Sep 6, 2014; Pasadena, CA, USA; UCLA Bruins wide receiver Jordan Payton (9) runs for a first down in the second half of the game against the Memphis Tigers at the Rose Bowl. UCLA won 42-35. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Less than a week after cutting his list of schools under consideration down to seven, 4-star wide receiver Darian Owens (Fresno, CA/Clovis West) announced Thursday night that he had wasted little time in making it an even more exclusive list of one. Indeed, on Friday afternoon, Owens confirmed the identity of the school that had won the race for his verbal commitment: UCLA.
Go Joe Bruin mentioned in its Introduction to 2016 Wide Receiver Recruiting just three days ago that the Bruins have been a long-time favorite for Owens and stood an excellent chance of nabbing his commitment. But the timing of Owens’s pledge, coming so quickly after he narrowed things down to a list of seven last Saturday, caught many observers by surprise.
As far as his game is concerned, Owens is an elite two-way talent who could be an all-conference player on either side of the ball. On offense, Owens is a solid route-runner who can set up defensive backs and has the explosiveness to out-maneuver them once the ball hits his hands. On defense, Owens is a rangy ball-hawk who could be a truly incredible center-fielder type of safety in the mold of Bruin great Rahim Moore. UCLA, for its part, has been recruiting Owens as a wide receiver, which is his preferred position (as his highlight reel that is 95% composed of offensive highlights makes crystal clear).
We mentioned previously that it was a surprise for Owens to announce a commitment to UCLA so soon after indicating that he was going to play out the recruiting process until closer to National Signing Day. For UCLA’s coaches though, it was an incredibly pleasant and welcome surprise, especially because Owens is an elite recruit at a position UCLA needs to reinforce after only grabbing one receiver commitment in 2015. Per the 24/7 Composite Rankings, Owens is the highest-rated wide receiver recruit to commit to UCLA since Jordan Payton flipped to the Bruins from Washington on Signing Day 2012 to help round out Jim Mora‘s first recruiting class in Westwood.
If the addition of a high-upside prospect like Owens isn’t tantalizing enough for UCLA fans (and it should be), then it’s important to note the added bonus that comes with bringing Owens into the fold: the fact that Owens’s high-school teammate is 5-star linebacker Caleb Kelly (in the picture below on the right, wearing a blue “UCLA Football” shirt and making the “4’s Up” hand-sign next to Owens), the top overall recruit in the West region in 2016 and one of the best linebacker prospects to emerge out of California in quite a while.
Blue-chip 2016 football prospects Darian Owens (center) and Caleb Kelly (right) from Clovis West High School celebrate Owens’s commitment to the UCLA Bruins. (Photo Credit: Caleb Kelly’s Twitter account @calebkkelly)
UCLA is in Kelly’s top 10 and considered to be one of the legitimate contenders to land Kelly. Bringing in a teammate and friend like Owens cannot hurt the Bruins at all in that pursuit.
Alongside fellow commits Demetric Felton (Temecula, CA/Great Oak) and Michael Pittman (Westlake Village, CA/Oaks Christan), Owens helps to form the foundation for an outstanding 2016 UCLA wide receiver class. And with elite playmakers like Damian Alloway (Fontana, CA/Summit) and Dymond Lee (West Hills, CA/Chaminade), among others, still heavily considering the Bruins, things stand to get even better for wide receivers coach Eric Yarber‘s group as National Signing Day nears.
Welcome to Westwood, Darian!