Early signing day 2019: Which prospects are joining USC and UCLA?

USC players take the field before a game against Fresno State.
(Harry How / Getty Images)

A recap of Wednesday’s early signing period as the nation’s top high school football prospects made their college choices.

Calabasas’ Jermaine Burton flips commitment to Georgia

Calabasas wide receiver Jermaine Burton catches a pass before a game against Oaks Christian on Oct. 19, 2018.
(Shotgun Spratling / For The Times)

Jermaine Burton is a bi-coastal man.

The four-star Calabasas High receiver has bounced back and forth between the edges of the continental United States, but appeared to be ready to lock in a pledge to spend the next four years in the Louisiana Bayou far from the Atlantic or Pacific Oceans proper.

Burton committed to Louisiana State nearly eight months ago, but on the first day of the December early signing period, he chose to be closer to the coast, flipping his commitment and signing with the Georgia Bulldogs.

The 6-foot-0 1/2, 190-pound wideout will sow new roots in college by returning to his roots. Burton was born in Orlando but moved to the Atlanta-area when he was a toddler. He spent time in high schools in Georgia and Florida before enrolling at Calabasas before his junior season when he had 40 catches for 863 yards and 14 touchdowns for the Coyotes. He went back to IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. briefly this year before returning to close out his career at Calabasas, helping the team reach the playoffs before falling to eventual CIF Open Division state champion St. John Bosco.

Burton became the second high-profile receiver to shun LSU on Wednesday after five-star wideout Rakim Jarrett surprisingly flipped his commitment to Maryland.

Burton is ranked the No. 8 receiver in the nation, per the 247Sports Composite rankings. He is the No. 52 overall prospect. Analysts at 247Sports have him ranked higher than their industry counterparts, rating Burton as the No. 24 overall player and No. 4 receiver in the nation.


Mater Dei lineman Myles Murao signs with Washington

Mater Dei lineman Myles Murao scores a touchdown against IMG Academy on a tackle eligible play on Sept. 21, 2018, at Santa Ana Stadium.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Washington has added the top offensive lineman in California after Myles Murao signed with the Huskies. Washington announced the signing Wednesday on Twitter. The four-star prospect from Santa Ana Mater Dei High is heading north to headline a five-man offensive line class.

“There’s nothing better than at Washington for me to be honest with you,” Murao said earlier this year. “Like USC, UCLA, Stanford, whatever, that’s close to home, whatever, but I think Washington is the place for me.”

Murao returned from a serious leg injury his junior year to be selected co-MVP lineman of the Trinity League. He played left tackle at Mater Dei, protecting the backside of five-star quarterback Bryce Young, but is expected to move to the interior of the offensive line at the college level.

The 6-foot-2, 312-pounder is ranked the No. 1 center prospect and the No. 94 overall prospect in the 2020 recruiting class, per the 247Sports Composite rankings. He is the highest ranked of seven Southern California prospects who are expected to sign with the Huskies.

He quickly fell in love with the city of Seattle the first time he visited Washington.

“Everything was so live,” Murao said. “I liked it a lot more than L.A. honestly. Like it’s more mellowed out. I think it’s a good place to live. Growing up in a fast place, downtown in a city like Los Angeles where I’m from, it’s a good scenery change.”

He is expected to enroll in January after competing in the All-American Bowl on Jan. 4.


Corona del Mar receiver John Humphreys signs with Stanford

Corona del Mar receiver John Humphreys hauls in a touchdown pass during a Sunset League game earlier this season.
(Don Leach / Daily Pilot)

John Humphreys is set to continue the family legacy.

Humphreys signed his National Letter of Intent to attend Stanford on Wednesday, making him the fourth member of his immediate family to become a Cardinal athlete, joining his parents, Brad and Wendy, and older sister, Kelsey.

“I just felt like this is a pretty unique situation for me to go play at my dream school, to get the best education in the nation and go play for a national championship and a Pac-12 championship,” Humphreys said earlier this year.

The 6-foot-5, 205-pound receiver from Corona Del Mar High in Newport Harbor is continuing another legacy as well. Humphreys’ signing makes it four consecutive recruiting classes Stanford has nabbed a four-star receiver from the Southland, following Colby Bowman, Michael Wilson and Osiris St. Brown.

Humphreys put up massive numbers in his Sea Kings career, catching nearly 300 passes for more than 5,000 yards. He had 111 catches for 2,001 yards this season and tied the Orange County single-season record for receiving touchdowns with 32, catching his final one in the fourth quarter of Corona Del Mar’s 35-27 win over San Mateo Serra in the CIF Division 1-A state championship bowl game. Humphreys set the state record for most career receiving touchdowns with 78.

He is ranked as the No. 115 overall player and the No. 22 receiver in the 2020 recruiting class, per 247Sports Composite rankings. He is ranked higher by 247Sports’ analysts, who have him as the No. 75 overall prospect and a top 10 player in California.


Mater Dei’s Bryce Young signs with Alabama

Mater Dei quarterback Bryce Young breaks into the St. John Bosco secondary during a Trinity League game on Oct. 13, 2018.
Mater Dei quarterback Bryce Young, breaking into the St. John Bosco secondary during a Trinity League game in 2018, is the No. 6 overall recruit in the nation.
(Michael Owen Baker / For The Times)

The nation’s top quarterback recruit is set to join Alabama. Santa Ana Mater Dei’s Bryce Young, a five-star dual threat, signed with the Crimson Tide during a ceremony in the school gymnasium Wednesday afternoon.

