VIDEO: Mora on Recruiting Class
JM: Okay. We're very happy with the class that we were able to put together. We think that it fills a lot of needs with areas of concern for this football team. A lot of people worked very hard on putting this class together and making it the success that it was.
It all starts at the top with Dan Guerrero [Director of Athletics] and the support that he's given this football program in this last year has been outstanding. It's allowed us to do a lot of things that hopefully down the road will prove to help us be successful. There's 2 other people, Petrina Long [Sr. Associate Athletic Director/SWA] and Bobby Field [Senior Associate Athletic Director] from the third floor that also did a tremendous amount of work to help us put… you know, going beyond the football staff obviously when you go out and recruit, those are the frontline guys. Those are the guys that are out there beating the bush, getting into the homes. But there's so many other people on this campus that had so much to do with the success that we had today. Obviously our academic support. Our compliance. Our equipment people. And everybody else in this building. Our travel people. I could go on and on. And everybody had a hand in the success that you had.
Also our players. Our players are great ambassadors for this university and this football program. We bring kids on campus and pair them up with our student athletes. Our student athletes do a great job of presenting to them what UCLA is.
And then I think that you could never underestimate the value of the student body here. These kids come onto campus as recruits, and they spend 48 hours here and they walk around this campus and they see a bunch of very successful young men and young women. Very motivated young men and young women. Typically with a smile on their face and a skip in their step. Just being around our student body, I think, is a real lure when we go out and recruit. These kids have a tremendous time on this campus. A lot of work went into this class, and it was done by a lot of people. And we're excited by it.
Q: Jim, you said it filled a lot of needs. What were the basic needs you got out of this class?
JM: well, our areas of concern were the offensive line. And I thought we did what appears to be a good job of addressing those concerns. The secondary is an area where we felt we needed to add some depth. We feel like we did a decent job at this point. Linebacker is another area we felt like we needed to add some quality pieces. And defensive line. And punter as well. When you lose a guy like Jeff Locke, somebody's got to go out there and duplicate the success that he's had. That's going to be very hard to do.
Q: can you talk about just the benefits of added resources? Like having the private jet and that sort of thing to kind of help you with the recruiting process?
JM: yeah, there's a lot of added resources. A lot of people on campus stepped up and really contributed to the success that we had today. Just the nature of recruiting today, it's so competitive. It's incredibly competitive and it's become a national game for us. It's not just about recruiting California kids. Certainly we're always going to start with homegrown talent. We want California kids to play football in California. We want southern California kids to stay in southern California and play football in front of their friends and family. But we have to also be ready to go other places in the country for good student-athletes. Prospective student-athletes. So having the benefit of a private jet allows you to get into some of these places that you might not be able to get into and out of quickly when you're up against time restraints. We had a number of… you know, Mark Harlan's [Sr. Associate Athletic Director - External Relations] here in development and Josh [Rebholz, Associate Athletic Director - Development]. And they did a tremendous job this year of working tirelessly to try to provide us, not only with alumni that would provide us with jets, but with people that would make donations for jet cards and things that would help our staff reach parts of this country where the players are that maybe we couldn't have gotten to or had access to.
Q: Coach, in the game you could always feel the momentum change. When it comes to recruiting, did you feel like there was a momentum change today? Or did you feel the momentum building for you guys to have this class?
JM: well, it's just a slow steady grind. Until that piece of paper comes across the fax, it isn't over with. With any prospective student-athlete that you're recruiting. So I don't know if we ever felt any shifts in momentum. For us, it was just about grinding and never letting up. And never assuming that we had somebody locked down or someone totally committed. It was continuing to develop the relationships. And continuing to be there when they needed us to be there. And continuing to show interest at all times. I think our staff did a great job of that. These guys worked beyond all expectations, and I think it's going to pay off for us.
Q: can you compare the experience of… I mean, last time, having 2-3 months to recruit and this time having 12 months and what the differences were for you?
JM: it was completely different. Last year, I don't think it was 3 months. It was about a month and a half. It was just a race. This year, I had a chance to develop a relationship with these kids and with their families. And get to know their coaches. And some of their teachers and their counselors. And have a much better idea of the character of the person that we were bringing to UCLA. We did very well last year. This year, we feel very confident that all of the kids that are in this class are really quality people. The type of people that will represent UCLA the way it deserves to be represented.
Q: with [Eldridge] Massington [Wide Receiver, West Mesquite HS in Mesquite, TX 6-3, 205]. He's been on campus since January 1st, right?
JM: no. He's been on campus since January 7th.
Q: Okay. And are you allowing him to do track? I know you talked about this.
Q: okay. So can you explain what his rehab schedule is for his ACL?
JM: no. Because I have not been in his rehab. I've been on the road recruiting.
Q: do you think he'll be back for spring?
JM: *nodding* *shrugging*
Q: and then my other question was, do you have any other early enrollees or grayshirts you're planning on?
JM: I don't follow the question. I'm sorry.
Q: out of the guys you signed, any enrollees or grayshirts?
JM: Kylie Fitts [Defensive Line, Redlands East Valley HS in Redlands, CA 6-4, 260].
