football Edit

UCLA scores two big commits

RANCHO CUCAMONGA, Calif. - There are still more than 10 months until National Signing Day but a group of Ground Zero 7on7 teammates decided to announce their commitments on Monday and local powers could not be any happier.
Four-star linebacker Lokeni Toailoa and three-star athlete Demetric Felton, who could move up in the next round of rankings because he's had a phenomenal offseason, picked UCLA over many other national offers.
USC landed a commitment from 2017 four-star running back Stephen Carr, who selected the Trojans over UCLA, Washington and Colorado. San Jose State also received a commitment from Leni Toailoa, an athlete from Rialto (Calif.) Wilmer Carter who is Lokeni's brother.
Four-star athlete Damian Alloway, a Rivals100 member from Fontana (Calif.) Summit seemed to be favoring California and UCLA over his other offers and was also expected to commit during Monday's Ground Zero ceremony but he decided to wait longer and got pulled from the event days ago.
Still, it was an emotional night filled with a lot of big decisions and even some tears.
Toailoa, who finished with 98 tackles and six sacks in his junior season, is the biggest commitment for UCLA, which is off to a fantastic start in its 2016 recruiting efforts. ranks the hard-hitting inside linebacker second at his position and No. 48 overall. Notre Dame, USC, Utah, Washington and many others were heavily pursuing him but Toailoa had early on established a great relationship with the UCLA coaches and decided to end his hectic recruitment even before the spring evaluation period.
For Toailoa, even with all the national offers, it came down to the two Los Angeles rivals.
A bag accompanied Toailoa to the dais with USC and UCLA hats in it. He reached down, felt the UCLA one was perfect and knew he was making the right decision.
"From the start of this whole process it really came down to both L.A. schools," Toailoa said. "I kind of knew for a while and then when I released my top schools and released my announce date I've kind of been stressing out this whole week.
"Nobody knows this but I had both hats in the bag. I had both hats in the bag and when they told me to pull one, I don't know, my hand went to the Bruin hat and that's all it is. It's been a battle between the two all week.
"It's a great fit. They're on the rise. I took the coaches out of the equation for both schools. UCLA was over the top of USC. I could see myself being a Bruin as a student and not just a student-athlete."
Felton, from Temecula (Calif.) Great Oak, is an intriguing prospect because he could be used in any of the three phases for the Bruins.
He's a fantastic running back who put up 1,277 yards and 15 touchdowns out of the backfield this past season. The three-star also caught 26 passes for 560 yards and seven scores. Felton is electrifying at cornerback and he's also a threat in the return game.
UCLA likes him at slot receiver and figures he could be most useful there.
"What really sold me was how I could play at UCLA and how my family could come support me," Felton said. "That was very important to me. Also, it's a great program. How could you turn it down?
"(Wide receivers) coach (Eric) Yarber has been talking to me about playing the slot position. He said I would fit very well. They're looking for a guy who's shifty who can catch the ball and go a couple more yards and that's what they think I can do."
Carr, also from Fontana Summit, had just gotten started with the recruiting process and had landed offers from USC, UCLA, Washington and Colorado. Others were starting to show interest and with his size and speed, he could still become a national recruit.
Chatter had picked up in recent weeks especially after an outstanding unofficial visit to USC that the Trojans would land Carr's commitment at any time. Some expected it to happen on his trip there but that did not happen.
It only took a few more weeks, however, and Carr had decided he found the right spot.
"It's pretty much a relief to get this weight off my shoulders," Carr said. "I like the feeling right now. I'm just going to enjoy this process and see where it takes me. That visit to USC sealed the deal. That was amazing. The coaches loved me. The players showed a lot of love and it was amazing. That was it."
It's only March but UCLA has done extraordinarily well with Ground Zero recruits. Monday night, the Bruins landed Toailoa and Felton. And a couple weeks ago, the Pac-12 power landed a pledge from four-star Bakersfield (Calif.) Liberty LB Krys Barnes, another Ground Zero member. He called UCLA his dream school this past weekend.
Five-star Breland Brandt from Los Angeles Windward made the trip out to Athletic Republic here to join in the celebration.
Others wait in the wings.
Alloway has yet to make his decision. Then there are others like 2017 stud cornerback Thomas Graham who are in the system. Ground Zero is loaded year in and year out with top players and so far this recruiting cycle UCLA is doing a bang-up job getting them.