Virtual fireworks keep going off inside the Wasserman Football Center, signaling an explosion of recruiting updates.
“BOOM!” Ethan Young, UCLA’s director of player personnel, tweeted Sunday, the day after the Bruins defeated Colorado for a third consecutive victory.
“And BOOM!” Young tweeted later Sunday.
“We aren’t done yet … BOOM!!” Young tweeted Monday.
Young wasn’t kidding, tweeting Tuesday, “Another day … another BOOM!”
The Bruins’ de facto recruiting coordinator revealed part of the team’s haul when he retweeted messages from Bellflower St. John Bosco High teammates Logan Loya and Jonathan Vaughns as well as Norcross (Ga.) Greater Atlanta Christian School linebacker Choe Bryant-Strother announcing their commitments. UCLA has also received a commitment from San Francisco St. Ignatius College Prep offensive lineman Beau Gardner, who is expected to play for the Bruins as a preferred walk-on long snapper.
The flurry of commitments has significantly boosted UCLA’s recruiting class with a little more than a month left before the early signing period. 247Sports now rates the Bruins’ 2020 class as the fifth best in the Pac-12 Conference and No. 34 nationally, up from No. 76 a month ago.
Might that massive jump have something to do with the team’s three-game winning streak after a 1-5 start?
“That would be very presumptuous to be so shallow that recruits, that’s all they commit to, so there’s a lot more to sell at this university than just that we won a couple of football games in a row,” UCLA coach Chip Kelly said Wednesday. “I think this is a truly unique and special place and I think when you get a chance to spend 48 hours on it, you realize that.”
Kelly said the surge in commitments was largely a result of the team recently holding just its second recruiting weekend of the season. The Bruins had waited until the last two weekends to host recruits to give them a better feel for what it’s like to be a UCLA student.
“We don’t bring kids in early in the season because there’s no students on campus, so it’s not a fair representation of what being a student-athlete at UCLA is about,” Kelly said. “I want them to experience what it’s like when students are on campus, I want them to experience meeting professors and things like that.”
Loya, a wide receiver for one of the top high school teams in Southern California, became just the second four-star player on the 247Sports’ composite five-star scale to commit to the Bruins, joining Concord (N.H.) St. Paul’s School quarterback Parker McQuarrie. Vaughns, an outside linebacker, and Bryant-Strother, an inside linebacker, are both three-star prospects.
Tim Loya, Logan’s father, said that UCLA’s recent success was just part of the reason his son picked the Bruins after visiting nine schools. Other factors included the ability to get a master’s degree; a strength and conditioning program that is “the best that we’ve seen”; his comfort level with the character of the other players; his fit in Kelly’s offense; and the quality of the coaching staff.
“From a father’s point of view,” Loya said, “I’m giving my son to a staff that is by far the best that we’ve met when it comes just to being good people.”
Of course, the winning helps.
“The trend is definitely going up from where it was before and it probably has a lot to do with seeing some results on the field,” he said. “That’s just human nature, I get it, and I’m sure for my son it’s no different. But it wasn’t the end-all. We understand they’re a young team and they’re going to go through ups and downs.”
Loya added “there’s a very good chance” that the seven other prospects who took their visits with his son could also commit to the Bruins, leading to more cyber celebrations.
“It’s hard not to really like the place, the institution, the people,” he said, “so if you add the winning to it, I think it’s going to be an easy place to recruit.”
Four days later, he still had to wonder if it really happened.
Ethan Fernea, onetime walk-on, made a 45-yard touchdown catch in a Pac-12 game.
“It was surreal, absolutely surreal,” Fernea said of his first career touchdown. “I’ve been working and dreaming for that moment ever since I got here, so I couldn’t believe it — still can’t believe it.”
Fernea, a redshirt junior, said he wasn’t expecting quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson to throw him the ball until he beat the cornerback. Fernea dived for the ball in the end zone, made the catch and was so excited that he didn’t even notice that one shoulder pad had popped out.
All Fernea felt was his teammates mobbing him during a lengthy celebration that he said was more tiring than the play itself. Thompson-Robinson tweeted after the game that he was so excited when Fernea made the catch that he swallowed his gum before joining in on the fun.
“I saw him running downfield like a crazy man,” Fernea said. “That was cool.”