Young had previously been a long-time USC commit before flipping to Alabama in September. The Trojans tried to get back in the mix with Young and many Crimson Tide fans fretted early Wednesday when Young’s name was not announced by Alabama. Young, like so many of the Southland’s other top prospects, ultimately rebuffed USC’s overtures and is set to head to Tuscaloosa for college.

When he flipped to Alabama originally, Young said there was “nothing that USC did or happened there” that led to his change of heart. “I just felt like [Alabama] was personally a better fit for me and would be better for my future.”

It has become a common reprieve among the top players in Southern California, and Young was the best. The 5-foot-11, 183-pound playmaker led Mater Dei to a Southern Section and CIF state championship in the Open Division as a junior and had a 12-1 record as a senior before the Monarchs fell in the Southern Section title game to Bellflower St. John Bosco. After a monster junior year, when he threw for nearly 4,000 yards and had 39 passing touchdowns, Young passed for 4,528 yards and 58 touchdowns with only six interceptions in two fewer games this year. He also ran for 10 scores.

The one-time commit is the Trojans’ biggest loss of the recruiting cycle and the ultimate addition for a Crimson Tide roster that is expected to lose 2018 Heisman Trophy runner-up Tua Tagovailoa to the NFL.

Young is the No. 6 overall player in the 2020 recruiting class, per 247Sports Composite rankings. He is the highest ranked quarterback that coach Nick Saban has signed at Alabama.


Four-star linebacker Damian Sellers signs

Four-star linebacker Damian Sellers of Scottsdale (Ariz.) Sagauro High committed to UCLA.
Four-star linebacker Damian Sellers of Scottsdale (Ariz.) Sagauro High committed to UCLA on Wednesday.
(Shotgun Spratling / For The Times)

UCLA has added a potential instant impact playmaker.

Arizona four-star linebacker Damian Sellers from Scottsdale Sagauro High committed to the Bruins in a ceremony Wednesday at his school. Sellers chose UCLA over scholarship offers from some of the top teams in the nation, including Alabama, Louisiana State, Oklahoma and Oregon.

The 6-foot-4, 235-pound Sellers becomes the top-ranked player in UCLA’s 2020 recruiting class as the No. 183 overall prospect and No. 15 outside linebacker. He is the No. 6 player from Arizona.

He made 65 tackles as a senior, including a whopping 32 tackles for loss, according to MaxPreps. Sellers was also credited with 9.5 sacks and 10 quarterback hurries, giving him 23.5 sacks and 35 hurries over his last three years at Saguaro.

UCLA loses all four starting linebackers to graduation as well as graduate student Jason Harris.


Linebacker Choe Bryant-Strother signs with UCLA

UCLA has officially added Georgia linebacker Choe Bryant-Strother to its 2020 recruiting class. Bryant-Strother signed his National Letter of Intent and shipped it across the country, the team announced Wednesday morning.

Bryant-Strother, a 6-foot-2 1/2, 230-pound inside linebacker, led Greater Atlanta Christian School to a 12-2 record with a 101-tackle senior season. He added four sacks, an interception and scored two touchdowns on offense.

He is rated as a three-star and top-500 prospect in the 247Sports Composite rankings. Bryant-Strother is the nation’s No. 19 inside linebacker and the No. 49 prospect from the state of Georgia.

Bryant-Strother made his official visit to UCLA in early November. Soon after returning to the East Coast, he committed during an electric eight-day recruiting period for the Bruins when they had five players verbally pledge to join the class.


Defensive end Kenny Mestidor signs with UCLA

UCLA has gone across the country to add some international flair to its roster for the second time this calendar year, signing Canadian defensive end prospect Kenny Mestidor from the St. Thomas More boys’ boarding school in Oakdale, Conn.

Earlier this year, the Bruins picked up Maryland graduate transfer Wade Lees, an Australian punter who averaged 42.9 yards on 49 punts in his only season in Westwood.

Mestidor will be hoping to be a multi-year contributor for the Bruins when he gets to campus. The 6-foot-3, 240-pound defensive end picked the Bruins over offers from California, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, USC and several other schools across the country.

He has an explosive first step and knows how to dip his shoulder well to get around the corner when rushing the passer. He is rated the No. 576 overall prospect in the 2020 recruiting class, per the 247Sports Composite rankings. He is the No. 6 prospect in the state of Connecticut and regarded by the recruiting industry as the No. 24 weak-side defensive end.

At UCLA, Mestidor could play with his hand in the dirt as a defensive end or as a standup outside linebacker.


Upland’s Justin Flowe, the nation’s top linebacker, picks Oregon over USC

Linebacker Justin Flowe smiles while wearing an Oregon hat.
Linebacker Justin Flowe smiles while wearing an Oregon hat after revealing he will be joining the Ducks in 2020 during a ceremony at Upland High School on Wednesday.
(Shotgun Spratling / For The Times)

Justin Flowe, the nation’s top linebacker, is sticking to the West Coast, spurning overtures from top college programs across the country. But the Upland High five-star prospect won’t be staying home to play in Los Angeles.

Flowe committed to Oregon on Wednesday during a nationally televised ceremony in the Upland gymnasium, choosing the Ducks over USC, Miami, Clemson and Georgia.

Flowe’s highlights, powerful hits and monster plays, including suplexing a La Habra player earlier this season, have attracted thousands upon thousands of views on YouTube and social media. But Flowe is also the most instinctual linebacker to terrorize Southland offenses since at least Vontaze Burfict was at Corona Centennial.

Greg Biggins, a national recruiting analyst for 247Sports, said Flowe is “a more athletic Burfict, and you can make the argument Flowe is the best linebacker to come out of California since DJ Williams played at De La Salle in the class of 2000.”

