When you are 7-17 over two years as head coach, regardless of the school, recruiting success takes on a whole new significance. For UCLA’s Chip Kelly, the second part of the 2020 recruiting cycle was really a pro forma event. The Bruins had already signed 18 players in December, with seven of them already being enrolled in school. Add in a few players coming in via the transfer portal, and that left just a few loose ends to wrap up on Wednesday’s National Signing Day.
Kelly got the signatures of defensive backs Jonathan Vaughns and Jake Newman, both from the nation’s top high school program in 2019, St. John Bosco. Both had committed to the Bruins last year but waited until Wednesday to sign. That unofficially brings the total for this class to 23. Kelly said Wednesday he is still looking to the transfer portal to round out the class. He said he is not looking at specific positions from the portal but wanting to fill overall needs.
Newman is 6-1, 194 pounds. He had 77 tackles and three interceptions for the Braves in their championship season in 2019. Vaughns is 6-1, 190 pounds He was a four-star recruit per the 247Sport Composite. He had 64 tackles, including five for a loss, with one interception in 2019. Vaughns is also a high value baseball recruit. He will be playing for John Savage and the Bruins during his Springs in Westwood and then football in the Summers/Falls. He played outfield at St. John Bosco and was also a relief pitcher.
The Bruins have most of their defensive backs from 2019 returning. They lose only Darnay Holmes who declared for the NFL draft.
Kelly said Wednesday he is anxious to see both Vaughns and Newman get to work for the Bruins. “They’ve got great instincts on the football field. They are really intuitive out there. We are excited to see how they fit in in the mix back there.”
UCLA signed three players in this class from St. John Bosco, including receiver Logan Loya. He signed in December and is an early enrollee who will take part in Spring camp in March. There was a fourth commit from SJB in running back Nathaniel Jones, but he decommitted in late January and signed with New Mexico on Wednesday.
Kelly acknowledged that getting three players from the top high school team in the country is significant but dismissed any notion that there was a pipeline created with the Bellflower high school. “That’s one of the great things about being here in Southern California. You get to go out and drive and watch those kids train and workout. It’s a school we visit on a weekly basis. The Trinity is probably the premier league in high school football in the country. You have the chance to go see them every week just because they are in our back yard.” He said the bigger picture is getting the right players to fill the needed spots in the right year, regardless of which school they come from.
The Bruins 2020 class is ranked 32nd in the country, (compared to 40th in 2019). It is ranked 6th in the Pac 12 (same as 2019), after getting passed by Arizona State and Utah late in the process. Kelly said with the returnees from 2019 ad the early enrollees, he anticipates 90 players taking part in Spring camp. That is at least 25 more than the 2019 Spring camp.
That leaves one more critical task at hand; finding a new defensive line coach. Vince Oghobaase left to become the defensive line coach at Boston College. Kelly said they are, “close.” He said there are a few candidates that are going through what he called the, “HR process,” of background checks.
Kelly said they are in the middle of the process and does not anticipate that it will be very long before they have a new coach. He also said he does not anticipate any other coaching staff changes. With the fan base taking note of the poor defensive performance over the last two seasons, people will take that for what it is worth. “You never know in this profession. We are going to be on the field in less than a month, so you hope that all the guys have kind of looked at what the possibilities are and will come back.”
Spring camp starts on March 3rd. The Spring scrimmage is April 18th