UCLA Football Recruiting: 2016 Defensive Big Board 1.0

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Sep 25, 2014; Tempe, AZ, USA; UCLA Bruins linebacker Myles Jack (30) celebrates a play against the Arizona State Sun Devils at Sun Devil Stadium. UCLA defeated Arizona State 62-27. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports


Coming off a 2015 class in which the Bruins landed only Joshua Woods as a true linebacker, UCLA linebacker coach Scott White needed to load up with much-needed reinforcements in the 2016 class. And load up he did from the earliest moments of the class, as he went out and secured the Bruins three blue-chip linebacker commitments for 2016 before the ink was even fully dried on letters of intent of the 2015 class.

At inside linebacker, White wrapped up the two best mikes in the state by the end of March. Of course, he had the fortune of landing two players who were a camp circuit tandem and close friends who basically committed one after the other. The first of those two was 4-star Krys Barnes (Bakersfield, CA/Liberty), who had such an instant rapport with Coach White that by the time UCLA offered Barnes a scholarship in mid-March, Barnes instantly committed on the spot to the Bruins. Barnes is a fantastic inside linebacker prospect with outstanding athleticism who can cover sideline-to-sideline.

The thunder to Barnes’s lightning on Team Ground Zero of the 7-on-7 camp circuit was fellow 4-star Bruin commit Lokeni Toailoa (Rialto, CA/Carter), who committed to UCLA a week after Barnes did. Toailoa is a hard-nosed tackling machine and defensive general who plays with a physical edge that sets him apart from nearly every other linebacker in the West in 2016. He plays the linebacker position with a tenacity and violence that make him a tackling machine and an intimidator in the middle of the field.

In addition to the two inside linebackers, UCLA has a commitment from an outside linebacker in 4-star Breland Brandt (Los Angeles, CA/Windward School). Brandt was UCLA’s first commit in the class of 2016 — way back in October 2014 — and deserves a ton of credit for being absolutely steadfast in his commitment, never even slightly wavering or considering other schools since pledging to the Bruins.

Early on in the recruiting process, Brandt was rated as a consensus 5-star recruit based almost solely on his elite size and absurd athleticism, which made him a coveted basketball recruit as well before he decided to stick to football. However, his rating dropped off because he simply wasn’t dominant enough in game action for someone with his pedigree against very low-level high school competition.

Brandt is one of those players who will be as good as he wants to be and hasn’t fully realized yet how limitless his potential really is. He will be joining UCLA as a rush end, which is better known to most UCLA fans as the “Anthony Barr” position. If everything clicks with Brandt, then the Bruin faithful will be reminded of Barr in more ways than one.

As far as uncommitted linebacker recruits go, Scott White has been locked into a singular goal since the spring: reel in the commitment of Mique Juarez (Torrance, CA/North).

Juarez is, without a doubt, the highest-rated overall recruit remaining on the board for UCLA. Following up on an absolutely remarkable junior season in which Juarez basically played every possible position under the sun to a very high level, Juarez elevated himself to a consensus 5-star linebacker prospect who draws constant comparisons to Myles Jack. And his senior season has only amplified the belief that Juarez is destined for instant superstardom at the college level, as he was a two-way force at quarterback and linebacker for North High School:

And luckily for Bruin fans, it is well known that Juarez comes from an ardently pro-UCLA family:

"4's up great time with Coach Mora & Coach white!"

With a Bruin family in his corner and the Bruin coaches pursuing him with maximum vigor and relentlessness, it’s no surprise that both 24/7’s Crystal Ball and Go Joe Bruin’s humble recruiting writer believe that Juarez is going to be a Bruin when it’s all said and done. If Juarez does in fact pick UCLA, then go ahead and pencil him in as a starter when the Bruins open their 2016 season on September 3, 2016 at Texas A&M.

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