Redlands (Calif.) running back Craig Lee has been free from the stress of recruiting ever since he committed to UCLA in August.
Lee faithfully attended most of UCLA’s home games this past fall and watched as running back Johnathan Franklin became a Doak Walker Award finalist.
With Franklin’s graduation and Damien Thigpen’s injury, there could be an opportunity for Lee to play as a true freshman.
And while the four-star running back was on his official visit to UCLA this past weekend, the Bruin coaches told him they expect him to be ready.
“They said they want me to come in ready and they don’t really want me redshirting and I guess they want me to come in and compete,” said Lee. “And that’s what I was hoping they would say, because I’m a competitor and I would love to play early.”
Lee was hosted on his official visit by Paul Perkins, another running back who will be looking for some carries next fall.
And Lee said his time with Perkins was enjoyable.
“Paul was real cool, he’s a nice and humble guy and we got along great,” said Lee.
Lee also got to spend some time with Perkins’ former high school teammate, Bruins’ quarterback Brett Hundley.
“I met Brett and we hung out in his dorm and he’s a great guy and he’s also nice and humble,” said Lee. “I found out he and Paul played together in high school. Brett did a really good job this year and he’s the kind of quarterback you want to play with.”
But it wasn’t just the players that Lee hung out with that made his experience in Westwood enjoyable. He also had plenty of time with the Bruin coaching staff.
“I was with Coach (Steve) Broussard mostly the whole time and I met with Coach (Noel) Mazzone too,” said Lee. “Coach Meat (Demetrice Martin) also was with us and then we got to meet with Coach (Jim) Mora. We also got to meet his family too and Coach Mora is just a cool guy. The whole staff is good.”
Having been a commit for nearly six months, Lee turned from recruit to recruiter while on his visit.
“Tahaan Goodman and Kylie Fitts, I played against those guys so I was working on them,” said Lee. “We were telling them why they should come to UCLA and telling them how great UCLA is.”
Lee said the visit overall was a memorable one, making him eager to get back to UCLA.
“It was great there,” said Lee. “The hotel was really nice and we ate a lot. I’m still full. I met a couple of the other players and they showed me around campus and I got to go to my first college basketball game and the atmosphere there was crazy. UCLA just has a great atmosphere there. The players and the coaches really make it feel like home. Nothing else feels like UCLA.”
When Lee got home, he noted the proximity to his home, and why it’s a positive.
“You still feel like you’re away, but you’re also close to your family so you can drive down on weekends, but far enough to have your own little space,” said Lee.
In the meantime, Lee is looking forward to Signing Day and moving on to the next chapter of his career.
“I was glad to get recruiting out of the way and play my senior year without having to worry about recruiting,” said Lee. “And having the in-homes with the UCLA coaches helped me build that relationship and that trust. I’m excited.”