Q: Coach, can you talk about the quarterback from Florida, [Asiantii] Woulard [Quarterback, Winter Park HS in Winter Park, FL 6-3, 205]? What he's going to bring to your program? And the competition that he's going to provide at that position for the years to come?
JM: Asiantii… and you pronounce his name "uh-shawn-tay". The spelling lends itself to misunderstanding at times. It's Asiantii Woulard. He's a big athletic smart strong-armed football player. And we, quite frankly, got lucky that he was out there and available when he was. The stars kind of aligned for us. He committed at a time when we were really thinking that it was time to go get a quarterback. There was a point in this process where we weren't going to take a quarterback because we had Brett [Hundley] who's done a heck of a job. We've got Jerry Neuheisel who we think is a very good quarterback. Devin Fuller's a guy we recruited to be a quarterback here. T.J. Millweard is a quarterback. So we're bottom heavy. We have a lot of young guys. We wanted to space it out a little bit. But when Asiantii was there and expressed interest in UCLA, and we did the research on him that we did, it just seemed like a perfect fit for our offense. And we expect him to come in here and compete with those other guys and try to push everybody to be better.
Q: can you talk maybe generally about this class's ability to impact immediately and maybe some specific guys that you expect to do so?
JM: well, I don't know. Last year, a lot of guys came in and played pretty quickly. For us, it's about trying to create competition at every single position. I think that that allows your football team to grow very quickly. I don't know who's going to come in and have an impact early. I don't necessarily want to put any restrictions on anybody. And I don't want to put any expectations on anybody other than to say we expect all these guys to come in, in great shape, with a great attitude, ready to work hard and compete to be the best that they can be. And if they prove to be someone that can go on the field and help us win football games and do the things that we ask them to do, the way they're supposed to be done, and represent this university the way it's supposed to be represented, then we'll find a way to get them on the field.
Q: Jim, with Johnathan Franklin gone, was there a hope of maybe getting more of a presence at running back in this class? Or is that something that you are confident with the guys you have now?
JM: I'm very confident with the guys that we have now. You have to be a heck of a running back to come in here as a freshman and replace Johnathan Franklin. I think that sometimes people worry about not getting a running back in this class… yet… we're not done. Let's make that clear. We still have some spaces available. But there's probably not an incoming freshman running back in the United States of America that's going to come in here and replace Johnathan Franklin this year. And we think that we've got a good group of really young backs on this football team that, as a committee, can step up and do some of the things that Johnathan did.
Q: what stands out about Sean Covington [Punter, St. Petersburg HS in St. Petersburg, FL 6-2, 195] at punter? Are there any similarities that you've noticed in comparison to Jeff [Locke]?
JM: no. Jeff Locke is an NFL punter for life. One of the great punters, I'm sure, in the history of the PAC-12 if not college football and certainly UCLA. I don't want to make any comparisons right now between Jeff Locke and a young man who has never stepped on a college football field.
Q: is there anything that he stands out on his own merits?
JM: yeah. He's got an excellent leg. He's got good get-off. He's a good directional punter. He's got a strong leg on kickoffs. He's a young man that's unfazed by pressure. There were some times in the games where he had to back up and had to 1-step it out of the endzone and bang a 65-yarder. He's not going to be affected by, I don't believe, the environments that we put him in here in the PAC-12. I think he's going to go out there and respond. Pretty steady.
Q: you brought in a lot of offensive linemen. Those guys tend to take a year or two to develop. Do you see any of them coming in here and competing for a starting spot right away?
JM: I see all 7 of them coming in here and competing for a starting spot right away. We're not going to limit what they can do. Some of these guys are outstanding high school football players. And we expect them to be outstanding college football players. We expect it very soon. But I expect all 7 of these guys to come in and right away compete to start. I think that's the attitude that they all need to have. And I think that's the attitude that the guys who are on this campus right now have to have too. That there are 7 guys coming to take my job.
Q: you guys went head-to-head with USC on quite a few recruits and did pretty well. Given that, does it mean anything, given how much of a powerhouse they've kind of been in recruiting the last few years, the last decade… that you guys did so well, head-to-head with them?
JM: I don't even know who we went head-to-head with… we don't really pay attention necessarily to who we're recruiting against. I know it sounds like a cliché. But it's really about us recruiting players that we think can help us be the football team that we want to be. Certainly we're aware of the competition, but we don't worry about the competition. It's about presenting UCLA and what we're all about. And hoping you can build a relationship that's mutual. And attract these guys. This is a great school.
Q: Coach, with the departure of Marques Tuiasosopo to Washington, can you talk about the impact that Taylor Mazzone [Y Receivers] has had stepping up into that role?
JM: Taylor made an immediate impact. Within about an hour of him being named the tight ends coach, he secured a commitment from Thomas Duarte [Tight End, Mater Dei HS in Santa Ana, CA 6-4, 225], one of the best tight ends in America. It was pretty impressive. I said, "Hey Taylor, you're the new tight ends coach, can you call Thomas?" About an hour later, he called back and said, "Thomas just committed." So I'm like, "Okay. Way to go." He was key in the recruiting of Asiantii Woulard as well.
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