“We all know the intangibles,” Upland coach Darryl Thomas said. “He’s physical and he’s strong and he’s fast and violent. He’s really starting to understand the defense and I mean his instincts and his reads are pretty, pretty remarkable.”

Thomas expects Flowe to eventually be an NFL first-round draft pick, but before he gets to chasing NFL quarterbacks, Flowe will team up with fellow five-star recruit Noah Sewell at Oregon as one of the most dynamic linebacker pairings in the nation. The 6-foot-2, 266-pound Sewell, who ran a 4.75-second 40-yard dash, is the No. 2 inside linebacker behind Flowe.


Four-star offensive lineman Jonah Monheim signs with USC

Moorpark lineman Jonah Monheim
(Shotgun Spratling / For The Times)

USC reeled in the last of the 10 players who were committed to the Trojans entering the day when four-star offensive lineman Jonah Monheim signed his letter of intent Wednesday morning.

The highest-rated player in USC’s class so far, Monheim is ranked the No. 13 offensive guard in the country and No. 26 overall player in California by 247Sports’ Composite rankings. The 6-foot-5, 280-pound Moorpark product is one of six offensive linemen the Trojans added on early signing day, and to this point the only four-star on the board.

Monheim also held notable offers from Alabama and Oklahoma, and took an official visit to see the Sooners’ campus earlier this year before committing to the Trojans in August.


Three-star wide receiver Matt Sykes signs with UCLA

Matt Sykes, a three-star wide receiver out of St. Louis High School in Honolulu, signed with UCLA on Wednesday.
(Shotgun Spratling / For The Times)

If nothing else, new UCLA signee Matt Sykes will bring a winning culture with him to Westwood next year.

The three-star wide receiver signed with the Bruins on Wednesday morning out of St. Louis High School in Honolulu, a powerhouse program in the Aloha State that hasn’t lost a game since 2016 — a 38-game winning streak.

Ranked the No. 100 receiver nationally and the No. 6 player overall from Hawaii by 247Sports’ Composite rankings, the 6-foot-3, 203-pound Sykes will be looking for a role in a Bruins receiving corps that was far from prolific last season.

Freshman Kyle Philips and junior Devin Asiasi were the only two UCLA pass-catchers to eclipse 600 yards receiving. Junior Jaylen Erwin and sophomore Chase Cota were the only other non-running backs to record double-digit catches.


Defensive tackle Jamar Sekona signs with USC

USC signee Jamar Sekona

Jamar Sekona’s heart was already set on USC when former Trojan player Gene Fruge became one of the three-star defensive lineman’s coaches at Marin Catholic this past year.

Sekona, who signed with the Trojans on Wednesday morning, didn’t need any extra push to USC. But he did take all the advice from Fruge he could get.

“He loved the program when he went there back in the day,” Sekona said of Fruge. “He let me know it’s a big change. For him, at least, it was the conditioning. Everyone can be really good in high school football but college is a different level.”

The No. 44-ranked defensive tackle recruit nationally according to 247Sports’ Composite rankings, Sekona will get to find that out first hand this coming fall. After helping Marin Catholic to an 11-2 record this year, he will join a young Trojans defensive front hoping to help the program improve on an 8-4 season in 2019.

“When I went out there for my official visit this past weekend, I had a really good time,” Sekona said. “I really love the team culture they have. I went to their practice, and it was really nice to see the intensity, how the team plays, how they’re firing each other up. I really like the team culture they have.”


Rancho Cucamonga star quarterback CJ Stroud signs with Ohio State

Rancho Cucamonga star quarterback CJ Stroud signed with Ohio State.
Rancho Cucamonga star quarterback CJ Stroud signed with Ohio State on Wednesday.
(Shotgun Spratling / For The Times)

A year ago, CJ Stroud was awaiting an opportunity, feeling he was being overlooked.

“You can’t really control opportunities, but when you get your opportunity you have to prove what you can do and ball out,” Stroud said.

He did that over and over this calendar year, culminating in the late-blooming Rancho Cucamonga High quarterback signing with Ohio State on Wednesday during the first day of the early signing period. Stroud committed to the Buckeyes over Georgia and Michigan in a nationally televised ceremony, grabbing an Ohio State hat and putting it on with a big smile.

Stroud was one of the signing day’s biggest mysteries as he quietly went about his recruitment without frequently talking to the media, but he was highly coveted as the top-ranked uncommitted quarterback in the nation.

The Buckeyes add the No. 2 pro-style quarterback and the No. 83 overall prospect in the nation.

“It’s kind of been a 360-turn,” Stroud said of his recruitment last month after he was presented his All-American Bowl jersey and recognized as a 2020 All-American. “Everything has kind of transitioned in my life for the better. I can do nothing but just thank God that my life has changed the last couple months. Everybody that was here today has been knowing my whole life about what I’ve been doing, but now everybody nationally knows. I just feel like if I keep doing what I’m doing, just upgraded a level, then I’ll just keep elevating myself.”


Ioholani Raass signs with UCLA after being impressed by coaching staff’s honesty

Ioholani Raass laughed when asked what his dad and uncle, both former football players at Brigham Young, thought about the newest UCLA signee’s recruiting process over the last two years.

“They loved my recruiting process,” he said. “It was so much different from theirs. They said all these official visits are crazy. The amount of things they do for you. The amount of resources we have compared to back when they were playing at BYU.

“They were struggling for a pair of cleats. Now, you can get a new pair of cleats once every week if you wanted to.”

But for Raass, a three-star defensive end from Lehi, Utah, such bonuses aren’t what attracted him to the Bruins. The nation’s No. 68 defensive end, according to 247Sports’ Composite rankings, is headed to UCLA because of the basics.

