Everything You Need To Know About UCLA's Incoming Freshman Class

[Editor's Note: This story was first published on bruinsnation.com on April 20, 2020]


ENROLLED: 7


Logan Loya, 4-Star WR

Amassing 1,109 receiving yards on 72 receptions and 9 touchdowns puts Loya in a good spot upon enrolling at UCLA. There are currently three spots on the receiver depth chart that are, for the most part, solidified. However, Loya could see some big minutes if he continues his elevated play during the most crucial games as he did in high school. He logged 10 catches for 132 yards and 1 touchdown in 2019 CIF Open Division state championship-game win over De La Salle HS and later posted 10 receptions for 161 yards and two touchdowns in 2019 CIF-Southern Section Division 1 championship-game win over Mater Dei HS. Performing well when the lights are brightest bodes well for his high school credentials.


John Humphrey, 3-Star CB

The number 34 ranked athlete in California, per 247Sports, is coming to UCLA with 35 tackles and 6 interceptions in 2019 on the defensive side of the ball. Adding to his diverse profile, Humphrey also tallied 23 receptions for 563 yards and 12 touchdowns while serving as a primary kick returner. It is likely that UCLA will place him in the secondary where they are in desperate need of a young gun to break through their inexperienced lineup. A versatile player such as Humphrey has a strong chance to contribute in a special teams role in his freshman year.


Choe Bryant-Strother, 3-Star ILB

With two enrolled inside linebackers and one having a signed letter of intent competing with Bryant-Strother, the 3-star (top 20 ILB, per 247Sports) recruit looks to seize a position in a widely-open depth chart. In 2019, he earned himself the recognition of the Atlanta Journal Constitution by being labeled preseason all-state where he followed up with a season comprised of 101 tackles, 4.0 sacks, and 1interception for the Spartans. Bryant-Strother appears to have a head start on his freshman ILB counterparts, but will need to prove that against the current starters along with the incoming JUCO Caleb Johnson.


Mitchell Agude, 3-Star DE

Redshirt Junior Mitchell Agude comes in as an athletic weakside defensive end. Rated 10th best JUCO by Rivals and 2nd best JUCO defensive end by 247Sports, he finished off his JC career with a championship performance to be reckoned with where he totaled 10 tackles (3 for loss of yards) and one sack. By the end of his 2018 season, Agude had produced 43 tackles, 3.5 sacks and 2 forced fumbles. His experience should carry some weight coming into the 2020 season as his main competitor for the position will be Odua Isibor (RS Sophomore) who saw playing time in 12 games, starting in only 2.


Kenny Mestidor, 3-Star DE

Coming off a year where he was named Chancellors’ Defensive Player of the Year in 2019 (New England Prep School Award), Mestidor looks to add young legs to the defensive end position where UCLA has moderate experience at. His size and athleticism offer position versatility as a 4-3 defensive end (ranked 26th by Rivals) or 3-4 outside linebacker (ranked 56th by ESPN). It is possible that UCLA may save a year of eligibility due to their heavy recruiting in his position and alike. Thus, it remains in Mestidor’s hands to battle out against his newly enrolled contemporaries for an active spot on the depth chart.


Caleb Johnson, 3-Star ILB

Johnson, a Redshirt Junior out of Fullerton College comes in as the number 2 ranked inside linebacker. With 41 tackles--8.5 of which ended up in a loss of yards--and 5.5 sacks, Johnson looks to have the potential to overtake converted safety Carl Jones’ spot. An experienced JUCO at a new school with a linebacker position that currently sits in uncertain hands, Johnson looks to fill the troubling void. He was given an opportunity at the University of Texas to do the same but fell short. His second chance at a D-1 school should be a motivating force going forward with UCLA surely benefitting from that.


