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Another Challenge for Coach Mora: Developing NFL Talent

UCLA had no players drafted by the NFL in 2012.  Mandatory Credit: James Lang-US PRESSWIRE
UCLA had no players drafted by the NFL in 2012. Mandatory Credit: James Lang-US PRESSWIRE

So far so good, and sometimes great.

That's pretty much the summary performance review we can give Coach Mora at this point in time, given the hires, the recruiting, the efforts to change the culture in practice, and the way he has comported himself in the press and has represented UCLA.

Of course, we are all eager to see those things translate to more wins on the field for our Bruins. But another challenge awaits Coach Mora, beyond winning games. It is one that our previous two coaches were unable to meet for the most part, given UCLA's history.

And that challenge consists of developing players for the NFL. Now, we can argue whether it is a college coach's job to prepare players with potential for the NFL, or whether his job is to win games in the fall. Ideally, a good coach does both, if he has the means.

UCLA has always had the means, until Chianti Dan arrived on campus. This program put a lot of players in the NFL, historically. Even today, we have 24 players in the league...but UCLA has fallen behind. Even Utah has 27 players in the league, and Oregon State has 25.

What gives? Let's see after the jump.

I have provided links to the College Football Matrix site a few times, and I am happy to do it again, so another HT for those guys. I'll let you go through the site and delve into the details of their methodology yourselves. I have pointed out before that they have a metric called "the coaching effect", which is basically an adjustment to the number of expected wins that recruiting rankings would predict, due to the brilliance or ineptitude of a coach. In short, underachievers and overachievers.

The worst such coach even gets and award: The Charlie Weis Anti-Coach of the Year. The winner in 2011 was Houston Nutt, who was fired at the end of the season, and who, per this metric, cost his team 5 games. Rick Neuheisel? He got an honorable mention, costing his team 3 games (i.e., their model predicted 9 wins for the Bruins - bowl games are not included).

After the NFL draft, they provided yet another very telling perspective: they ranked teams based on number of draft picks, and based on recruiting rankings for the corresponding classes. The difference between these two numbers shows which schools prepare their players for the NFL, and those that do better or worse than expected. The metric is a bit flawed (i.e., if you're the top ranked recruiter, the best you can do is as expected, otherwise you underachieve - and vice versa for worst recruiter), but it's still helpful.

For those of you who think UCLA's problem in the last decade has been recruiting, this says otherwise. Their composite recruiting ranking for UCLA from 2002 to 2009 puts them at 17th. But where is UCLA in the NFL draft rankings? 44th. The -27 differential makes UCLA next to last in what essentially comes down to developing NFL talent. The team that was last? Washington, ranked 30th in recruiting and 60th in the draft...not surprising given their lost decade.

UCLA has only had 17 players drafted since 2005, and none this year. That puts us on par with...Wake Forest. In fact, UCLA is only 9th in the Pac-12 in that span. That is incomprehensible.

Not surprisingly, Southern Cal has had the most players drafted in that span, as supported by their pay-for-play program.

That has been a major problem for UCLA, the inability to develop players in their 3 or 4 years here. It's saddening to think that there were a few guys who may have had a shot in the NFL if they had gone to other schools. And I think that challenge falls squarely on Coach Mora's shoulders.