“Everyone knows they’re the No. 1 public school in the nation,” he said. “That was a thing that really interested me. Everyone has to hang up their pads at one point in their life. That was a big part for me.”

The coaching staff, from Chip Kelly on down, sealed it from there, laying out for Raass exactly how many players they were recruiting at his position, and exactly where they envisioned him fitting into a defense in need of a boost.

“They were the ones that were the most honest with me,” he said. “I was like, ‘Wow, that’s interesting.’ No one has told me straight-up like this.”


Defensive end Mitchell Agude signs with UCLA

New UCLA signee Mitchell Agude uses words such as “crazy,” “mind-boggling,” and “prayers being answered” to describe the last year.

Ten months ago, the three-star defensive end thought he was going to Maryland. Then he found not enough of his class credits would transfer to make him eligible. So, he had to go back to the drawing board. In the spring, he took 22 course hours to compensate. In the fall, he tried to keep his football career alive during a season at Riverside Community College.

“It taught me to never quit,” said Agude, who is officially off to a four-year university after signing with the Bruins on Wednesday morning. “I know, if I’ve got to do something, if it’s important to me, if it’s something that matters to me, there’s no reason for me to ever think about stopping or failing.”

Ranked the No. 31 overall junior college prospect in this year’s class by 247Sports’ Composite rankings, Agude stayed on UCLA’s radar throughout his tumultuous gap year. Bruins coaches kept in contact with the Santiago High School product. The school welcomed him for an unofficial visit in July. By October, he was ready to give them a verbal pledge.

“It’s family,” Agude, 20, said. “There’s so many opportunities there for me. I’m ready to gain every single one of them.”


Offensive tackle Andres Dewerk signs with USC

Andres Dewerk discusses his commitment to the Trojans.

During his early high school years, Andres Dewerk would spend his summers in Colombia, putting football on an annual temporary hold to travel back to his mother’s South American homeland.

Before his junior year at Los Gatos High School, however, the 6-foot-7, 297-pound offensive tackle made the most of his offseason spent stateside. Once a relatively unknown prospect, his size and strength made him an instant standout at summer recruiting combines. Suddenly, he became a hot topic around collegiate circles.

“He was getting all kinds of rave reviews,” said Mark Krail, Dewerk’s coach at Los Gatos. “All of a sudden, I start getting all kinds of inquiries: ‘Tell us about this kid.’”

Many of those questions came from USC, Dewerk’s dream destination. It’s a reality now, as the three-star prospect signed his letter of intent Wednesday morning to officially become a Trojan.

“I’m very excited for him, and very excited for USC,” Krail said. “I think they got a great kid coming their way.”

According to 247Sports’ Composite rankings, Dewerk is ranked No. 101 in the nation at his position and No. 108 in California overall. His hulking build has the Trojans hoping that he can blossom into something more, that he can continue a development process Krail has watched up close over the last four years.

“For a kid that size, he has really good athleticism,” Krail said. “Early on, he really put it in his mind he wanted to be a college football player .… He did really achieve something that was a lifelong dream for him.”


USC signs Caadyn Stephen to bolster its offensive line corps

USC continued its collection of signatures from offensive linemen Wednesday morning by officially adding three-star prospect Caadyn Stephen to its 2020 recruiting class.

A native of Camas, Wash., Stephen is the No. 54 offensive tackle nationally and No. 9 overall player in his home state, according to 247Sports’ Composite rankings. After an official visit to the campus in late August, he verbally committed Sept. 4 and stuck to his word even as the Trojans battled through a tumultuous season.

The 6-foot-5, 295-pound prospect featured on a Camas High School team that went 14-0 this season en route to the Washington 4A state championship. He began the day as one of six offensive linemen committed to this USC class, which identified the spot as a key area of future need.


Defensive end Jay Max Jacobsen signs with UCLA

UCLA signee Jay Max Jacobsen

At the end of his sophomore year at Temecula Valley High School, Jay Max Jacobsen was called in to chat with newly hired head coach Bert Esposito.

On a team coming off a winless season, Jacobsen was a promising young player. But he had also missed one of Esposito’s first early-morning practices. So the coach sat his pass rusher down and laid out new rules.

“Look, this is how it’s going to be done,” Esposito remembers saying. “You’re either going to do it my way here, and we can work hard. Or you can walk away.”

Jacobsen chose the former. He changed his attitude and compiled nearly 150 tackles and 16 sacks over his final two years. His team transformed into a 12-3 squad this past season, and he became a serious college recruit.

That journey culminated on Wednesday, as the three-star prospect signed with UCLA.

“Ever since that conversation we had, you’re talking about a kid that just said, ‘OK, I’m going to do this,’” Esposito said. “He’s always in the weight room working. He’s always doing what’s needed .… He’s that great leader you wish every kid could behave like.”

Ranked the No. 32 strong-side defensive end in the country by 247Sports’ Composite rankings, Jacobsen said he is expecting to transition to outside linebacker at UCLA. After being one of the first players to commit to the school back in October, the Southern California native is part of a 2020 class the Bruins hope can help bolster a defense that has struggled over the past two seasons.

“I’ve already gotten really good relationships with other commits,” Jacobsen said. “We’re keeping in contact. I’m looking forward to getting there.”


St. John Bosco star quarterback DJ Uiagalelei signs with Clemson

St. John Bosco quarterback DJ Uiagalelei highlights.

Defending national champion Clemson is hoping it’s found its next Trevor Lawrence on Wednesday, as it officially signed blue-chip California quarterback DJ Uiagalelei out of St. John Bosco.

