Special to CalHiSports.com
The UCLA Bruins may not have gotten everything that it wanted from the 2014 recruiting class, but the school nonetheless added some substantial pieces that could answer some of the big questions for the team coming into the season.
What’s more, the Pac-12 Conference title contender kept it local, with 13 of the team’s 19 early commitments coming from California, including three recruits that should address the team’s most pressing need: its defensive line.
Analysts love the chances that Ainuu Taua, Matt Dickerson and Jacob Tuioti-Mariner will help patch up the Bruins’ leaky d-line so much that sportsbooks’ NCAA football futures have UCLA listed as one of the favorites to win the 2015 BCS Championship.
With that in mind, here is a look at the three big Californians who are expected to shore up the defensive line for UCLA’s 2014-2015 college football season.
Ainuu Taua (Lompoc)
Defensive Tackle Taua recorded seven sacks and 36 tackles in his last high school season on his way to Cal-Hi Sports first team all-state honors and brings 293 pounds of play-making ability to the Bruins’ defense. Taua, ESPN’s 210th-ranked player in this draft class, can get off the line very quickly, breaking up run plays before they develop in a way the 2013 team struggled to do.
Matt Dickerson (Serra, San Mateo)
Dickerson showed his poise and maturity when he switched his commitment from Notre Dame to UCLA to be closer to his family after his father was diagnosed with prostate cancer. The 6-foot-5 player from Tom Brady’s alma mater didn’t play in his senior season after injuring a vertebrae, but the strong side defensive end racked up 50 tackles and four sacks as a junior on his way to being tapped as a four-star recruit in 2014.
Jacob Tuioti-Mariner (St. John Bosco, Bellflower)
Versatile athlete emerged as a pass-rush specialist who amassed 12 sacks while playing for unbeaten CIF Open Division state champions as a senior. Scout.com ranked Tuioti-Mariner as the 12th-best defensive end prospect in the nation, and you can bet the man will, in addition to his fellow defensive linemen draftees, make a difference in numerous games to come.
All told, even if the Bruins didn’t get all of the five-star names they were after coming into the 2014 season, their home-state recruits should help lead the charge for a team that could easily win it all.
Attention young athletes: To check out info and to sign up for the first-ever Cal-Hi Sports/Gold Medal Excellence All-Sports Speed Camp and All-State Football Combine, CLICK HERE for June 14 event in Tracy or CLICK HERE for June 22 event in Bakersfield.