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Wednesday, February 6, 2013
ESPN 150 LB Savaiinaea picks UCLA

By Erik McKinney

Several hours after landing ESPN 150 defensive end Kylie Fitts (Redlands, Calif./Redlands East Valley) on Tuesday night, the UCLA Bruins were back at it on Wednesday morning, earning a commitment from ESPN 150 inside linebacker Isaac Savaiinaea (Honolulu/Punahou).

The 6-foot-3, 231-pound linebacker originally committed to Stanford but backed away from his pledge to the Cardinal and eventually settled on UCLA and Texas A&M as his finalists. A late-September visit to the Aggies seemed to have them in a good position, but when recruiting coach Brian Polian left to take the head coaching position at Nevada, UCLA jumped ahead in the race for Savaiinaea.

What is the impact of Savaiinaea's decision?

What it means for UCLA: The Bruins add another defensive standout and continue to put pieces together at all three levels on that side of the ball.

What it means for the teams that lost out: Texas A&M already holds a commitment from one player from Hawaii, but getting Savaiinaea would have been a big bonus. It’s not much of a loss, considering how difficult it would have been to overcome the distance and the push from UCLA.

Turning point: It would have been tough to come out ahead of UCLA considering the proximity to home and the relationship Savaiinaea had with the coaches. But when Polian left for Nevada, it likely ended this battle.

Surprise (scale of 1-5): 1. This was one of the West’s worst-kept signing day secrets, but that doesn’t take away from what a big signing it is for the Bruins.

Immediate impact (scale of 1-5): 3. The Bruins are blessed with good depth at linebacker for the 2013 season, but they could lose several starters after the season. Savaiinaea is talented enough to contribute on special teams as a freshman and perhaps even crack the two-deep at linebacker.