DJ Uiagalelei is trying to become only the fifth quarterback to be chosen the No. 1 prospect in his recruiting class in the 19 years Rivals has been rating high school football prospects.
The 6-foot-4 Bellflower St. John Bosco product is in prime position to make that happen. Rivals released Monday its updated top 10 for the 2020 class and it has a heavy Southern California flavor at the top. Three of the top four players are from the Southland, with Uiagalelei remaining at the top with his blend of arm strength, accuracy and intangibles.
“[He] has incredible skills and he's everything NFL teams are looking for in a quarterback,” Rivals national analyst Adam Gorney said. “He’s smart, he takes to coaching, he has an incredible strong arm and in the last year or two years his accuracy has gotten so much better. Uiagalelei no longer just throws a fastball, he can put touch on his passes, he can lead receivers and he’s an excellent teammate.”
Uiagalelei has climbed to the top of the recruiting rankings where no Southern California player has finished since defensive end Ronald Powell of Moreno Valley Rancho Verde in 2010.
“There are going to be a lot of outstanding prospects pushing Uiagalelei for the No. 1 spot in a loaded 2020 class, but the coaches at Bosco had Josh Rosen and now Uiagalelei, so they know how to develop elite talent and the 2020 quarterback is something special,” Gorney said.
Two of those Uiagalelei will be trying to stave off are local defenders who will be trying to shut him down. Upland linebacker Justin Flowe stayed at No. 3 in the latest rankings and Santa Ana Mater Dei cornerback Elias Ricks moved from No. 6 to No. 4.
Uiagalelei and Ricks faced off in the St. John Bosco-Mater Dei rivalry twice last year. Ricks essentially locked down one side of the field as Uiagalelei rarely tested him.
There were plenty of other options readily available in the first matchup. Uiagalelei completed 15 of 22 passes for 279 yards and five touchdowns in a 41-18 rout, though none of the five scores came against Ricks in man-to-man coverage. Mater Dei shut down the Braves’ passing attack in the Southern Section Open Division championship. The Monarchs held Uiagalelei to seven-for-19 passing for 177 yards with two interceptions, including a diving catch by Ricks for the ninth interception of his junior season. He returned six for touchdowns.
Flowe had 19 tackles, a sack and two quarterback hits against St. John Bosco his freshman year, but Uiagalelei didn’t make his debut with the Braves until a year later. That game was a launching point for Flowe becoming one of the most recognized defenders in the nation. Rivals’ top defensive player loves to hit and doesn’t shy away from competition.
“What I love about Justin Flowe is that he’s already a five-star prospect and a top-five player nationally; he’s already done all the big events and received all the accolades but he still keeps showing up at every camp and every seven-on-seven tournament looking to prove himself,” Gorney said.
“The five-star linebacker has loftier goals than a ranking or a big reputation on the high school level. He has an incredible maturity and focus that will stay with him in the coming years and he’s the most physical linebacker I may have ever seen doing this job. He loves to play a violent sport violently and he makes no excuses about it.”
Ricks, who is headed for Louisiana State, is just as competitive and was very impressive on the camp circuit before his outstanding junior year, including at Rivals’ top event, the invite-only Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge.
“As a rising junior, he was the best cornerback at the event, which was loaded at the position,” Gorney said. “He has incredible long arms, he’s highly competitive and he’s faster than people give him credit for. I also like that Ricks always has his eye on getting better and staying focused for a bright future ahead of him. He’s already committed to LSU, maybe the best school nationally in developing cornerbacks for the NFL, so he’s making all the right moves.”