Eddie Vanderdoes, Credit: Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports
With the 2013 college football signing day three months in the past, today wasn’t a day that many expected the biggest UCLA recruiting news of the year. But the world of recruiting has become increasingly unorthodox over the last few seasons, and Jim Mora was the latest to cash in on this paradigm shift.
First reported by the Sacramento Bee, former UCLA target and eventual Notre Dame commit Eddie Vanderdoes has decided not to take his talents to South Bend. Instead, the No. 1 overall defensive tackle prospect in the country will make his way to Westwood next season. And though he’ll likely lose a year of eligibility because ND refused to release his LOI, Vanderdoes will be an instant impact player as soon as he sets foot on the field.
To get a better understanding of just how big this news is for UCLA, let’s take a closer look at what Vanderdoes brings to the table. Here’s a breakdown of Eddie Vanderdoes to the Bruins by the numbers.
Vanderdoes earned a 5-star ranking unanimously across every recruiting service, making him the hands-down highest level commit of the 2013 UCLA class. Before his flip from the Irish, the Bruins didn’t have any 5-stars, with high 4-star Priest Willis as the prized gem of the group. And yet, UCLA still had the best class in the Pac-12, so the addition of Vanderdoes and his lofty ranking is just the cherry on top. With Eddie in the fold, Coach Mora and the Bruins have established themselves as a legitimate contender for the top talent, both in California and around the country.
As you would expect, the recruiting battle for Vanderdoes’ services was fiercely contested, and was really never resolved even after National Signing Day came and went. According to 247Sports, Vanderdoes held scholarship offers from 39 Division I programs, including some of the most elite names in college football. The fact that UCLA won the war over other suitors like Alabama, Florida, Georgia, LSU, Miami, Michigan, Notre Dame, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Oregon and the rest is truly remarkable. And while proximity to his family in California ended up being the deciding edge for the Bruins, he wouldn’t have made the switch unless he was really sold on the program and coaching staff as well. Credit Mora and Co. for sticking with it until the final bell.
This is Vanderdoes’ listed weight as a senior in high school, which gives you some insight into why he was such a hot commodity. There are three tackles (2 DT, 1 NT) on the current UCLA roster, as well as one incoming freshman in Kenneth Clark. As it stands now, only 2012 5-star signee Ellis McCarthy significantly trumps Vanderdoes, weighing in at a gargantuan 330 pounds (though he has an extra 2-3 inches of height to work with). Senior Seali’i Epenesa is listed at 316 pounds, but by the time Vanderdoes is an upperclassman, you can bet he’ll be north of that mark by a wide margin. If UCLA can continue to collect bigger, faster, more physical talent to fill out the locker room, the malevolent moniker “gutty little Bruins” might finally be shed once and for all.
Playing at Placer High outside Sacramento, Vanderdoes combined to rack up 19 sacks as a junior and senior. His physical tools are unrivaled on the West Coast, and he should have no trouble bringing some of that production to the college level. And considering he will have to sit out a season, by the time 2014 rolls around, Vanderdoes will be integrated into Mora’s system and eager to get his feet wet in Westwood. If you’re a fan of crushing opposing quarterbacks, I have a feeling you’ll be high on Vanderdoes at first glance.
This is the amount of class and grace that Notre Dame exhibited in refusing to release Vanderdoes from his Letter of Intent. I understand that the kid made a commitment, but at the end of the day, he’s just a teenager who wants to be closer to his family. It makes sense that the Irish decided against letting him go, as it prevents them from looking weak. However, it’s really unfortunate that Vanderdoes will have to lose a year of college football eligibility, especially since he never actually enrolled at ND. It’s tough to be surprised by the move, but it won’t be tough to root against the Golden Domers for the rest of eternity as a result.