It's deja vu all over again for the UCLA Bruins football program.
They've got a new, energetic coach with NFL experience taking over for an alum who sported blue and gold in the 1984 Rose Bowl but failed to lift the once-Mighty Bruins back to their former prominence in the now-Pac-12 and on the college football landscape.
Despite a late start, the incoming staff has actually managed to improve on the recruiting class put together by the outgoing coaches and is poised to make plenty of noise on National Signing Day.
All of that could very well describe the optimistic situation in which UCLA football fans (what few there still are) found themselves around this time of the year in 2008, when Rick Neuheisel cobbled together the nation's 10th-ranked recruiting class.
Fast forward to 2012, and you've got a clear picture of what Jim Mora Jr. has brought to Westwood thus far. Mora's class is currently ranked 11th in the nation by Scout.com.
Most of the kids who've already committed were essentially Slick Rick's recruits, though Mora and his staff have done quite a bit to boost the bottom line of talent on its way to LA.
They've already added two local US Army All-Americans in 4-star cornerback Ishmael Adams and 5-star defensive tackle Ellis McCarthy, a former Cal commit, and secured the word of 4-star signal-caller Devin Fuller this past weekend.
Fuller, a New Jersey native and the third-ranked quarterback in the nation, was expected to sign with Rutgers before Greg Schiano bolted for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers job. A self-described Michael Vick copycat, Fuller figures to find his four years under Mora, who coached Vick for three years with the Atlanta Falcons, more than informative.
With 25 high school players already committed for 2012, the Bruins don't have much (if any) room to grow by or on February 1st unless Mora opts for some scholarship trickery and/or gently encourages some of the current recruits to seek opportunities elsewhere.
Five-stars Kyle Murphy and Bryce Treggs are still on Mora's radar, though they both figure to sign elsewhere. The same goes for 4-stars Davonte' Neal and Aziz Shittu.
Still, the fact that the Bruins are back to competing for high-profile recruits nationwide is a good sign, for now at least. Neuheisel drew his fair share of well-regarded talent but, as his 21-29 record suggests, he didn't do all that much with it.
The key for Mora, as with any college coach, will be to spin his top recruits into college stars and, more importantly, NFL draft picks.
And beat USC in each of those tasks, of course.
Winning the publicity battle on National Signing Day isn't sufficient to establishing a culture of sustained success, though it's certainly a necessary and important step, especially for a football program as downtrodden as UCLA's.
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