UCLA reloads on defense despite losing record
LOS ANGELES (AP) UCLA didn't make a bowl game last season, but its first losing record under head coach Jim Mora did little to blunt the Bruins' momentum on the recruiting trail.
With a class headlined by the two top defensive players in California, UCLA signed 18 players Wednesday with a continued emphasis on bolstering the offensive and defensive lines.
''We're about where we wanted to be,'' Mora said. ''Last year was awful, obviously. To go 4-8 and be able to secure a class like this says a lot about UCLA and what it has to offer. I think eventually these young men will grow into guys that will help us reach our goal, and our immediate goal is to win the Pac-12.''
Despite notable offensive struggles last season, which were exacerbated by the loss of star quarterback Josh Rosen to a shoulder injury midway through the year, UCLA did not sign a running back or wide receiver. Instead, the Bruins added five offensive linemen, two tight ends and a quarterback, with the rest of the class bolstering their traditionally strong defense.
Jaelan Phillips leads a touted quartet of incoming defensive linemen, while Darnay Holmes is one of five defensive backs that will be asked to offset significant attrition in the secondary.
Other things to know:
Top 25 Class: Yes.
Best in class: Jaelan Phillips, DE, Redlands, California. The top defensive prospect on the West Coast is already enrolled in classes, which bodes well for Phillips' chances of contributing next season as UCLA seeks a replacement for departing edge rusher Takkarist McKinley.
Best of the rest: Darnay Holmes, DB, Pasadena, California. The secondary has been an area of particular strength for UCLA under Mora, and Holmes should get every opportunity to display his five-star billing early on. Mora said Holmes could even contribute on offense.
Late addition: Stephan Zabie, OL, Austin, Texas. Steady left tackle Conor McDermott is gone, and what returns on the offensive line produced the second-worst run game in the FBS last season.
One that got away: Stephen Carr, RB, Fontana, California. Despite hosting Carr on a January official visit, UCLA could not lure the five-star running back away from rival Southern California.
How they'll fit in: Phillips already looks like one of the Bruins' most imposing athletes. Put him in a college weight room for seven months and Phillips should be the overwhelming favorite for Pac-12 defensive freshman of the year. UCLA will definitely want someone to step up at tight end as it attempts to reboot as a power running team for the second consecutive year.
For the full list: http://www.uclabruins.com
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