The best NCAA men’s recruiting class? UCLA, by far

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Daniel Matheney-Boys Fab 50-VolleyballMag.com -Underclassmen to Watch
Daniel Matheney from Yorba Linda, Calif., is headed to UCLA

UCLA — with three of the top five players in the nation — has the top recruiting class among NCAA men. BYU’s strong, too, but waiting on the status of a star player from Mexico. Pepperdine is ranked third …

Who has the top men’s college recruiting class for the upcoming 2019 season?

It’s UCLA in a landslide.

The 2018 NCAA runner-up garnered all but one-first place vote from VolleyballMag.com’s panel of NCAA Division I-II coaches. UCLA had 58 percent more voting points than distant second-place BYU, which presents an interesting case study with its class (see more below), mainly centered around highly-touted Mexico recruit Miguel Sarabia and whether he is part of BYU’s class or not.

So why all the hoopla about the Bruins’ recruiting class?

How about snaring a class that features three of the top five recruits in the nation, as ranked by VolleyballMag.com?

UCLA, which lost in the NCAA men’s championship final to Long Beach State, has the No. 1 recruiting class in the country for the second straight year in a row after having the No. 3 class in 2016.

Cole Pender

UCLA welcomes a class of seven that includes six VolleyballMag.com/TallSlim Tees Boys Fab 50 selections in Sam Burgi (6-3, OH-RS, 949 VBC), Ian Eschenberg (6-6, OH, Ventura Co. VBC), Pennsylvania native Cole Johnson (6-7, S, Yorktowne VBC), Kevin Korbrine (6-4, RS, 949), Daniel Matheney (6-6, MB, Rockstar VBC) and Cole Pender (6-3, Libero-OH, Balboa Bay).

Kobrine was part of a Corona del Mar High School team that was named the 2018 VolleyballMag.com/TallSlim Tees team of the year and also played, along with Burgi, on the 949 club team that recently won an 18 Open national title at junior nationals. Pender and Matheney also were recent VolleyballMag.com/TallSlim Tees boys high-school All-American selections, as was Kobrine.

Kobrine was ranked the No. 2 recruit in the country during our Fab 50 voting, while Pender was fourth and Matheney fifth.

The seventh part of the Bruins equation is University of Hawaii transfer Austin Matautia, a 6-3 outside hitter who played in 25 matches and averaged 1.91 kills per set for the Rainbow Warriors last season.

“We as a staff are excited about this group of young men and the potential they possess,” UCLA associate head coach Brad Keller said. “This class brings a variety of skill sets to the table that can have an immediate impact in our gym. We were fortunate to get a little bit of everything ranging from precise touch on the ball to explosive and physical play.”

BYU earned the No. 2 spot in the rankings, but technically this class still would have to be considered a work in progress.

What we do know for certain is Fab 50 selection Tim Baldwin (6-6, OH-RS, Rise VBC) is headed to Provo along with Italy product Davide Gardini (OH) and Kana’I Akana, a 6-4 right-side hitter from the successful Punahou School program in Hawaii. Akana also is a 2018 Fab 50 selection.

The big question is the status of Mexico native Miguel Sarabia, who some feel is the top recruit in the class (he was not eligible for Fab 50 voting because he does not reside in the United States, but he did play for an American club). Sarabia is rumored to have committed to BYU, but Cougars coach Shawn Olmstead told VolleyballMag.com that he cannot comment on Sarabia “before NCAA paperwork.”

Olmstead also noted there are several walk-on players that he cannot comment on yet, plus Shane Holdaway will be on the 2019 Cougars roster after returning from his Mormon mission. If you recall, the 6-7 middle-blocking Holdaway  was part of the Huntington Beach (California) High School program that won 104 matches in a row during the mid-2010s. He played club at The HBC.

Pepperdine checks in at No. 3 on the list. Coach David Hunt’s large class includes Ben Weinberg (6-4, OH), Brendin Chandler (6-5, S), JT Martin (6-8, MB), Jacob Steele (6-8, OH), Luke Grafton (6-0, Libero), Tommy Koppang (6-8, RS), JT Ardell (6-9, MB) and transfer Kevin Vaz (6-6, MB), a graduate student from Cal Baptist. Martin, Steele, Koppang and Ardell all are Fab 50 selections.

“Our recruiting class brings in some needed size,” said Hunt. “We fill needs at all positions and most importantly we have added guys who will positively add to our culture right away.”

UC Irvine is no stranger to top-10 recruiting class residence. Coach David Kniffin’s squad checks in at No. 4 thanks to inking the likes of Jonny Bowles (6-6, RS, SMBC), Mac Cavanah (6-10, MB, Ventura Co.), Brian Garcia (6-5, S, NCVC), Patrick Vorenkamp (6-6, S, 949) and Illinois native Owen Wahlgren (6-8, MB, Sports Performance). All five players are 2018 Fab 50 selections and Bowles, an Arizona resident (Chandler High School) who played for the Santa Monica Beach Club Pali team, was voted the top recruit in the class during our Fab 50 voting.

“It’s always good exposure to bring in a top-ranked recruit,” said Kniffin, speaking about Bowles. “We have been able to do this for multiple years (Scott Stadick, Joel Schneidmiller). I like the diversity of our class. All these guys are pretty raw and their potential is big. The pursuit of becoming great always is more interesting to us than the reality of already being great.”

