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UCLA Football Recruiting: DL Jay Toia Announces Transfer to the Bruins
The Bruins get a major pickup for the future of the defensive line.
The Bruins got a major boost in the wee hours of Tuesday evening when Southern Cal defensive lineman Jay Toia made it official that he was transferring to UCLA.
Jay Toia is a 6’2”, 315-pound defensive line prospect from Grace Brethren School in Simi Valley, CA, though he is from Inglewood, CA. He was a composite 4-star recruit according to 247Sports Composite Rankings, where he ranked as the 26th best defensive line prospect in the country, and the 15th best recruit in the state of California. I mention his recruiting stats because, in many ways, Toia is still a recruit. Toia is a member of the 2021 recruiting class and signed his letter of intent with Southern Cal this past December. He is a transfer because he was an early enrollee and participated in Southern Cal’s spring practice, where he earned rave reviews from observers and was pinned as a potential starter along Southern Cal’s defensive line.
That’s what makes his decision to transfer so strange. Toia entered the transfer portal in late May without any understanding of his reasoning for doing so. Toia still has not discussed his reasoning for leaving the Trojans, and I don’t expect we will learn what they were for some time. That said, his loss is UCLA’s gain, as the Bruins quickly emerged as the early front-runner for Toia’s transfer alongside Michigan. UCLA had an ace up their sleeve, however, as their defensive line coach is Johnny Nansen, the same Johnny Nansen that had gotten Toia to commit to the Trojans back in June of 2018. Toia was a relatively unknown prospect back then, but Nansen had Toia’s ability pegged early and benefited as Toia grew into an excellent prospect. But that changed after the 2019 season when Nansen was let go from the school and was immediately hired by UCLA. In fact, Nansen’s hiring put Toia’s commitment to the Trojans in question, and there was ample speculation that he could be a late flip. Toia ultimately stuck with Southern Cal, but upon entering the transfer portal it became clear that Nansen was going to return to that relationship that he built.
Toia is an excellent defensive line recruit, especially in the middle. He’s big and does a great job of occupying multiple blockers, but he’s also incredibly strong and good at using his power to overwhelm opposing linemen. In high school, Toia played on both sides of the ball, and clearly there remains the option to stick on the offensive line, but Toia seems destined to stick on the defensive line. That’s good news for Chip Kelly’s program as Toia has the body and skill to take over as UCLA’s primary nose tackle as soon as next year, with Otito Ogbonnia entering his junior season as the only other solid option at that spot. Going off of Southern Cal practice reports, one has to assume Toia has the capability to at the very least be a contributor this season if he plays.
That’s the big part here: “if”. Jay Toia had already enrolled at Southern Cal and taken classes prior to transferring, thus he is still under the jurisdiction of his National Letter of Intent rather than the new free transfer rule implemented in college football this past offseason. That means his eligibility to play this season hinges on whether the Trojans are willing to let him out of his NLI. The Bruins found themselves in a similar situation with Ethan Garbers and his transfer from Washington, which the Huskies only relented on recently. Rumors are that the Trojan coaching staff was not happy with the way Toia’s decision played out. So, there is a distinct possibility that Southern Cal may not release Toia from his NLI for this upcoming season. Something to keep an eye on as the weeks progress.
Let’s take a look at Toia’s junior season highlights, courtesy of Hudl.
Welcome to Westwood, Jay!