Myles Jackson, 3-Star ILB

UCLA fans are all too familiar with a talented linebacker named Myles Jack who graced the program from 2013-2015. Now it is time for UCLA fans to get excited once again for yet another athletic linebacker. Standing at a 6’2 230 lb frame, Jackson posted a verified (247Sports) 20 yard shuttle time of 4.40 seconds and a vertical of 37.6 inches which are numbers that would do well in this year's NFL Combine. With great starting athleticism comes versatility as Jackson is ranked 21st as a weakside defensive end (247Sports) along with being listed as the 34th ranked inside linebacker (ESPN). His resume was impressive his senior year in high school posting 63 tackles, 9.0 tackles for loss, and 11.0 sacks. In 2020, he will be competing with the other new additions to the program, but should not be discouraged if redshirted in order to gain experience while preserving a year of eligibility.


SIGNED LETTER OF INTENT: 13


Damian Sellers, 4-Star OLB

With offers from Alabama, LSU, Oklahoma, and many more prestigious schools, it becomes apparent that 6’3 225 lb Damien Sellers has a bright future ahead of him. The 115th overall ranked recruit (ESPN) is UCLA’s highest in the 2020 recruitment period. The high praise is substantiated by his 65 tackles (32.5 for loss) and 8.5 sacks during his high school senior season. UCLA’s highest-rated recruit is significant not only in the numbers but on the upcoming season’s depth chart as well. The loss of all starting 2019 linebackers left them depleted and while they made strides in the recruiting department for 2020, the position remains wide open. Although an incoming freshman, the potential to seize a starting spot would not be far out of the cards for this young bull. A talent like Sellers, accompanied by UCLA’s résumé as a top 10 Linebacker U (Sports Illustrated), we could be potentially seeing another great future NFL prospect.


Parker McQuarrie, 4-Star QB

Parker McQuarrie is a 4-Star Pro-Style Quarterback who stands tall over the majority of his contemporaries at a 6’7 220 lb frame. This has provided him a solid pocket presence in high school which will surely continue in college where he will take snaps behind a larger O-line. Through 8 games in his senior season, McQuarrie posted 932 yards with 9 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. What his skill set brings to the table is a compact, quick release with a touch on intermediate and long throws. His rather stationary presence in the pocket (likely a byproduct of his height and style), accompanied with relative inexperience at the position (only 17 games played between his junior and senior season in high school), will be worked on at the next level. Therefore, it will be unlikely McQuarrie will see any minutes in his true freshman season. However, the future remains bright as this is not the first quarterback Chip Kelly has worked with that shares such a massive frame under a Pro-Style guise. Wilson Speights, a 6’6 transfer from Michigan in 2018 had moderate success under Kelly’s scheme which helped him earn a spot on the San Francisco 49ers. The same fortune may be true for McQuarrie if he buys into Kelly’s scheme.


Jonathan Vaughns, 4-Star OLB

PAC-12 fans may recognize the Vaughns name, as Jonathan’s older brother is USC’s starting wide receiver Tyler Vaughns. The St. John Bosco alum played defensive back in high school, showing great run-defending and tackling ability, though his coverage skills leave more to be desired. When UCLA recruited him, they asked if he would be comfortable playing a sort of safety/linebacker hybrid. Vaughns, being the competitor he is, responded by saying he just wants to see the football field and contribute to the team in any way possible. 247Sports has him listed as a linebacker strictly due to his enforcer mentality and willingness to make the tackles close to the line of scrimmage. He stands at 6’2 215 pounds which is great size as a DB but could put on some weight if he makes the switch to full-time LB. With the Bruins lacking a solid linebacking core, it is safe to assume Vaughns will have the chance to contribute early in his collegiate career. Even if UCLA decides they want to keep him at safety, he has the range, athleticism, and hard-hitting ability anyone would love to have in their secondary.


Matt Sykes, 4-Star WR

As mentioned before, the Bruins are bringing back all three starting receivers from last season, them being Kyle Philips (RS Sophomore), Chase Cota (Junior), and Jaylen Erwin (Senior). That leaves a few spots on the depth chart left for the taking, but Sykes will definitely be in the running for one of them. In his senior season for St. Louis School in Hawaii, Sykes reeled in 40 catches for 742 yards and 7 touchdowns. He did not face press coverage very often, but when he did, he was able to use his hands to create separation. At 6’4 203 pounds, the former Crusader has solid acceleration and athleticism that, when paired with his height and length, forms a deadly combo. Despite his natural ability, he never really dominated at the high school level, which can be concerning given he was greatly outsized and had more speed than his opponents. His frame alone will cause UCLA to give the 4-star recruit a chance to secure a roster spot but if he is too raw, especially as a route runner, he may see a redshirt in his first season.


