Before Jim Mora, Jr. has even taken a step onto the practice field for the UCLA Bruins, much less led his team onto the field for a Pac-12 game, he has already stoked the competitive fires of college football fans in Los Angeles and around the nation with his highly ranked 2012 recruiting class.
The battle for L.A. is no longer only found in science fiction movies or between competing NBA teams at the Staples Center. Jim Mora, Jr. has drawn a line in the proverbial sand, putting USC and the rest of the Pac-12 on notice, especially USC.
The statement from the coaching staff is loud and clear that UCLA will be a force to reckon with for years to come.
If one does not believe this to be true, look at the aggressive spirit UCLA used to flip highly ranked recruits away from Pac-12 rivals and other AQ schools around the country.
Five-star defensive tackle Ellis McCarthy would be the feather in any team’s recruiting cap. For a brief moment in time he was a feather in Cal-Berkeley head coach Jeff Tedford’s cap until Mora flipped McCarthy to UCLA.
The Bruins also took 4-star outside linebacker Jeremy Castro from Cal.
Mora did not stop there. In less than a day after 4-star wide receiver Jordan Payton verbally committed to Washington, Payton signed with UCLA.
The Bruins flipped players from Missouri (Simon Goines), Arizona State (T.J. Millweard) and Boise State (Marcus Rios) as well while holding University of Arkansas off on Javon Williams and Kenny Orjoke.
Bragging rights aside, what is more important is the depth and quality of Mora’s first recruiting class while addressing immediate needs at every position.
UCLA is set to lose eight seniors on the Bruins two-deep offensive depth chart, including five starters. On defense seven players will be lost to graduation; three of those players were starters in 2011.
Mora was able to secure an anchor on the defensive line with McCarthy, a possible quarterback of the future in Devin Fuller, pass-catching options in wide receivers Jordan Payton and Javon Williams and two shut-down corners with Ishmael Adams and Marcus Rios.
The defensive depth in this class promises playmakers at defensive end and linebacker as well. Aaron Porter and Jeremy Castro both enter college highly recruited with high expectations.
The Bruins were able to sign help along the offensive line with Lacy Westbrook and junior college transfer Alexandru Ceachir.
Every need was addressed with recruits that could make an immediate impact as freshmen, but more importantly turn into All-Pac-12 quality starters for years to come.
The only controversy hovering over Mora’s class, if any, is the number of signees that faxed in their letters of intent on Wednesday. Twenty-six recruits signed that way, with two more players committed for a total of 28 recruits.
At the time of this writing it is unclear what will happen with the numbers crunching from 28 recruits down to 25. Two to three players may face a grayshirt situation, have to take the junior college route to Westwood or will have to walk-on the team in the fall.
Running back Tairen Owens from Muir High School in Pasadena and safety Trayvon Watson from West Adams Preparatory remain on the commitment list but have not signed their letters of intent.
Four UCLA verbal commitments signed with other schools on Wednesday. Here’s a list of those players along with their new teams:
RB Steven Lakalaka, 3-star, 5’10”, 200 pounds, Honolulu, HI – Hawaii
ATH Christian Powell, 3-star, 5’11”, 250 pounds, Upland, CA – Colorado
DB Shannon Edwards, 3-star, 5’10”, 175 pounds, Bakersfield, CA – Fresno State
DB Jerico Richardson, 2-star, 6’1”, 180 pounds, Mission Hills, CA – Nevada
Here’s a list of all 28 UCLA commitments:
OT Simon Goines, 3-star, 6’8”, 295 pounds, Keller, TX
OL Colby Cyburt, 3-star, 6’5”, 265 pounds, Mission Viejo, CA
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
QB Devin Fuller, 4-star, 6’0”, 185 pounds, Old Tappan, NJ
QB T.J. Millweard, 3-star, 6’4”, 230 pounds, Fort Worth, TX
WR Jordan Payton, 4-star, 6’2”, 205 pounds, Westlake Village, CA
WR Javon Williams, 4-star, 6’5”, 186 pounds, Chandler, AZ
WR/S Taylor Lagace, 3-star, 6’0”, 176 pounds, Arcadia, CA
WR/RB Ahmaad Harris, 2-star, 5’8”, 170 pounds, Suwannee, GA
TE Ian Taubler, 3-star, 6’4”, 235 pounds, Fresno, CA
RB Kenny Walker, 6’0”, 3-star, 175 pounds, Richmond, CA
RB/WR Fabian Moreau, 3-star, 6’0”, 180 pounds, Davie, FL
RB #Tairen Owens, 3-star, 5’9”, 165 pounds, Pasadena, CA
CB Randall Goforth, 3-star, 6’0” 175 pounds, Long Beach, CA
CB Ishamael Adams, 4-star, 5’10”, 185 pounds, Westlake Village, CA
CB Marcus Rios, 4-star, 6’0”, 170 pounds, Elk Grove, CA
CB Justin Combs, 2-star, 5’9”, 170 pounds, New Rochelle, NY
LB Jeremy Castro, 4-star, 6’3”, 245, Murrieta, CA
LB Aaron Porter, 4-star, 6’2”, 230 pounds, La Habra, CA
LB/S Kenny Orjoke, 3-star, 6’3”, 215 pounds, Marietta, GA
DT Ellis McCarthy, 5-star, 6’5”, 311 pounds, Monrovia, CA
DE Eli Ankou, 3-star, 6’3”, 255 pounds, Bear, DE
DE Nate Iese, 3-star, 6’5”, 240 pounds, Elk Grove, CA
ATH/CB Paul Perkins, 3-star, 5’10”, 180 pounds, Chandler, AZ
ATH #Trayvon Watson, 2-star, 6’1”, 190 pounds, Los Angeles, CA
K Ka’imi Fairbairn, 2-star, 6’0”, 165 pounds, Honolulu, HI
* Denotes junior college transfer and spring term enrollee
# Denotes committed but unsigned per Scout.com
Here’s how the recruiting services ranked UCLA’s class:
Scout.com No. 11
ESPN.com No. 19
Rivals.com No. 13
247Sports.com No. 18