UCLA Football Recruiting Profiles: Breaking Down Bruins’ Top Signees—Priest Willis

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The prized gem of UCLA’s stacked recruiting class is Priest Willis, a 4-star defensive back from Tempe, Ariz. (Marcos De Niza). Willis measures in at 6’2″ and 200 pounds, and is an extremely athletic defender that can play from the safety position or at cornerback.

Priest Willis (3, White) in the Under Armour All-America Game, Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Mora and Co. had to wait a little extra to formally welcome Willis into the Bruin family, as he didn’t officially sign his National Letter of Intent until three days after National Signing Day. But in the end, Willis made his way to Westwood, which should have the Bruin faithful extremely pumped for the 2013-2014 season.

Of all the recruits who signed with UCLA this month, Willis has the best chance to come in and have an immediate impact. And as cliche as the term has become in the blogosphere of college recruiting news, it rings true in Willis’ case.

Ask any Bruin fan what the biggest problem with the UCLA football team was in 2012 and you’ll get the same, resounding answer: the secondary.

Despite having three senior starters in the defensive backfield, the Bruins were far from adept at preventing the pass, and it held them back considerably in Mora’s first season. Now, with a near-empty depth chart heading into 2013, a starting spot at cornerback could be Willis’ to lose.

But don’t get me wrong. There is a wealth of talent that will be competing for time next season at CB, including highly-touted returners Ishmael Adams and Marcus Rios. However, if you watch just a few seconds of Willis’ highlight reel, it becomes pretty obvious why he’s the No. 1 ranked player from the State of Arizona.

Willis is a true blue gamer with a nasty, hard-hitting mentality, and that earned him a spot in the 2013 Under Armour All-American game. As a safety in high school, Willis was exceptional providing help over the top, but also flashed elite ball skills in coverage. During his junior year, Willis racked up 57 tackles and eight pass break-ups, which highlights his ability to patrol the secondary and make the big play.

When Willis suits up for the Bruins this fall, expect him to stake his claim early on. He may not snag a starting role right off the bat, especially since Adams and Rios will be present for Spring practice. But rest assured, he will see the field in 2013, and he will stand out in his true freshman season. Given how freely Mora used first-year players in 2012, there’s no reason to believe Priest Willis won’t be the next youngster to shine in Westwood.