Jay Max Jacobsen, 3-Star DE

The 6’4 230-pound prospect out of Temecula, California tore up opposing offenses in his senior season, racking up 77 total tackles, 9 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, and even hauling in 1 interception. Jacobsen beat offensive tackles with his speed and agility, often using outside to inside moves and or purely running past them on the edge. He also flashed his play recognition skills as he was disciplined on run plays, making sure to stay in his gap. Like with multiple positions on the roster, UCLA is currently thin at defensive end with both Keisean Lucier-South and Josh Harris graduating. The Bruins only had two other players take snaps on the edge according to PFF, them being RS Juniors Shea Pitts and Jayce Smalley who combined for just 83 total snaps played last season. If Jacobsen can add more pass-rushing moves to his arsenal, as well as how to win with leverage, he will have the opportunity to be a long-term option on the defensive line.


Jake Newman, 3-Star S

Newman will join high school teammates Jonathan Vaughns and Logan Loya in putting on the UCLA blue and gold to start their college careers. The former St. John Bosco defensive back weighs in at 192 lb and stands at 6’1 while also running a 4.80 40-yard dash per 247Sports. He won’t be the fastest player on the field, but Newman possesses an acceleration that will surprise some. His tackling technique is better than many, even at the college level, and he has the ability to not only wrap up running backs and receivers but has the power and hard-hitting ability to bounce them back a few yards. The Bruins already have Stephen Blaylock (also hailing from Bellflower, California) and Elisha Guidry at the safety position, as well as various other rotational pieces. Despite the competition at the position, Newman has the natural instincts and skills to wow the coaches into giving him a spot in the rotation as a true freshman. Even if he did take his first year to redshirt, it will give him time to build muscle and catch up to the college speed of play.


Bruno Fine, 3-Star OG

247Sports’ 61st ranked guard in the nation hails from Salpointe Catholic High School in Tucson, Arizona. Fine started at left tackle for the Lancers, coming in at 6 feet 4 inches and weighing roughly 240 pounds. Due to his rather "small" size, he will most likely kick inside for the Bruins. He plays with athleticism that is not so common among offensive lineman which allowed him to reach the second level and pull in the run game. His length helped him seal edges effectively and open gaps for his running back to crash through. Pass-blocking is not his strong suit and will need to work on his stance and foot speed, but nothing the UCLA coaching staff can’t correct him on. The odds of him redshirting his freshman year are high, but it will allow him to add on the necessary weight to perform on the interior for years to come.


DJ Warnell, 3-Star CB

The Texas product earned first-team all-district honors in his sophomore, junior, and senior high school seasons. At Dickinson HS in Dickinson, Texas, Warnell lined up at both cornerback and deep safety, proving his versatility in the secondary which UCLA could use more of. According to his Hudl profile, he is 6’2 190 lbs, which is a solid size for either position, though the Bruins will presumably keep him at CB due to the less than stellar play from the position in 2019. Warnell is comfortable in press coverage and has speed to spare which bodes for his odds of playing next season. Even if he does not receive time in the defensive backfield, he was a proven contributor on special teams as a punt and kickoff team gunner.


Patrick Selna, 3-Star OT

Patrick Selna is one of two offensive linemen who have committed to UCLA for 2020. A thin incoming o-line class is likely a result of Kelly shifting his focus to playmakers and in the meantime, developing the current trench personnel. Therefore, it is likely the Bruins will be redshirting Selna to provide time to develop his body (barring any injuries to those ahead of him in the depth chart). With an extra year under his belt whilst maintaining his freshman eligibility, Selna should expect to see himself rise to starter level in the 2021 season when redshirt senior Jake Burton graduates. His strengths reside in his length (6’6) and athleticism although a bit on the lighter side (250 pounds) regarding a college-level tackle. Working with an offensive line staff that has produced a first-round tackle selection in Kolton Miller for the Raiders just 3 years ago, one can be confident in a young Patrick Selna to try to follow those footsteps.