Committed to the Tigers since May, Uiagalelei is the top-rated pro-style quarterback in the country, the No. 3 overall player in the state and the No. 13 recruit in all of the 2020 class, according to 247Sports’ Composite rankings. Like the other top six (at least) California prospects, he is going out of state for his college ball.

During a stellar high school career, Uiagalelei threw for more than 10,000 yards and 127 touchdowns. After taking unofficial visits to Oregon, Alabama and Auburn during his junior year, he locked onto Clemson, where Lawrence will enter his third and likely final season of college football next fall.


Offensive lineman Patrick Selna signs with UCLA

Piedmont offensive lineman Patrick Selna.
(Shotgun Spratling / For The Times)

Patrick Selna is officially a member of UCLA’s 2020 recruiting class after the school announced the three-star offensive lineman from Northern California has signed his National Letter of Intent.

The 6-foot-6, 255-pound Selna is a developmental lineman who will have to add some weight to his frame before he is ready to contribute at the college level. But Selna, who also plays basketball for Piedmont High, has good athleticism that isn’t always easy to find on the offensive line.

He is ranked the No. 1,060 overall player and the No. 82 offensive tackle in the 2020 recruiting class, per 247Sports Composite rankings. He is ranked much higher by 247Sports. It ranks him more than 400 spots higher as the No. 611 overall prospect and No. 51 offensive tackle.


Lawndale three-star defensive lineman Tuli Tuipulotu signs with USC

USC looked local to add its first new commitment of Wednesday’s early signing day, picking up a signature from three-star defensive lineman Tuli Tuipulotu out of Lawndale High School.

Ranked the No. 43 defensive tackle nationally and No. 42 overall player in California by 247Sports Composite rankings, Tuipulotu will join a young Trojans’ defensive line that began the day with two other previously committed incoming freshmen in its current recruiting class.

The 6-foot-3, 265-pound Tuipulotu collected 144 tackles and 10 sacks in his high school career, leading to scholarship offers from Cal, Nebraska, Stanford and UCLA among others. By inking Tuipulotu, the Trojans class is now up to 11 players.


Narbonne receiver Josh Jackson signs with USC

Narbonne receiver Josh Jackson talks about his USC commitment.

For much of the last year, Josh Jackson remained committed to USC even as turmoil encircled the program. After giving the Trojans a verbal pledge in March, the Narbonne High School receiver watched from down the road as the team stumbled to an 8-4 record and into another offseason of coaching uncertainty.

When Jackson signed his letter of intent on Wednesday, however, things were finally settled. Head coach Clay Helton is returning, as is offensive coordinator Graham Harrell. Jackson, a three-star prospect who is ranked No. 72 nationally among wide receivers, according to 247Sports, will get to play at least one season for the same coaches he committed to in March.

Jackson finished his career at Narbonne High School — a program that has dealt with its own coaching adversity in the last year — hauling in 587 receiving yards and four touchdowns this year. Between his sophomore season at Orange Lutheran and junior and senior seasons at Narbonne, he finished his high school career with 1,588 receiving yards and 13 scores.


Former Fullerton College standout Caleb Johnson signs with UCLA

Caleb Johnson’s unique football journey will now continue at UCLA after the linebacker signed with the Bruins.

Johnson played at Fullerton College last year before enrolling at Texas in January as part of its 2019 recruiting class. Johnson went through the Longhorns’ offseason workouts and practiced with the team, but after not participating in the first three games of the season, Johnson chose to enter the NCAA transfer portal in September.

Johnson had 41 tackles with 8 1/2 for loss and 5 1/2 sacks as a sophomore for Fullerton College in 2017. He made 120 tackles his senior year at Vista Murrieta High. He also had six sacks and returned a fumble for a touchdown.

He is rated as the No. 2 junior college inside linebacker and No. 44 prospect, per 247Sports Composite JUCO rankings.

Johnson will help add more linebacker depth for the Bruins to help offset the graduation of four senior starting linebackers and graduate student Jason Harris.


Pasadena Muir cornerback John Humphrey signs with UCLA

UCLA has signed one of its most important recruits of the 2020 recruiting class. The Bruins had one of the worst pass defenses in the nation and could be losing their top cornerback Darnay Holmes to the NFL draft.

That’s why it was imperative Wednesday for them to lock up Pasadena Muir High cornerback John Humphrey, who the Bruins announced has signed his National Letter of Intent.

Humphrey has elite height and length for a cornerback at 6 feet 2, 176 pounds. He has a lot of potential. He thinks he can fulfill that under UCLA defensive backs coach Paul Rhoads as he follows the path of two other Pasadena cornerbacks in Holmes and Elijah Gates.

“It’s just hometown. There’s no place like home,” Humphrey said of UCLA. “Looking up to Darnay, Elijah Gates. They inspire me. Seeing how good they are, I think UCLA could develop me like that too. [UCLA defensive backs coach] Paul Rhoads is a great coach. He can really develop me, make me the best I could be.”

Humphrey is ranked the No. 378 overall player and the No. 31 cornerback in the 2020 recruiting class, per 247Sports Composite rankings. He is ranked higher by 247Sports’ analysts, who have him as the No. 281 overall prospect and the No. 21 cornerback.


Calabasas’ Johnny Wilson flips from Oregon to sign with Arizona State

Calabasas wide receiver Johnny Wilson highlights.

In one of the first big local recruiting surprises of the day, four-star Calabasas wide receiver Johnny Wilson flipped his commitment Wednesday morning from Oregon to Arizona State, announcing at the last minute his signing with the Sun Devils after having been committed to the Ducks since July.

