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Are Jim Mora's UCLA Coaches Overrated as Recruiters?

The oft-repeated refrain from defenders of the Jim Mora regime in Westwood is that, while some of the guys on his coaching staff aren't the best X's and O's coaches, they're excellent recruiters - it's a narrative we've seen repeatedly, but is it true?

Harry How

When Adrian Klemm, who has managed to do the absolute worst job in all of Division I-A college football in coaching his offensive linemen (no QB has been sacked more than Brett Hundley), was given a huge pay raise by UCLA this past off-season, a lot of people - some of us included - wrote it off as Mora paying Klemm for what he was worth, not on the field as a X's and O's coach, but as a top-tier recruiter who could keep the talent pipeline open to Westwood.

In fact, it's been a common refrain whenever someone has questioned the wisdom of keeping a particular coach on this coaching staff - we're keeping them because X, Y, or Z is great at recruiting.  On the flip side, when Steve Broussard was shown the door at the end of last season - justifiably so (especially when you look at how little our RBs developed under his tutelage and juxtapose that with Paul Perkins really coming around this year) - the most commonly cited reason was because he wasn't getting it done on the recruiting trail.

You have to give a lot of credit to Mora and his guys - they've built a strong brand as "big time college football recruiters" and they've gotten everyone, including many of us to buy into that narrative.  And it should be no surprise to anyone that Mora and his staff are trying to build that narrative - one of the biggest question marks around Mora when he was hired was whether or not he could actually recruit since he had no college football coaching experience.

But let's take a minute and take a big step back - is that actually true?  Is Jim Mora and his coaching staff actually an elite group of recruiters?  Or are they simply on par with what other UCLA coaching staffs have done?

Let's look at the data (all rankings courtesy of

Karl Dorrell

  • 2003: #35 recruiting class, 1 top 100 player, zero 5 star recruits (Maurice Jones-Drew was 4 stars)
  • 2004: #24 recruiting class, 1 top 100 player, zero 5 star recruits (Brigham Harwell was 4 stars)
  • 2005: #24 recruiting class, 1 top 100 player, one 5 star recruit (Ben Olson)
  • 2006: #20 recruiting class, 1 top 100 player, zero 5 star recruits (Terrence Austin was 4 stars)
  • 2007: #36 recruiting class, 2 top 100 players, one 5 star recruit (Brian Price)

Rick Neuheisel

  • 2008: #13 recruiting class, 4 top 100 players, one 5 star recruit (Rahim Moore)
  • 2009: #10 recruiting class, 4 top 100 players, one 5 star recruit (Morrell Presley) (XSF was 4 stars)
  • 2010: #14 recruiting class, 5 top 100 players, two 5 star recruits (Malcolm Jones, Owa Odighizuwa)
  • 2011: #56 recruiting class, 1 top 100 player, one 5 star recruit (Brett Hundley)

Jim Mora

  • 2012: #12 recruiting class, 4 top 100 players, one 5 star recruit (Ellis McCarthy) (Ish was 4 stars)
  • 2013: #3 recruiting class, 7 top 100 players, two 5 star recruits (Eddie Vanderdoes, Priest Willis)
  • 2014: #20 recruiting class, 2 top 100 players, zero 5 star recruits (Jaleel Wadood was 4 stars)
  • 2015 (in progress): #16 recruiting class (as of today), 2 top 100 players, two 5 star recruits (Josh Rosen, Alize Jones)

Obviously, Karl Dorrell and his staff were the worst at recruiting - one, because as Karl once infamously pointed out, they would focus in on kids who they wouldn't have to compete with Pete Carroll and Southern Cal for - so no top-tier Southern California talent since Carroll was locking every kid from the Southland up (without so much as a whimper from Dorrell), and two, because Karl was, well - Karl Dorrell.  We got Maurice Jones-Drew because Carroll went in for Reggie Bush - we got Olson because he was coming off a Mormon mission and Southern Cal was well-stocked at QB.  The only big-time recruiting battle Karl ever won against Southern Cal was getting Brian Price.  So, to no surprise, Dorrell's numbers are very low.

When Neuheisel took over the program, it was at an all-time low - the cupboard was completely bare of talent and the Bruins were relying on Kevin Craft and Kevin Prince at QB.  Despite that, Rick reeled in some pretty impressive classes - finishing in the top-15 in every season but his last and getting 14 top-100 recruits (5 five-star recruits) to Westwood over four recruiting classes.  In comparison, Mora has recruited 15 top-100 recruits (5 five-star recruits) in the same number of recruiting classes.  Yes, Mora has time still to add to the 2015 class, but there aren't any big-name or five-star recruits left out there that are realistic gets for UCLA (especially with the way this season is shaping up) - we'll probably add a decent number of three-star and four-star guys and maybe move up a spot or two in the ranking, but I wouldn't expect too much upward movement given this season's trajectory.

In short, when you look at the data, Mora and his "elite recruiters" are not doing any better than Neuheisel and his staff did in the same amount of time - plus, at least with a couple of Rick's coaches (Bob Palcic immediately comes to mind) you had at least some guys able to know how to actually coach and develop the talent.  Adrian Klemm was brought in as our OL coach on the strength of his recruiting resume, but given the fact that UCLA is recruiting no better than when Neuheisel was in charge, why exactly are we making Klemm one of the highest paid assistant coaches in America?  Especially when you take into consideration the fact that his OL is one of the worst in the entire nation in giving up sacks?

Likewise, the few people who come to Taylor Mazzone's defense claim he's a great recruiter and he "landed Rosen" - but isn't it troubling to realize that the only QBs that have played for Jim Mora were both brought to Westwood by Rick Neuheisel?  Under Mora and the Mazzones, UCLA has brought in Devin Fuller (who now plays WR), T.J. Millweard (who is now sitting the bench at Kansas), Asiantii Woulard (four-star recruit who has yet to show any development and is stuck behind Jerry Neuheisel on the depth chart), and Aaron Sharp (three star recruit, true freshman, behind Woulard on the depth chart).  Not exactly inspiring considering it was Rick who brought Hundley - the best QB we've had by a long shot since Cade left for the NFL - to Westwood.

At some point, you have to ask is it really the "recruiters" that are getting it done, or is it the pull of UCLA? Or, could it also be that these guys are no better at recruiting than Neuheisel’s regime was – they’re just better at marketing themselves as recruiters because they can’t coach the X’s and O’s?

Troubling questions for a coaching regime under Jim Mora that appears to be crumbling.