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Making headlines: UCLA football 5-star recruit Dante Moore starts spring practice

Incoming freshman quarterback Dante Moore throws a ball in practice. Moore has made headlines on and off the field since starting spring practice with UCLA football. (Lauryn Wang/Daily Bruin senior staff)

By Gavin Carlson

April 12, 2023 12:56 p.m.

This post was updated April 13 at 10:12 p.m..

Handshakes, highlight-reel plays and highly viewed Instagram posts.

Less than 10 days into spring ball, Dante Moore is already making headlines on and off the football field.

In addition to completing his first week of spring practice with UCLA football, the top-ranked five-star recruit spoke to the media for the first time since switching his commitment from Oregon and went viral on social media for his photo with a pair of NFL quarterbacks, including the defending Super Bowl MVP.

“The whole recruiting was a real long journey for everything to end up how it was,” Moore said. “I’m just blessed to be here, blessed to be a football player and a student on campus.”

On Tuesday, media and fans got their first look at Moore as UCLA kicked off its spring practice schedule, but his teammates had already familiarized themselves with the freshman quarterback during offseason workouts in the winter.

Senior linebacker Darius Muasau – who lined up against him during those sessions – said it didn’t take long for him to realize the knowledge that Moore possesses.

“He’s a smart quarterback,” Muasau said. “He makes smart decisions, he doesn’t put the ball in bad places, and he knows where he wants to go with it.”

Decision-making was one of Moore’s greatest strengths throughout his high school career at Martin Luther King Jr. Senior High School in Detroit.

The 2022-2023 Gatorade Michigan Player of the Year had at least a 10-to-1 touchdown to interception ratio in his final three seasons of high school ball. In his junior campaign in 2021, he threw 40 touchdowns and just three interceptions.

But Moore is in no way a conservative passer.

He wowed viewers across the country with dazzling throws from difficult arm angles throughout the All-America Bowl in January. Moore ultimately took home the MVP honor with four passing touchdowns during limited playing time.

After catching passes from the young talent, sophomore wide receiver Titus Mokiao-Atimalala praised Moore’s eye-opening potential.

“Arm talent-wise, he’s amazing,” Mokiao-Atimalala said. “For a young kid, he kind of has all the tools. Right now, he’s still trying to put the offense together, which he is.”

That offense, which coach Chip Kelly has fully implemented during his first five seasons in Westwood, is a primary reason why Moore will be donning the blue and gold. When asked about his decision to choose UCLA, Moore explicitly discussed Kelly’s offensive mind and history coaching legendary quarterbacks.

“Coach Kelly, being one of the greatest head coaches in the game right now in college football, him being a coach in the NFL coaching at the highest level, and him just having the resume he has coaching great quarterbacks, … that just really drew my attention,” Moore said. “I’m just blessed to be with him.”

Moore said he hopes to mimic the success Marcus Mariota had with Kelly at Oregon when Mariota won the 2014 Heisman Trophy. Moore admitted Kelly’s system is complex, adding that he’s slowly coming along.

“It’s an NFL-style offense. It’s a lot of different things to change if you’re at the line of scrimmage or if you see different types of coverages,” Moore said. “It’s real complicated, but I know I’m going with the flow of everything.”

The 17-year-old sparked up a relationship with the Bruins’ previous starting quarterback, Dorian Thompson-Robinson, to gain advice about thriving in Kelly’s complicated system. Thompson-Robinson grew from completing 58% and 60% of his passes in his first two seasons under Kelly, respectively, to finishing his career as UCLA’s leader in almost every quarterbacking statistical category.

Moore recalled when he first met Thompson-Robinson during quarterback camps well prior to his recent commitment to the Bruins and noted that he views Thompson-Robinson as a mentor because of their similar backgrounds.

“Him (Thompson-Robinson) being a young Black quarterback, especially in my same shoes as me being new to the college level, he’s a great person that gives out great sources you need to know about being a quarterback,” Moore said. “I just really appreciate him every day.”

While Moore has formed a strong relationship with the former signal-caller in Westwood, he also made headlines for his apparent relationship with the best quarterback at the professional level.

In an Instagram post following his first week of UCLA spring practices, Moore included a photo of him after an apparent training session with Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes and San Francisco 49ers signal-caller Trey Lance.

But according to Muasau, Bruins fans likely shouldn’t worry about the early fame getting to Moore’s head. The veteran defender had praised Moore’s character days before.

“Very humble guy – he doesn’t come in here being cocky or anything like that,” Muasau said. “He’s an easy guy to talk to and a very smart and intellectual dude.”

As Moore continues to battle it out with several other throwers for UCLA’s starting quarterback job, he’ll likely continue to be the talk of the town in Westwood until the fall rolls around.

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Gavin Carlson | Sports staff
Carlson is currently a staff writer on the football, men's basketball and women's basketball beats. He was previously a reporter on the softball and men's golf beats.
Carlson is currently a staff writer on the football, men's basketball and women's basketball beats. He was previously a reporter on the softball and men's golf beats.
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