The No. 16-ranked receiver nationally and No. 11 overall prospect in the state, according to 247Sports’ Composite rankings, Wilson hauled in 2,488 receiving yards and 35 touchdowns during his high school career.


St. John Bosco receiver Logan Loya signs with UCLA

St. John Bosco receiver Logan Loya warms up before a game.
St. John Bosco receiver Logan Loya warms up before a game against DeMatha Catholic of Hyattsville, Md. on Aug. 24.
(Shotgun Spratling / For The Times)

UCLA needed to add some playmakers in the 2020 recruiting class. It now has locked up one of the most underrated and consistent playmakers in the Southland as Bellflower St. John Bosco receiver Logan Loya has signed with the Bruins.

Loya led the nation’s No. 1 high school team with 72 receptions and had 1,109 yards and nine touchdowns. He saved his best performances for the biggest stage with a combined 20 catches for 296 yards and three scores in the Braves’ wins over Mater Dei and De La Salle to win the Southern Section and CIF state championships in the Open Division.

“He’s one of the best wideouts, in my opinion, in the country,” St. John Bosco coach Jason Negro said earlier this season. “He’s so underrated in terms of his abilities. He’s got incredible moves. He runs great routes. His hands are ridiculous. He’s just an athlete.”

Loya is a technician slicing and dicing defenses from the slot receiver position and could compete for early playing time at UCLA because of his consistency. He will get a jump-start as an early enrollee.

The 5-foot-11 1/2, 185-pound receiver is rated a three-star prospect as the No. 64 receiver and No. 395 overall prospect in the nation, per the 247Sports Composite rankings. Analysts from 247Sports think more highly of Loya, rating him a four-star and the No. 230 prospect.


St. John Bosco defensive lineman Kobe Pepe signs with USC

USC signee Kobe Pepe impresses in the weight room.

Kobe Pepe won’t have to look very hard to find familiar faces in USC’s locker room next year.

After signing with the Trojans on Wednesday, Pepe becomes the sixth player out of St. John Bosco on USC’s roster, following in the footsteps of the five freshmen from the Bellflower powerhouse who played for the Trojans this year.

A three-star defensive tackle who has been committed to USC since June, Pepe had a dominant senior season with St. John Bosco. The 6-foot-1, 294-pound prospect recorded 74 tackles, 11 sacks and five pass deflections. By the end of the year, he helped his team win a CIF Open Division title and was personally ranked the No. 47 player nationally at his position by 247Sports’ Composite rankings.

While the Trojans have gone heavy with offensive linemen commits in this year’s class, Pepe is one of two defensive linemen who entered the day committed to USC. He’ll have competition to play right away too. By the end of the regular season, three underclassmen topped the depth chart along USC’s four-man defensive line.


Offensive lineman Andrew Milek signs with USC

Andrew Milek highlights.

Offensive lineman Andrew Milek always took football seriously growing up. But after having former NFL quarterback John Kitna as his head coach at Brophy Prep in Phoenix during his junior season in 2018, he saw exactly what it would take to reach the next level.

“He really helped me become a better student of the game,” Milek said. “Junior year, that’s when you really hammer down on watching film, and being a student of the game.”

Milek kept applying those lessons even after Kitna left Brophy this last season to join the Dallas Cowboys’ coaching staff. Soon, he’ll be taking them with him to Los Angeles too.

On Wednesday, Milek signed his national letter of intent with USC. The three-star prospect is ranked No. 100 nationally among offensive tackles by 247Sports’ Composite rankings, and joins the Trojans six-man class of offensive linemen.

“I’m really excited for that first practice and getting incorporated into the program,” Milek said. “That’s the reason why I chose USC, because I felt like I was at home. I feel like I fit really well.”


Lineman Bruno Fina signs with UCLA

Bruno Fina discusses why he chose UCLA.

UCLA has added another prospect with NFL bloodlines as Arizona lineman Bruno Fina has signed his National Letter of Intent.

Fina’s father, John, was a first-round pick in the 1992 NFL draft after completing his career as an offensive lineman at the University of Arizona. The Bruins also signed the son of NFL kicker David Akers on Wednesday.

At 240 pounds, Bruno doesn’t yet have quite the same size as his father, who is listed as 6 feet 5, 300 pounds on the NFL’s website. But Bruno has an athletic 6-foot-4 frame that should be able to support an additional 30, 40 or possibly even 50 pounds.

He played both ways for Salpointe Catholic in Tucson but is expected to focus on the offensive side of the ball at UCLA, following in his father’s footsteps.

Fina is ranked the No. 913 overall prospect in the 2020 recruiting class, per 247Sports Composite rankings, and the No. 23 player in the state of Arizona.


Linebacker Jeremiah Trojan eager to be a contributor for UCLA

Linebacker Jeremiah Trojan had his choice of high-end educational opportunities to pick from. Over his high school career, the three-star prospect from Chandler, Ariz., received offers from Ivy League schools and all three service academies.

But in UCLA, Trojan found the perfect blend of school and football. On Wednesday morning, he signed his national letter of intent to officially become a Bruin.

“You’ve got these big, top schools out there, but academically you’re not going to find anything better than UCLA,” Trojan said. “You can do both at UCLA. Play the highest level of football and get the best education as well.”

That combination will bring Trojan, who is the No. 59 inside linebacker nationally according to 247Sports’ Composite rankings, to the Bruins next year. This season, Trojan had 97 tackles and 10 tackles for loss, helping resurrect a powerhouse Hamilton High School program that had previously fallen on hard times.

He sees the chance to accomplish something similar with a UCLA squad coming off back-to-back seasons without a bowl game.

