LOS ANGELES (AP) — Jim Mora got off to a fast start in his first year as UCLA’s coach, posting a 9-5 record. In the opening phases of his second go-round, he appears to have mastered the delicate art of recruiting.
Mora and his staff inked 23 high school seniors to national letters of intent Wednesday, a class that could be even more impressive than his first.
UCLA administrators and donors presented Mora with a greater array of resources this year, including the luxury of a private jet. The jet allowed for UCLA’s staff to develop relationships with a greater number of nationally attractive recruits.
“A lot of people stepped up and contributed to the success we had today,” Mora said. “The nature of recruiting is incredibly competitive and it’s become a national game for us. … The benefit of a private jet allows you to get into and out of places quickly against time constraints and reach parts of this country where we didn’t have the access to.”
The benefits show, with UCLA reeling in 11 signees from outside California.
One of the biggest names is Asiantii Woulard, a dual-threat quarterback from Winter Park, Fla. Many thought Woulard would not make the cross-country trek because UCLA already has a starting quarterback in rising redshirt sophomore Brett Hundley, who broke the school’s single-season record for yards passing in his first season.
“We quite frankly got lucky that (Woulard) was out there and available when he was,” Mora said. “The stars aligned. There were points in this process where we weren’t going to take a quarterback. … We did the research on him and it just seemed like the perfect fit for our offense.”
UCLA filled a need up front by signing seven offensive linemen, something no Bruin recruiting class had done since 2004. Among them are Poasi Moala (Moreno Valley, Calif.), Kenny Lacy (Phoenix), Caleb Benenoch (Katy, Texas) and Alex Redmond (Los Alamitos, Calif.).
Mora said he expects all seven to compete for time right away.
“We’re not going to limit what they can do,” Mora said. “Some of these guys are outstanding high school football players and we expect them to be outstanding college football players very soon.”
The Bruins also beefed up their defensive line with five players and added four defensive backs, hoping to replace three starters lost to graduation.
Running back Craig Lee (Redlands, Calif.) was noticeably absent from the list. Lee was supposed to help fill the void left by the school’s career leading rusher, Johnathan Franklin.
He verbally committed to the Bruins but did not sign a letter of intent Wednesday, reportedly because he didn’t meet academic standards.
Mora hinted that Lee could still join his team.
“Sometimes people worry about not getting a running back in this class — yet,” Mora said. “We’re not done. Let’s just make that clear. We still have some spaces available.”