Ioholani Raass, 3-Star DE

The 6 feet 3 inches and 230-pound defensive end out of Skyridge HS dominated in his senior season, posting 45 tackles (14.5 for loss), 9 sacks, 1 forced fumble, and he even forced 2 pass breakups. Raass has a solid frame as a defensive end already, but with a college weight room and program, he will only continue to develop. He moves with speed and agility that you would not normally expect from a 230-pound high schooler but Raass’ explosiveness can be easily seen through highlight tapes. He was able to disrupt passing games with ease at the high school level, and with college coaching and refinement, he will have the opportunity to do the same against NCAA competition. He has the range and athleticism to drop into coverage but does not hold the same instincts defending pass-catchers as he does rushing the passer. If UCLA maximizes his strengths and does not ask him to cover, it is feasible that we can see him play significant seasons as a true or redshirt freshman.


Jeremiah Trojan, 3-Star ILB

Do not let his name dissuade you into thinking he can not be a productive player for the Bruins during his time in Los Angeles. Trojan has a solid build already as he stands at roughly 6’3 225 pounds. Coming out of Hamilton HS in Chandler, Arizona, Trojan was listed as 247Sports’ 52nd best linebacker in the nation. UCLA is losing four inside linebackers this season and another few who will be out of eligibility before the 2021 season. This opens room for Trojan to excel and not be trapped low on the depth chart. As a senior, he racked up an impressive 97 total tackles, 5 sacks, and 1 interception according to MaxPreps. He is no stranger to playing close to the line of scrimmage and showed his ability to diagnose plays as they happened, which can be seen from his tackling numbers. He does not look natural or fluid in coverage, which he will need to work on in order to keep up with tight ends and running backs in the receiving game. Trojan is a prime candidate to receive a redshirt in his freshman season, but expect to see his name on the football field come 2021.


Luke Akers, 3-Star K

Luke Akers, a familiar last name on the list of great NFL kickers, aims to continue his father’s (David) legacy. Ranked 6th in the nation by ESPN and 247Sports, Luke certainly did his research on which schools could provide the best tutelage at the kicker position. UCLA has sent three placekickers (Justin Medlock, Kai Forbath, and Ka’imi Fairbairn) and one converted punter (Jeff Locke) to the pros in the last two decades. UCLA has put faith in Akers offering him a scholarship. As of right now, he is expected to be slated at #2 in the depth chart right behind walk-on Nicholas Barr-Mira (RS Freshman). However, the starting role will be up for grabs come September as UCLA has an abnormally young kicking team this year. We should expect to see both Barr-Mira and Akers making appearances on the field in the 2020-2021 season as they compete for a solidified starting role.


Joquarri Price, 3-Star OLB

As mentioned before, linebacker is a huge need for the Bruins and is the reason why they recruited the position so heavily (6 LBs enrolled/committed according to 247Sports). Price is an outside backer, primarily used in high school as a pass-rusher, which is where UCLA will most likely keep him. Coming out of Desert Ridge HS, Price already has a knack for getting after opposing quarterbacks, recording 15 sacks in his senior season. In comparison, UCLA’s edge defenders were only able to generate 8 QB sacks last year. With both starting edge rushers leaving the program this season, Price will at the very least be given a look by his coaches during training camp. Although he may not start, or even rotate in on defense, there is a very strong probability that he plays on special teams in his true freshman season due to his production at the high school level.


TRANSFERS: 4


Obi Eboh, 3-Star CB from Stanford

With the loss of star cornerback Darnay Holmes to the draft, the Bruins looked within the PAC-12 to try and bolster their secondary room. The redshirt senior transferred from the Cardinals knowing UCLA would give him the best chance to play on the gridiron. Eboh played a career-high 368 snaps last season according to Pro Football Focus, but the extra workload did not result in him producing at a high level. He was burned multiple times in 2019, giving up 5 touchdowns into his coverage and recording 0 interceptions, accumulating in a paltry 149.6 passer rating allowed. With a 6’2’’ 195-pound frame, Eboh has the size and raw athleticism to contribute in 2020, but it will be up to the Bruins’ DB coaches to maximize his potential.


