A new head coach can generate excitement and hope for the future of any program. Expounding on the team’s new philosophy and enthusiasm from within can be hard to translate in the living rooms of players on the recruiting trail.
This has not been the case for UCLA’s new head football coach Jim Mora.
Mora has hit the road preaching change, competitiveness and ultimately a winning program. In the process he has indirectly renewed the crosstown rivalry with USC that has remained primarily dormant for much of the past 15 years.
Mora’s NFL head coaching experience with the Atlanta Falcons (2004 to 2006) and Seattle Seahawks (2009) commands instant respect from top recruits. The perspective players are listening and he even has top recruits flipping their verbal commitment to the Bruins, taking talent away from in-conference rivals.
With less than a week remaining before National Signing Day, Mora has wrapped up 25 verbal commitments from as far away as Hawaii, New York and Florida while snagging 11 of the top 100 in-state high school seniors.
His biggest haul may be 5-star defensive tackle Ellis McCarthy from Monrovia, CA.
On Jan. 7, at the U.S. Army Bowl, McCarthy was committed to University of California. In nine short days McCarthy officially announced he was changing to UCLA.
McCarthy is not the only verbal commitment Mora has convinced to change from another Pac-12 school. On Sunday Jan. 22, 4-star linebacker Jeremy Castro from Murrieta, California switched from Oregon to UCLA.
On that same day Colby Cyburt, a 3-star offensive tackle from Mission Viejo, California choose the Bruins as well.
Three-star quarterback T.J. Millweard from Fort Worth, Texas switched his school of choice from Arizona State to the Bruins on Jan. 17.
Marcus Rios, a 4-star cornerback from Elk Grove, CA de-committed from Boise State choosing to play for Mora instead.
The influx of talent has moved UCLA higher in the recruiting rankings. Rivals.com has UCLA ranked No. 18 while Scout.com has the Bruins at No. 10. Even with the impressive list of current players ready to head to Westwood, Mora may not be finished.
Arik Armstead from Elk Grove, CA could turn a great UCLA class into a possible consensus top-10 college football recruiting class for Mora.
Armstead, a 6’8”, 285-pound offensive tackle with the ability to play defensive tackle in college, is considered the second-best high school player in the nation by Scout.com.
Notre Dame, USC, Auburn, Oregon and UCLA are all vying for Armstead’s signature come Feb. 1. Each school has arranged an in-home visit or visited him at school over the past week.
Armstead has taken official visits to Notre Dame, Alabama, Oregon and California.
The lure of playing one season with his older brother could swing Arik’s final decision.
Armond Armstead was a starting defensive tackle for USC until an undisclosed illness kept him off the field in 2011. Armond has one more season of eligibility left. Since Armond has graduated from USC he can transfer to any school without having to sit out a year.
The Armstead brothers officially visited Auburn the weekend of Jan. 13. Will some lucky team get both of the Armstead brothers come fall 2012?
Arik was committed to USC until changing his mind in November. He is a midterm graduate ready to enroll in the school of his choice.
If Mora could land both Armstead brothers, not only would that boost the overall talent of UCLA’s recruiting class, but it could mean he has added two players that can contribute instantly.
Perhaps the more important emphasis is UCLA could keep two quality players away from USC or Cal.
Due to NCAA violations USC can only sign 15 players and they can not carry more than 75 scholarship players on their roster. Any attempt to lessen the overall talent on Lane Kiffin’s USC squad can only help Mora and his staff in the future.
USC has 12 verbal commitments officially listed with an offer on the table to Armstead.
Rivals.com current has five Pac-12 teams ranked in their top 25 starting with No. 12 Stanford, No. 13 Cal, No. 17 USC, No. 18 UCLA and No. 19 Oregon with Oregon State hovering at No. 27.
Mora’s first recruiting class has the attention of every other coach throughout the Pac-12. UCLA has sent a message that times have changed in Westwood.
The race for the top talent in the Pac-12 is far from over but Jim Mora has UCLA right in the thick of the race.
Here’s a list of the remaining 20 verbal UCLA commitments:
OL Lacy Westbrook, 4-star, 6’5”, 300 pounds, Compton, CA
OL Alexandru Ceachir, 3-star, 6’5”, 300 pounds, Santa Monica, CA
OL Carl Hulick, 3-star, 6’2”, 285 pounds, Anaheim, CA
WR Taylor Lagace, 3-star, 6’0”, 176 pounds, Arcadia, CA
TE Ian Taubler, 3-star, 6’4”, 235 pounds, Fresno, CA
RB Steven Lakalaka, 3-star, 5’10”, 200 pounds, Honolulu, HI
RB Fabian Moreau, 3-star, 6’0”, 180 pounds, Davie, FL
RB Tairen Owens, 3-star, 5’9”, 165 pounds, Pasadena, CA
DB Ishamael Adams, 4-star, 5’10”, 185 pounds, Westlake Village, CA
DB Justin Combs, 2-star, 5’9”, 170 pounds, New Rochelle, NY
DB Shannon Edwards, 3-star, 5’10”, 175 pounds, Bakersfield, CA
DB Jerico Richardson, 2-star, 6’1”, 180 pounds, Mission Hills, CA
LB Aaron Porter, 4-star, 6’2”, 230 pounds, La Habra, CA
LB Kenny Orjoke, 3-star, 6’3”, 215 pounds, Marietta, GA
DE Eli Ankou, 3-star, 6’3”, 255 pounds, Bear, DE
DE Nate Iese, 3-star, 6’5”, 240 pounds, Elk Grove, CA
ATH Paul Perkins, 3-star, 5’10”, 180 pounds, Chandler, AZ
ATH Christian Powell, 3-star, 5’11”, 250 pounds, Upland, CA
ATH Trayvon Watson, 2-star, 6’1”, 190 pounds, Los Angeles, CA
K Ka’imi Fairbairn, 2-star, 6’0”, 165 pounds, Honolulu, HI
National Signing Day is Feb. 1. All verbal commitments are nonbinding.