When Jim Mora took over as UCLA’s head coach in December of 2011, he inherited a program on the heels of a 50-0 loss to crosstown USC and a recruiting class in disarray.
The former NFL coach had a little more than a month to hire his coaching staff and secure commitments for the 2012 recruiting class.
“It was completely different,” said Mora on Wednesday of last year’s recruiting process. “It was about a month and a half, and it was just a race.”
While announcing the 2013 recruiting class on National Signing Day on Wednesday, Mora said that he was pleased with what his staff was able to accomplish, given that they had more time to get to know recruits.
“This year, (we) had a chance to develop a relationship with these kids and with their families and … (we got a) much better idea of the character of the person we were bringing to UCLA,” Mora said.
UCLA announced a class of 23 official signees that addressed many of the Bruins’ positional concerns along the offensive and defensive line, in the secondary and at punter. Mora stressed that the Bruins’ class was not entirely complete, as a few commits had been unable to send in their letters of intent.
A pair of out-of-state, ESPN Top 150 recruits picked UCLA: quarterback Asiantii Woulard and linebacker Isaac Savaiinaea.
The coach credited the staff’s ability to build relationships with players as a reason for their success with the 2013 class, ranked No. 5 by Scout.com.
Kylie Fitts was told just days before he expected to start classes at USC that he could not enroll early.
Days later, the defensive end decommitted from the Trojans, and UCLA’s defensive line coach Angus McClure gave Fitts a call.
Speaking at an announcement ceremony at Redlands East Valley high school on Tuesday night, Fitts cited the relationship he developed with McClure and the coaching staff as a deciding factor in his decision to sign with the Bruins.
Fitts also credited the change from the old UCLA coaching staff to the one put in place by Mora.
“A couple of years ago with Neuheisel, I just didn’t see the passion or anything,” said Fitts at the announcement ceremony.
“You go on this visit and you see the way they’re playing. With Mora I just know he’s going to do great things with them.”
In an interview with the Pac-12 network Wednesday, McClure addressed Fitts’ recruitment.
“It was exciting to get him late,” McClure said in the interview. “I thought I connected well with him last spring and our relationship built, and even though he was committed to USC, we kept recruiting him.”
In addition to McClure’s efforts, offensive line coach Adrian Klemm helped the Bruins address their depth concerns along the offensive line.
The class includes seven offensive linemen, the most brought in by UCLA since 2009.
Mora said he expects all seven linemen to come in and compete for playing time along with the rest of the class, the staff’s first full recruiting cycle.
“For us, it’s about trying to create competition at every single position and I think that allows your football team to grow very quickly,” Mora said.
Email Drohan at firstname.lastname@example.org.