“It’ll be a fun transition,” Trojan said. “Getting away from home, exploring new things.”


USC signs Parker Lewis, one of the top kickers in the nation

Parker Lewis highlights.

The biggest kicks of Parker Lewis’ life didn’t happen during a high school game. Rather, they came with USC coach Clay Helton standing just a few feet away.

During USC’s specialists camp two summers ago, Lewis got the eye of special teams coordinator John Baxter. He called Helton over to take a look at the Phoenix-native kicker. A few touchbacks and 40-to-50 yard field goals later, the Trojans coach extended a handshake — and a scholarship offer.

“It was crazy,” recalled Lewis, who officially signed with the Trojans on Wednesday.

Lewis is a three-star prospect and the No. 7 ranked kicker nationally, according to 247 Sports’ Composite rankings. He went eight for 10 on field goals in his high school career, with a long of 52 as a junior.

“I’ve seen a lot of development in myself over the years, but I’m more excited on how much more I’m going to develop with coach Baxter and the plan he has for me,” Lewis said. “That got me really excited.”


Offensive lineman Courtland Ford signs with USC

Courtland Ford’s moment of truth came over the summer.

Entering his senior season at Cedar Hill High School outside of Dallas, the offensive line prospect looked in the mirror and decided it was time for a change. The onetime LSU commit wanted to trim weight and add athleticism. He wanted to prepare himself as best he could for his last season of high school football — and his last chance to impress college evaluators.

“I just really focused on changing my body,” said Ford, who signed with USC on Wednesday. “Getting in the best possible shape and focusing on my craft.”

So, he remade his diet and went to the weight room six days a week, lost roughly 20 pounds and heard a common refrain from coaches who would come to recruit him.

“They were amazed at how much my body changed,” Ford said. “How much I matured.”

Ford finally pulled the trigger Dec. 9, committing to the Trojans after helping his Cedar Hill squad to a 9-3 season and finishing the year as a three-star prospect ranked No. 51 nationally among offensive tackles, according to 247Sports’ Composite rankings. He is one of six offensive linemen who entered Wednesday committed to USC, and will come to Los Angeles to help fill a position of future need.

“From the coaches, to the players, to just the environment, how it all came together as a family and a culture, that really played a huge part in my commitment,” Ford said of his decision.

“I’ve been working my butt off, because I’m on a mission. I’m going to come in ready and more in shape than I’ve ever been in my life and just put my head down and grind.”


Offensive line standout Casey Collier signs with USC

USC logo at the Coliseum in 2018.
(Aaron M. Sprecher / Associated Press)

One of the last players to commit to USC’s 2020 recruiting class was one of the first to sign in the national early signing period on Wednesday morning. Offensive lineman Casey Collier is officially a Trojan, expected to be one of several players at his position to ink in this USC class.

Collier comes to Los Angeles from Mont Belvieu, Texas, where he became a three-star recruit at Barbers Hill High School. Ranked No. 98 in the nation among offensive tackles, the 6-foot-7, 300-pound prospect didn’t announce his commitment to USC until Dec. 2, becoming the sixth offensive linemen to commit to the Trojans this year.

Collier’s Barbers Hill team went 12-2 this year, reaching the third round of the Texas 5A Division-II playoffs. Originally committed to Minnesota, Collier also picked up late offers Indiana, Kansas and Florida State, but stuck with the Trojans after a late November official visit.

He will join a position of need for the Trojans. The team will lose starter Drew Richmond and backups Jacob Daniel and Clayton Bradley to graduation, while junior Austin Jackson headlines a group of several other non-seniors who could turn pro. This season, USC ranked 10th in the Pac-12 in rushing yards per game.


Former Mater Dei cornerback Elias Ricks signs with LSU

Former Santa Ana Mater Dei High cornerback Elias Ricks has signed with Louisiana State.

The 6-foot-2, 192-pound five-star prospect committed to the Tigers on Christmas Day last year and later transferred from Mater Dei to IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.

Ricks is ranked the No. 12 overall player and the No. 2 cornerback in the 2020 recruiting class, per 247Sports Composite rankings. He is the top player in the state of Florida.


Quarterback Parker McQuarrie signs with UCLA

UCLA signee Parker McQuarrie highlights.

Craig Vandersea knew he was getting a talented quarterback when Parker McQuarrie enrolled at the coach’s St. Paul’s School in New Hampshire two years ago. He saw size, arm talent, and potential.

“When we first saw him, we were like, ‘OK, great, this could be a kid good enough for the Ivy League, Patriot League level,’” Vandersea recalled. “That’s where we had him. I think that’s what his parents were thinking. And then all of a sudden, everything went wild.”

Indeed, even Vandersea’s initial outlook proved to be overcautious. Over the course of his junior and senior seasons, McQuarrie gained interest from across the country. He was pursued by programs such as Boston College and Miami, Michigan and Wisconsin. But for the 6-foot-7, four-star recruit, another school stuck out the most.

McQuarrie signed with UCLA on Wednesday, cementing his commitment to play for a coach who made his name in McQuarrie’s home state.

“It had a lot to do with coach [Chip] Kelly,” McQuarrie said of the second-year UCLA coach who played and later coached at the University of New Hampshire. “I like him a lot as a person and a coach. He definitely had a big effect on it.”

McQuarrie is ranked as the No. 11 pro-style quarterback nationally, according to 247Sports’ Composite rankings, and had the highest overall grade of any of the Bruins’ 20 verbal commitments entering Wednesday.

