UCLA might not have attracted as much early national headlines, but the Bruins have put together quite an impressive early run with commitments from blue-chip prospects like running back Raymond Carter of Los Angeles Crenshaw, tight end Nate Chandler of San Diego Mira Mesa and quarterback Chris Forcier of San Diego St. Augustine.
But as the spring evaluation period moves into its latter stages, the Bruins still have plenty of work left to do, especially at key positions.
"The most important thing they're looking for now are defensive backs and linebackers," Rivals.com recruiting analyst Rick Kimbrel said. "That's probably the biggest holes they need to fill. They'll take a stud at any position, but quarterback, but there are no bigger needs than those two areas."
Word is that UCLA has offered three linebackers already scholarships, but the only one that was identified so far was Penn State commitment Chris Colasanti. That means there are two more targets floating around at the position with offers from coach Karl Dorrell.
At defensive back several highly touted names appear.
"They would really love to get Donovan Warren," Kimbrel said. "They love him and he's a big priority for them. He's the type of Long Beach (Calif.) Poly kid that UCLA needs to get. He could be an immediate gamebreaker for them.
"They're also in on Malcolm Smith, who could be recruited at a number of different positions. Some schools like him as a running back, but a lot of other teams think he would make a great outside linebacker or a safety. He's just one of those very good athletes. He's going to be a tough fight between USC, LSU and other schools."
Another linebacker to keep your eye on is Steve Sloan, who is already holding a Cal offer. The Bruin coaches have been by his school and he'll get a look over really hard at this weekend's NIKE Training Camp in Palo Alto, Calif.
One guy who is not in California, that might also fall under that must get label is 6-foot-4, 263-pound athlete Everson Griffen of Avondale (Ariz.) Agua Fria. Griffen is a jumbo athlete that could project at a number of different spots, but many teams like him at defensive end.
"It really looks like a three horse race between USC, UCLA and Arizona," Kimbrel said. "He's been to UCLA once, but you have to watch out for the in-state Wildcats."
ANOTHER QB TO KEEP EYE ON When you play for a 1-9 team some times college coaches will not even look your direction, but when you're a physical freak like Chris Ball, then it's not going to matter what your record is.
Ball is a 6-foot-3, 215-pound quarterback from San Diego High. He completed 137 of 207 passes for 1,672 yards and 22 scores as a junior, despite having to run for his life almost on every single play. He did miss one game too because of injury so those stats - which includes 404 yards rushing - look even more impressive in nine games.
But what makes him stand out the most is his size and athletic ability. Ball is a multi-sport star and before moving to quarterback this past year he was a talented linebacker.
"Everybody trips out because of how big he is," Ball's father, Terry Ball, said. "He's built like a linebacker, but is a quarterback. He benches about 345 pounds and he out lifts the offensive linemen.
"Last year was kind of tough for Chris. He did a lot of his stuff on the run. He couldn't stay in the pocket. We would average about 25 points a game with him, but our defense gave up about 40. We should be better this year, but that's just on paper."
On paper, Ball is well worth a look and many schools are coming by school to check him out.
"Boise State was here (Wednesday)," Ball's father said. "I also know that Fresno State has been by the school and is very interested in him. He's the type of kid that will excel in everything he does. He's a very good football, basketball and baseball player. I might be biased, but I think somebody is going to get a heck of a player."
ON FIRE It appears athlete prospect Malachi Lewis of Oxnard (Calif.) Rio Mesa is about to explode and become one of the most talked about players on the west. There is a buzz amongst college coaches about Lewis and Monday four schools showed up on the Oxnard campus with the promise of more to come.
Notre Dame and UCLA are two schools looking really hard at offering Lewis after evaluating him in person this week. Arizona State, Idaho are other teams that told his coach that Lewis more than passed the eyeball test.
Nebraska was ahead of the recruiting curve and was first to offer Lewis a scholarship. Utah offensive line coach Charlie Dickey came by Rio Mesa two weeks ago and claimed offering Lewis was a no brainer. The Utes promptly sent out a written offer.
USC coach Pete Carroll came out two weeks ago and told Rio Mesa coach Bob Gregorchuk that an offer would be on its way. Lewis earned first-team all-CIF, all-county, all-league and was League Player of the Year after rushing for 2,187 yards and 24 touchdowns. He was second-team all-state underclassman and second-team super-CIF as a junior. He also played some defense racking up 15 tackles and one pick.
STANFORD HERE WE COME
One of the biggest NIKE Training Camps each and every year is the NorCal camp in Palo Alto, Calif., on Stanford's campus. This is the case again this year as almost every major player in the state is gearing up to make the trip to the Bay Area.
A few players like Akeem Ayers, who hurt himself at a combine this past weekend, won't make it because of injuries or because of track, but for the most part if he's a blue-chip player then he'll be there on Saturday. Expect the coaches to be there, too.
In the past, the NorCal camp has attracted as many as 300 colleges from all over the nation. Expect heavy hitters like Notre Dame, Oklahoma and other national programs to be there, and you can count on the entire Pac 10 to dispatch coaches to see the talent work out.
One player that's ready to test again after starring at the Los Angeles NIKE Camp is Los Angeles Jordan cornerback Antwoine Baker. He and his coach are heading up to San Jose early on Friday to stay in a hotel and prepare for the event.
"Notre Dame came by the school (Wednesday) and said they are looking forward to seeing Antwoine at the camp," Jordan coach Elijah Asante said. "They really liked his size and game film. They got a copy of his transcripts and could offer soon. Also, Texas will be on campus next week."