November 22, 2014; Pasadena, CA, USA; UCLA Bruins running back Nate Starks (23) runs the ball against the Southern California Trojans during the second half at the Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
The UCLA offense got a lot more powerful on Thursday night, as bruising running back Jalen Starks (Encino, CA/Crespi) wasted no time and committed to the Bruins less than 12 hours after receiving his scholarship offer from the coaches.
Starks has long been on the radar of UCLA defensive line coach Angus McClure, whose son attends Crespi with Starks. After longtime running back target Sean McGrew somewhat surprisingly spurned the Bruins for Washington and the staff was left looking for alternatives, Starks quickly emerged as an intriguing option.
It’s especially interesting that Starks was the next man up after McGrew, since McGrew is a diminutive speed demon who thrives in the open field while Starks is a mammoth bulldozer of a running back and a punishing blocker when lined up at fullback.
The shift in priorities, from speed to size, indicates that UCLA’s offensive staff is doubling down on incorporating power elements into Noel Mazzone‘s spread attack, which is a transition that started with the additions of pro-style quarterback (and future galactic emperor) Josh Rosen and traditional blocking tight end Chris Clark in the 2015 recruiting class. This is a philosophical shift that will give the offense the tools to keep opposing defenses off-balance in a big way, since the Bruins will be able to throw speedy players like Soso Jamabo and Jordan Lasley at them on one play, and then follow that up by smashing them in the mouth with Nate Starks, Jalen Starks, and Chris Clark on the next.
As an added bonus from the hasty commitment of Starks, it wraps up 2016 running back recruiting relatively early and allows running backs coach Kennedy Polamalu and the rest of the staff to turn its attention to getting a jump-start on the superlative 2017 California running back class, which includes 5-star freak-of-nature Najee Harris and 4-star dynamo Nathan Tilford. Furthermore, Starks’s teammate at Crespi and fellow May 28th offeree Marcus Moore, an athletic defensive lineman, counts UCLA as his dream school and is likely to commit to the Bruins in the very near future.
Welcome to Westwood, Jalen!