Mixon, Ballage is pretty much a fall-back option at this point.
-- Compton (Calif.) Dominguez defensive line prospect Uriah Leiatauahas set up his official visit to UCLA for January 17th. . He has already visited Washington State, Wisconsin and Stanford and will also visit BYU (Jan. 31). It's probably a BYU, Stanford and UCLA battle right now and it's very close, without much separation among the three.
-- Harrison Phillips, the defensive end from Omaha (Neb.) was verbally committed to Stanford but getting recruited by UCLA. Mora and McClure had an in-home visit with him in December. It was thought that if Phillips was accepted academically by Stanford that would more than likely seal the deal. And that just happened, with Phillips getting word that he's in at Stanford just before his planned official visit this weekend.
-- Interestingly, though, the five-star defensive lineman from Texas, Solomon Thomas, who is thought to be leaning to Stanford, has not heard from Stanford on his admission thus far. He, too, is supposed to be visiting Palo Alto this weekend. The general feeling is that, if Stanford falters here in any way, UCLA is his next preference. It's still believed that Stanford will not allow a prospect of Thomas's caliber to get away and will admit him academically. Also, perhaps Texas and its new coach, Charlie Strong, should not be completely disregarded in the Thomas recruitment. Thomas said he plans to meet with Strong and the new Texas coaching staff at the end of January.
Christian Kirk, the 2015 receiver from Scottsdale (Ariz.) Saguaro, will visit UCLA on February 15th, per his Twitter.
UCLA has made the top six for 2015 four-star Jacksonille (Fla.) Trinity Christian linebacker Jeffery Holland. Holland (6'2, 230) is the teammate of 2015 linebacker Victor Alexander, who already committed to UCLA. UCLA is joined by Auburn, Florida State, Ohio State, Florida, and Alabama in Holland's top six.
Updated 10:50 a.m.: The situation with 2015 quarterback Josh Rosen continues to look very good. Rosen, the prospect from Bellflower St. John Bosco who will likely be moved to the #1 quarterback prospect in the national class of 2015, has told a number of people that UCLA is his clear leader. He has, in fact, discussed with Mora recently about taking unofficial visits elsewhere this spring and summer and then officially committing early to UCLA.
Mattrell McGraw, the DB prospect from River Ridge (Louisiana) John Curtis, has made indications that UCLA is leading for him over Oregon. Now, of course, it's a few weeks before Signing Day, so there is always the chance of a change of heart. But McGraw leaning toward UCLA is significant since he's one of the Louisiana Three, along with receiver Malachi Dupre and linebacker Kenny Young. It's believed UCLA is the leader for Young and right there for Dupre. All three, along with Louisiana defensive end Davon Godchaux, will visit UCLA January 31st, the last weekend before National Signing Day.
***There is also another surprise defensive line prospect committed elsewhere that could decommit soon that we could see UCLA recruiting.***
***As we've said, there are a number of other quarterback options that could make themselves available to UCLA.***