Jim Mora's recruiting philosophy is a fascinating sight to behold. A revamped strategy from the previous regime has UCLA football recruiting at an extremely high level.
During his time in Westwood, Mora has utilized a five-pronged plan in regards to garnering sustained success on the recruiting trails. By demonstrating vigor, zeal and doggedness, Mora and his staff are truly attempting to catapult UCLA into the upper echelon of college football.
Below will detail Mora's philosophy when it comes to recruiting. Each part of the five-pronged plan will be detailed in its own section.
Target Versatile Prospects
Mora has been a part of three recruiting classes during his time in Westwood. A recurring theme is versatility. This characteristic might be the most integral for Mora when evaluating a prospect.
Versatility allows for a myriad of things. For one, a prospect (or player) won't be specifically defined to one single position. Positional versatility offers more flexibility from both a personnel and schematic standpoint.
Myles Jack is a perfect example. Mora has utilized Jack at both linebacker and in the backfield as a running back. When speaking purely about Jack's ability as a defender, he's got the versatility to perform in the base defense, as well as in the nickel formation (when tasked with covering more ground).
With regards to the 2013 recruiting class, multiple members were employed on both sides of the ball.
Starting defensive linemen Kenny Clark and Eddie Vanderdoes were used in UCLA's defensive-laden package on offense. Vanderdoes even scored a rushing touchdown in the 35-14 victory over Southern Cal in the Coliseum. Defenders Cassius Marsh, Jordan Zumwalt and Keenan Graham were also deployed as blockers in this package.
In regards to a possible recruiting pitch, schools will mention the possibility of a prospect competing on both sides of the ball in college. In some cases, this sentiment could even be promised (should the said recruit opt to sign with the school).
UCLA can illustrate this thought with actual game tape. This should make UCLA even more attractive to elite high school athletes.
In the 2014 class, expect the likes of Adarius Pickett, Ainuu Taua and Jaleel Wadood to be given the opportunity to participate on both offense and defense (in some capacity).
By employing players on both sides of the ball, Mora is catering to the unique attributes of each athlete. He's essentially utilizing their respective talents to the fullest.
Making Inroads in the Southeast
There's no question the Southeastern portion of the country is a hotbed for elite high school football talent.
UCLA has had mild success during Mora's tenure—in large part to his NFL experience. He was the head coach of the Atlanta Falcons for three seasons. At the time, the athletic brilliance of Michael Vick was on full display.
Mora's name still holds tremendous clout in the general area. High school recruits are perhaps too young to remember Mora's tenure in Atlanta, but their respective families likely remember his time as the head man.
Under Mora, UCLA has gotten its proverbial foot in the door with many highly regarded recruits in the South. The Bruins were a finalist for top recruits such as Malachi Dupre and Rashaan Evans.
UCLA was able to poach starting corner Fabian Moreau and starting punter Sean Covington out of Florida. Asiantii Woulard—the quarterback of the future—also hails from the Sunshine State. Stud linebacker Kenny Young—a native of New Orleans—chose to sign with the Bruins over the likes of LSU and Texas A&M.
Within the last three years, the state of Texas has been particularly good to the Bruins. Simon Goines, Caleb Benenoch, Zach Whitley, Najee Toran, Aaron Sharp, Deon Hollins and Eldridge Massington all hail from the Lone Star State. Whitley was committed to Alabama before switching his pledge to UCLA.
The vigor of recruiting in the South for 2015 hasn't waned one bit. Elite defensive tackle and Florida native CeCe Jefferson has been effusive in his praise of UCLA. Other prospects such as Roquan Smith, Jeffery Holland, Ryan Newsome and Soso Jamabo figure to be targeted as well.
Even if the percentage of signing recruits from the South isn't overly high, UCLA is making itself known in the region. If the Bruins continue to win at a high clip, the interest in coming to Westwood will continue to grow.
Reestablishing Ties to Local High School Power Programs
Mora is doing, and has done, a fantastic job of targeting top high schools in the greater Los Angeles area.
Traditionally speaking, UCLA hasn't recruited well at two of the top high schools in the area: Gardena Serra High School and St. John Bosco High School in Bellflower, Calif.
In the '14 class, UCLA was able to sign two Serra prospects in Dwight Williams and Jordan Lasley. 2014 signees Wadood and Jacob Tuioti-Mariner both hail from St. John Bosco. UCLA has a commitment from 2015 quarterback Josh Rosen—also a Bosco product.
It's imperative for UCLA to put a fence around the Southern California area. Realistically, the Bruins don't have to leave California. The talent pool in California is amongst the best in the entire country.
By keeping tabs on the top high school programs in the state, it enables UCLA to build relationships at these schools. It should, in theory, pay dividends down the road.
Being Active on Twitter
Mora is extremely active on the social media site Twitter.
For recruits residing outside of Los Angeles, it offers a great grasp of life from within the university and the football program itself. Twitter also allows for Mora to connect with recruits in a more convenient fashion. In this day and age, it's also more conventional for teenagers.
Quarterback Brett Hundley's Heisman campaign has been virtually birthed by Mora on the social media website. The #BruinRevolution has also become a staple.
It's a very shrewd course of action from Mora's perspective. By promoting the brand of UCLA football across social media in such an ardent fashion, he's drumming up considerable excitement for the program.
Mora has compiled a staff with possibly more National Football League experience than any other currently existing in the collegiate game. Mora himself has been associated with the NFL for 25 years.
Offensive line coach Adrian Klemm is a three-time Super Bowl champion with the New England Patriots. Wide receivers coach Eric Yarber has coached Pro Bowl receivers in T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Chad Johnson, and defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich was a 10-year veteran with the San Francisco 49ers.
Offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone had prior experience coaching with the New York Jets. Running backs coach Kennedy Polamalu is widely respected as an excellent teacher of the game.
During his time with the Jacksonville Jaguars, running backs Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew, and fullback Greg Jones all garnered Pro Bowl honors.
This could be perhaps the most important recruiting tool UCLA has to offer. Mora and his staff have the ability to get prospective recruits to the NFL. The mass amount of experience proves this notion.