He comes from a high school that believed in a pro-style offense, routinely lining him up under center and teaching him to throw off play-action and down the field. Often, McQuarrie made plays his coach couldn’t even believe were possible.

“He’s not a panicker in games,” Vandersea said. “If something happens, he’s like, ‘We’re OK, we got it, no big deal.’ Not a kid that’s going to slam his helmet down, start swearing. He just gets in the huddle, guys like him. And the big thing is he, he’s humble.”

The UCLA Bruins’ projected class is ranked No. 29 nationally, with four four-star commits, going into the early signing period that starts Wednesday.

Dec. 17, 2019

At quarterback, UCLA returns starter Dorian Thompson-Robinson next season, a rising junior who has shown flashes of potential but also battled inconsistency during his first two years. The Bruins had five other players at the position this year too, including backup Austin Burton, who played in six games.

But McQuarrie isn’t fixated on the depth chart yet. His focus remains on his own game. He wants to continue defying expectations.

“I know I have so far to go, so much room for improvement,” he said. “I’m not sure how long it’s going to take, increment by increment to get better by. But I want to take things one thing at a time, get there and improve.”


Versatile edge rusher Myles Jackson signs with UCLA

Myles Jackson highlights.

Very few recruits end up signing with a school they previously de-committed from, but Myles Jackson proved to be an anomaly.

The 6-foot-2 versatile edge defender from Mill Creek High in Hoschton, Ga., signed with UCLA after a roller-coaster recruitment.

Jackson received a scholarship offer from the Bruins during an unofficial visit this summer and quickly committed to the class, but after seeing UCLA’s slow start, Jackson chose to back away from his verbal pledge. Undeterred, the coaching staff kept after Jackson, continuing to recruit the three-star prospect. Things warmed back up as the Bruins began to play better on the field.

UCLA got Jackson to come out to Los Angeles for an official visit in November, and within a week he had rejoined the 2020 recruiting class.

Jackson played primarily defensive end for Mill Creek, but is likely to line up as a linebacker for the Bruins, either in the middle of their defense or as an outside edge rusher. He was named all-county after recording 63 tackles with 11 sacks and 12 quarterback hurries in 10 games, according to MaxPreps.

He is the No. 792 overall prospect and the No. 36 weakside defensive end in the 2020 recruiting class, per the 247Sports Composite rankings. The analysts at 247Sports rank him as a top-500 recruit.


UCLA signs three-star cornerback DJ Warnell

A Twitter message changed the course of cornerback DJ Warnell’s recruitment.

For most of his senior season, the three-star Dickinson, Texas, prospect was mulling between in-state schools. But once the Bruins slid into his inbox in late November, everything changed.

“We just kept talking,” Warnell said. “Two weeks later, I went down there for a visit, and I loved it. I feel like, even if I didn’t play football here, I would still be happy.”

Warnell signed with UCLA on Wednesday morning, joining the Bruins after being ranked the No. 52 cornerback nationally by 247Sports’ composite rankings. He’ll join a young Bruins secondary that struggled last season and finished last in the Pac-12 in passing yards allowed per game.

“I’m most excited about working out, trying to see how far I can grow,” said Warnell, who had one interception in his senior season of high school. “To be able to play as a freshman, I know there will be a lot of depth in front of me coming in … but I feel like I can really contribute right away.”


UCLA kicks off early signing period by landing Luke Akers

Luke Akers kicking highlights.

The first signature is in for UCLA. Locking up the 2020 recruiting class is officially underway as Luke Akers became the first to be announced by the Bruins.

Akers is the first of five players in the Eastern time zone to sign with the Bruins on Wednesday.

“Officially Signed as a UCLA Bruin!!! I couldn’t be more excited to officially be a part of the Bruin Family!” Akers wrote in a tweet.

If the name sounds familiar for a specialist, it should. UCLA’s newest signee is the son of NFL Pro Bowler David Akers.

But Luke isn’t just a kicker like his father was for 16 years in the NFL. He is a kicker and punter. The 6-foot-2 Akers from Ravenwood High in Brentwood, Tenn., is accurate and athletic, and the ball booms off his right leg.

He is rated as the nation’s No. 4 kicker in the 247Sports Composite rankings.

Akers could be the heir apparent for the Bruins at both positions as UCLA kicker J.J. Molson and graduate transfer punter Wade Lees will both be gone next season.

The Bruins have junior Carson Olivas and redshirt freshman Collin Flintoft on the roster as punters, and freshman Nicholas Barr-Mira and redshirt freshman Quentin Wallace are listed as kickers. Olivas and Barr-Mira were listed on UCLA’s depth chart as the backups, but did not see any action this season.


Early national signing period opens today

USC coach Clay Helton.
(Luis Sinco)

In what’s quickly becoming a holiday tradition in sports, the majority of top high school prospects from across the nation will sign with colleges during the three-day early national signing period, which opens today.

Only 30 of the top 200 college football prospects, per the 247 Sports Composite rankings, are not verbally committed, and many of those 30 will make their intentions known in the hours ahead. Some will do so live on national television, including Rancho Cucamonga quarterback CJ Stroud and the nation’s top linebacker, Upland’s Justin Flowe.

USC is among the teams Flowe is considering to sign with today. Oregon and Clemson are also in the running for the five-star recruit. If the Trojans land Flowe, it’ll be considered a major upset for USC and arguably coach Clay Helton’s biggest recruiting win since he took over the program in 2015.

Still, USC and UCLA have struggled to attract top-level recruits so far. None of the top 25 prospects from California are committed to the Trojans or Bruins.

Be sure to follow along as The Times provides the latest updates on college football player signings.

For a preview of what could be coming later today, check out our latest recruiting stories: