Chip Kelly scored a recruiting coup Monday when Bo Calvert, a widely coveted linebacker from Westlake Village Oaks Christian High who had long been committed to USC, announced that he was switching his allegiance to UCLA.
Calvert’s change of plans also raised a question: How many other recruits might Kelly have convinced to become Bruins had the new coach been on the job for more than 3½ weeks before the start of the new early signing period Wednesday?
“I’m sure they probably wish they had more time to flip some guys who are going to sign [with other schools] on Wednesday,” said Greg Biggins, a national recruiting analyst for 247Sports. “I think from that standpoint it probably hurt them a little bit because they are getting a late start.”
UCLA on Wednesday is expected to sign about half of its current class of 12 players who have made nonbinding verbal commitments, though the Bruins are far from done. Biggins said he expected the class to roughly double in size by the February signing period.
The school has added five commitments since Kelly was hired while losing 11 players who had previously committed to play for predecessor Jim Mora, who was fired last month. In addition to Calvert, Kelly has landed commitments from Bryan Addison, a receiver-defensive back from Gardena Serra; Chase Cota, a receiver from South Medford (Ore.); Kazmeir Allen, a tailback from Tulare Union; and Alec Anderson, an offensive tackle from Rancho Cucamonga Etiwanda.
Among the other offensive linemen they are pursuing, the Bruins also remain in the running for Jarrett Bell, a guard from Norco; Jarrett Patterson, an offensive tackle from Mission Viejo; Mikey Grandy, an offensive tackle from College of San Mateo; and Atonio Mafi, a two-way lineman from San Mateo Serra.
Biggins said the Bruins needed to round out their class with additional linebackers, defensive backs and offensive linemen. He gave Kelly a “solid B” grade for the recruiting work he had done so far.
“I think people were expecting even more of a buzz with Chip Kelly,” Biggins said, “probably because some of the hires he made are really good coaching hires, but they’re not as well known in recruiting circles.”
Biggins noted that new defensive backs coach Paul Rhoads is mostly known in the Midwest after having spent more than a decade at Iowa State; linebackers coach Don Pellum did not coach this season after being let go from Oregon in 2016; and defensive coordinator Jerry Azzinaro has a reputation more as a tactician than a recruiter.
Of course, the early takeaways from UCLA’s recruiting efforts could change considerably by February.
“What they’re doing is not trying to over-push for commitments right now,” Biggins said, “maybe just kind of wait and see and that’s probably why they only have as few commitments as they actually do.”
A winning mantra
Junior safety Adarius Pickett called the hiring of Kelly “exciting for the program” and said the new coach outlined his championship vision in a meeting with players.
“Moving forward,” Pickett said, “that’s going to be the goal: Go win a national championship.”
Pickett would not say how Kelly’s arrival might impact his decision on whether to return next season or enter the NFL draft.
“My main focus right now is going out there on Dec. 26 and getting a win for this Cactus Bowl,” Pickett said. “I’ll worry about all that other stuff when the time is for that. But right now, my team needs me to be focused on winning a championship and holding up a trophy when the clock hits zero.”