Evidence Njoku, 3-Star WR from Miami

Brother of the Cleveland Browns very own David Njoku, Evidence wanted to follow in his older siblings' footsteps and play for the University of Miami. Things did not work out in Florida for the younger Njoku, however, as in November of 2019 he decided to leave UM and enter his name into the transfer portal. The redshirt junior is listed as a wide receiver but could see a position change to tight end as UCLA is currently slim at the position with Devin Asiasi heading for the draft and Jordan Wilson, Matt Lynch, and Josh Harris all transferring. Njoku stands at 6’6 nearly 230 pounds and possesses great athleticism, especially for a TE. It is all projection for him as he only played nine total games for the Hurricanes and only caught one pass for 11 yards. One thing he has going for him is Chip Kelly loves incorporating tight ends into his offense, just look at Devin Asiasi’s production last year and Caleb Wilson’s before him. If the UCLA coaches are able to tap into his ability, Njoku has a great opportunity to be a star for the Bruins and hear his name called come the 2021 NFL draft.


Brittain Brown, 3-Star RB from Duke

The former Blue-Devil has seen his playing time, and thus his production, decline each year since his redshirt freshman season in which he carried the rock 131 times for 707 yards and 7 touchdowns. In 2019, Brown participated in just three games, touching the ball only 14 times for 69 total yards and no scores. He will try to rebound with the Bruins in his final year of eligibility as the roster needs to find their next bell-cow back as Joshua Kelley leaves for the NFL draft. UCLA will have Demetric Felton returning for his redshirt senior season but he is more of a receiving back, often lining up in the slot and running routes out of the backfield. Outside of Felton, Kazmeir Allen (Junior) and Martell Irby (Junior) could see their roles increase in their third year with the team. Both running backs are 5’8’’ which is a bit small to carry the entire workload of an every-down back, which is exactly why UCLA sought Brown. He is 6’1 and 205 pounds, a frame that should handle the hits and pounding he would take starting in the backfield. Brown has the opportunity to be the next every-down back for the Bruins but it will be up to him to show the coaching staff that he is worthy of that mantle in training camp.


Qwuantrezz Knight, 3-Star S from Kent State

UCLA is in desperate need of backend secondary help, not due to transfers or graduates, but to poor play from the position last season. The Bruins will be returning all six of their players who took snaps at safety, including starters Stephen Blaylock (Junior), Elisha Guidry (RS Sophomore), as well as rotational piece Quentin Lake (Senior). Each of the three allowed a passer rating over 100.0 last season, forfeiting 712 receiving yards and 3 touchdowns to no interceptions. Knight, who started 10 games with the Golden Flashes after transferring from Maryland, was solid in his redshirt senior season and will look to bring versatility to UCLA’s defense. He generated 6 QB pressures, 61 total tackles, and 4 deflected passes. According to PFF, Knight allowed a reception percentage of 64.2% in 2019, none of the Bruins’ safeties allowed a rate lower than 69.0%. Expect the coaching staff to give him every opportunity to start for the team next year.


SUMMARY:


With Chip Kelly’s third recruiting class behind him, one would not be "making leaps" to state that he may have lost his touch. In 2020, UCLA comes in with the 32nd ranked recruiting class. That is only a marginally better recruiting cycle when factoring in his worst attempt (40th in 2019). One can also entertain the idea that he has done a lackluster job in keeping his recruits, let alone developing them. In the last two years UCLA has lost a total of 31 players to the transfer portal which is more than an entire season's worth of scholarships.


On top of that, the recruits he is keeping have not (generally speaking) shown much progression either as UCLA has finished their last two seasons with records of 3-9 (3-6 in Pac-12) and 4-8 (4-5 in Pac-12). A program that had shined for the better portion of the last decade has closed out the year on the bottom half of the conference. With the University of Oregon (Kelly’s former school) establishing a pipeline to funnel So-Cal talent up north, it remains to be seen how Kelly will retaliate and bring UCLA to glory as he had done with his former program. He has the rudiments of a young foundation assembling but will need to proceed with a bit more urgency as his seat currently remains warm.

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