The traditional signing day for college football has evolved into a slow news cycle. The only nugget that UCLA coach Chip Kelly revealed Wednesday was the start date for spring practice, which opens March 3.
Kelly acknowledged the lack of newsworthiness when he emerged from an elevator inside the Wasserman Football Center and glanced at a bank of cameras, immediately alluding to the tape they had captured two months earlier on the early signing day.
“You could use the one from December,” Kelly quipped, “because nothing’s changed.”
Newman and Vaughns completed a 20-player class that will be supplemented by a handful of graduate transfers. The Bruins are allowed to bring in 25 players each year under NCAA rules and have received commitments from graduate transfers Brittain Brown, a running back from Duke; Qwuantrezz Knight, a safety from Kent State; and Evidence Njoku, a tight end from Miami who is the brother of UCLA receiver Charles Njoku. 247Sports has reported that Stanford cornerback Obi Eboh is also headed to UCLA as a graduate transfer, though Eboh has not announced his intentions.
Kelly said the team had only one spot left for incoming players, indicating that the Bruins had committed four spots to transfers.
Additional needs were created by the recent departures of offensive lineman Christaphany Murray to the transfer portal, and tight end Devin Asiasi and cornerback Darnay Holmes to the NFL draft, but Kelly noted that the incoming class was set long before they left, reducing the team’s ability to pivot and fill those holes.
UCLA’s class ranked No. 32 nationally and sixth in the Pac-12 Conference, according to 247Sports, down from No. 28 nationally and fourth in the conference after the early signing period. St. John Bosco running back Nathaniel Jones and Mt. San Antonio College running back Rachaad White were initially expected to join the class before decommitting.
Newman and Vaughns will be reunited with former high school teammate Logan Loya, a receiver who signed with UCLA in December. Kelly projected Newman and Vaughns as safety prospects.
“They’ve got great instincts,” Kelly said. “They’re really, really intuitive out there so we’re excited to see how they fit in in the mix back there.”
Kelly said Vaughns would also play baseball for the Bruins after having starred as an outfielder and pitcher at St. John Bosco.
Securing all of their high school prospects by December allowed UCLA coaches to redirect their recruiting efforts on sophomores and juniors, giving them a jump on the 2021 and 2022 classes.
“I think we’re ahead of the game from that standpoint,” Kelly said.
The Bruins are also closing in on a defensive line coach to replace the departed Vince Oghobaase, Kelly said, and expect to open spring practice with more than 90 players available for the first time in Kelly’s three years.
Early enrollees who will participate in spring practice are Loya, defensive back John Humphrey, and linebackers Mitchell Agude, Myles Jackson, Caleb Johnson, Kenny Mestidor and Choe Bryant-Strother. Receiver Matt Sykes and linebacker Jeremiah Trojan are scheduled to join the team in early April after enrolling for the spring quarter.
“To get out there with full numbers and be able to go through a full practice,” Kelly said, “will be exciting.”
It might even yield some original content from a batch of newcomers whose arrival as Bruins is old news.