Andrew Lyons is headed to Loyola

Loyola-Chicago rounds out the top five. Coach Mark Hulse’s 2018-2019 class includes Cole Schlothauer, a 6-5 outside out of Virginia; Andrew Lyons, a 6-7 outside also from Virginia; Danny Sutton Farrell, a 6-8 middle out of Westlake Village, California; Luke Denton, a 6-6 right-side from Arizona; and Illinois natives Mike Herlihy (6-6, MB), Ian Piet (6-1, OH-Libero) and Joe D’Attomo (6-7, MB).

That group features six Fab 50 selections, plus Herlihy and Piet both recently were named VolleyballMag.com boys’ high-school All-Americans and played for 2018 VolleyballMag.com boys high-school coach of the year Kris Fiore at Lincoln-Way East in the south Chicago suburbs. D’Attomo and Denton also earned high-school All-American honors. One industry insider said to keep an eye on Arizona native Denton in particular.

“This is a big recruiting class for us in terms of numbers and we look forward to the depth it will give us at just about every position,” said Hulse. “Each guy comes from a program that was competing for state and national championships and they all have the potential to develop into great players who will challenge for court time once we get them into the gym.”

Dylan Lange is headed to USC/Katharine Lotze, The Signal photo

USC’s class is headlined by VolleyballMag.com/TallSlim Tees boys’ high-school player of the year Brandon Browning (6-6, OH), out of Corona del Mar High School in Newport Beach, California, and the 949 club that recently won yet another national title.

Browning is joined by Hawaii native Jameson McKibbin (6-3, S), Milwaukee product Liam Schroeder (6-7, MB), Santa Clarita, California native Dylan Lange (6-3, OH-libero) and Australia product Izac Carracher (6-6, OH).

Trojans coach Jeff Nygaard said he likes this group’s “physicality, next-level and international mindets.”

Hawaii, UC Santa Barbara, Ohio State and Long Beach State round out the top 10 this year.

Santa Barbara landed a trio of outside hitters in Hawaii native Ryan Wilcox, Andrew McSweeney (949 VBC) and Max Cajuste (Mira Costa HS, MB Surf), along with middles Brandon Hicks (Corona del Mar, SMBC) and Rhys Tracy (MVVC). The Gauchos also added CDM-949 setter Patrick Paragas, as well as Arizona Fear setter Conor Dunn. Libero Ryan Pecsok (Loyola High School in Los Angeles/SMBC) and China native Haotian Xia (6-5, RS) round out the class.

“I love our recruiting class,” said Santa Barbara coach Rick McLaughlin. “We are bringing in nine good volleyball players who all compete well.”

Out of those nine, five are Fab 50 selections (Wilcox, McSweeney, Cajuste, Hicks and Paragas).

Ohio State’s recruiting class is nothing to sneeze at either. The Buckeyes welcome a large class with Luke Lentin (6-3, S, Coast VBC), Parker Mikesch (5-11, Libero, Vanguard VBC), Sean Ryan (6-5, OH, Adversity), Jack Stevens (6-4, OH, Adversity) and Ethan Talley (6-7, MB, 949). Also new is Fort Wayne transfer Austin Gerwig (6-6, MB) and Santa Barbara City College transfer Kyle Skinner (6-4, OH). Mikesch, Ryan and Talley are Fab 50 selections, while Lentin and Stevens were recent Volleyball.Mag.com high-school All-American selections.

Lewis and Princeton both were just outside the top 10. Lewis and coach Dan Friend add eight players total, including Pennsylvania-based Yorktowne club alum Cole Brillhart (OH-libero) and three players from the Academy VBC out of Long Island, New York, including Alec Lehnert (OH-MB), Kyle Shaffer (S) and Connor Pallmann (RS). Long Beach City College transfer Bobby Oliver will give the Flyers additional depth on the right side.

“We have a group of overall talent,” said Friend. “All these guys will be able to make contributions for us. We are really excited about the added depth and diverse skill set they bring.”

Princeton’s group includes the likes of Fab 50 picks Jerod Nelson (6-5, OH, MVVC).

“We are very excited about our 2018 class,” said Princeton coach Sam Shweisky. ‘All four guys are 6-6/6-7 and taller and all come from great clubs and great backgrounds. All can play the game.”

Looking back over the last three recruiting classes (2018, 2017 and 2016), UCLA is the leader of the pack (1st, 1st, 3rd), while Irvine (4th, 6th, 8th), Loyola (5th, 7th 9th) and Long Beach State (10th, 5th, 10th) also have been three-year constants in the poll with BYU, Pepperdine, USC and Santa Barbara showing up in two of the last three recruiting rankings.

To wrap it up, we leave you with this accurate take from Santa Barbara’s McLaughlin on prognosticating in the short- and long-term when it comes to recruiting classes.

“I can give you schools I think have great classes and try to put them in order, but nobody will know until these guys are juniors or seniors in college,” he said.

 2018 VBM/TallSlim Tees Men’s Top Recruiting Classes
1. UCLA
2. BYU
3. Pepperdine
4. UC Irvine
5. Loyola-Chicago
6. USC
7. Hawaii
8. UC Santa Barbara
T9. Ohio State
T9. Long Beach State
Others receiving votes: Grand Canyon, Princeton, Stanford, Lewis

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