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The UCLA Bruins Football Coaching Change Talent Drain

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The firing of Jim Mora and the hiring of Chip Kelly has resulted in a big drain of talent from the UCLA Bruins roster

NCAA Football: Cactus Bowl-Kansas State vs UCLA
On Friday, Devon Modster became the 13th former blue chip recruit to leave the UCLA program since the end of last season when he announced that he is transferring.
Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday, I looked at the Recruiting History of UCLA Football Since 2000.

That brings us to the current state of the UCLA roster and, specifically, to how the level of talent currently on the roster has been drained since Jim Mora was fired.

Let’s start this look with the 2014 recruiting class.

2014 UCLA Football Recruiting Class

Name Ranking Roster Status
Name Ranking Roster Status
Zach Whitley 4-Star Left program after 2014 season
Jaleel Wadood 4-Star Exhausted eligibility
Adarius Pickett 4-Star Currently on roster
Austin Roberts 4-Star Left for NFL Draft with a year of eligibility remaining
Kenny Young 4-Star Exhausted eligibility
Ainuu Taua 4-Star Grad transfer to Nevada
Nate Starks 4-Star Injured in 2017; did not return
Alex Van Dyke 4-Star Exhausted eligibility
Takk McKinley 4-Star Exhausted eligibility
Matt Dickerson 4-Star Exhausted eligibility
Dwight Williams 3-Star Left program during Spring 2016
Kolton Miller 3-Star Left for NFL Draft with a year of eligibility remaining
Jacob Tuiati-Mariner 3-Star Exhausted eligibility
Jordan Lasley 3-Star Left for NFL Draft with a year of eligibility remaining
Denzel Fisher 3-Star Announced a grad transfer to WVU; not accepted
Najee Toran 3-Star Exhausted eligibility

This recruiting class has just one player left on the current roster and that’s safety Adarius Pickett. There were three guys who opted to enter the NFL draft last season: Kolton Miller, Austin Roberts, and Jordan Lasley. Miller was a first-round draft pick. So, you can’t really argue that he should have stayed. Austin Roberts blew out his ACL during training camp, making it hard to say whether he should have stuck around for another year at UCLA. Lasley remains on the roster for the Baltimore Ravens, despite not having done anything to help the team so far this season. He probably would have found himself better off staying in school for another year, but it’s hard to argue that with the offense playing as badly as it has.

There are three other players no longer on the roster who could have been. They are Ainuu Taua, who transferred to Nevada as a grad transfer; Denzel Fisher, who announced a grad transfer to West Virginia, but wasn’t accepted; and, Nate Starks, who was injured last season and could have requested an injury redshirt with no guarantee that would happen.

Overall, that leaves just one of a possible four blue chip recruits on the current roster.

Let’s look at the 2015 recruiting class.

2015 UCLA Football Recruiting Class

Name Ranking Roster Status
Name Ranking Roster Status
Josh Rosen 5-Star Left for NFL Draft with a year of eligibility remaining
Keisean Lucier-South 5-Star Currently on roster
Soso Jamabo 5-Star Currently on roster
DeChaun Holiday 4-Star Left program during Spring 2018
Chris Clark 4-Star Left program after first game of 2015
Josh Wariboko-Alali 4-Star Currently on roster
Fred Ulu-Perry 4-Star Left program after 2015 season for Hawai'i; now medically retired
Andre James 4-Star Currently on roster
Cordell Broadus 4-Star Left program twice under Mora
Josh Woods 4-Star Currently on roster
Tevita Halalilo 4-Star Not on roster after 2015; medical retirement presumed
Stephen Johnson 4-Star Currently on roster
Colin Samuel 4-Star Currently on roster
Zach Bateman 3-Star Exhausted eligibility
Rick Wade 3-Star Currently on roster
Nate Meadors 3-Star Currently on roster
Octavius Spencer 3-Star Left program in August 2018
Bolu Olorunfunmi 3-Star Currently on roster
Will Lockett 3-Star Left program in May 2018
Chigozie Nnoruka 2-Star Currently on roster

This is the recruiting class that could have been great. Unfortunately, four of the thirteen blue chip recruits from this class washed out while Jim Mora was still coach. Those four are Chris Clark, who wore the blue and gold for just one game before leaving the team; Fred Ulu-Perry, who transferred to Hawai’i after the 2015 season; Cordell Broadus, who quit the team twice; and Tevita Halilo, who broke his ankle in 2015 and was not on the 2016 roster.

There are only two other blue chip recruits no longer on the roster. That’s Josh Rosen, who opted for the NFL Draft after last season, and DeChaun Holiday, who left the program in Spring 2018.

Believe it or not, the rest of the blue chip recruits from this class are still on the roster as either true seniors or redshirt juniors. Of course, Josh Woods is out for the season after suffering an knee injury during camp, but the other blue chip recruits are still around.

To date, four of the blue chip recruits from this class have basically underperformed. Those guys are Soso Jamabo, Josh Wariboko-Alali, Stephen Johnson and Colin Samuel.

The 2016 recruiting class had eleven blue chip recruits.

2016 UCLA Football Recruiting Class

Name Ranking Roster Status
Name Ranking Roster Status
Mique Juarez 5-Star Currently on roster
Theo Howard 4-Star Currently on roster
Boss Tagaloa 4-Star Currently on roster
Breland Brandt 4-Star Medical retirement
Lokeni Toailoa 4-Star Currently on roster
Krys Barnes 4-Star Currently on roster
Damian Alloway 4-Star Left program prior to August 2018
Brandon Burton 4-Star Left program in June 2018
Dymond Lee 4-Star Currently on roster
Devon Modster 4-Star Left program in September 2018
Audie Omotosho 4-Star Currently on roster
Michael Alves 3-Star Currently on roster
Demetric Felton 3-Star Currently on roster
Brandon Stephens 3-Star Currently on roster
Alex Akingbulu 3-Star Left program in June 2018
Nick Terry 3-Star Exhausted eligibility
Osa Odighizuwa 3-Star Currently on roster
Marcus Moore 3-Star Currently on roster
Paco Perez 3-Star Left program in April 2018
Jordan Wilson 3-Star Currently on roster
Matt Lynch 3-Star Currently on roster
JJ Molson 3-Star Currently on roster
Jake Burton 3-Star Currently on roster
Keyon Riley 3-Star Left program in August 2018
Leni Toailoa 3-Star Currently on roster
Jalen Starks 3-Star Left program in March 2018
Austin Kent 3-Star Left program in June 2018
Johnny Den Bleyker 2-Star Currently on roster

This class is currently comprised of true juniors and redshirt sophomores. At this point, it’s lost four of its eleven blue chip recruits. Devon Modster is the most recent member of this class to leave the program, but Brandon Burton and Damian Alloway both left prior to the start of training camp. The other blue chip recruit from this class who is no longer a part of the program is Breland Brandt, who took a medical retirement.

Moving on, here’s the roster for the 2017 UCLA recruiting class.

2017 UCLA Football Recruiting Class

Name Ranking Roster Status
Name Ranking Roster Status
Jaelan Phillips 5-Star Currently on roster
Darnay Holmes 5-Star Currently on roster
Greg Rogers 4-Star Left program in April 2018
Stephan Zabie 4-Star Left program in March 2018
Elijah Gates 4-Star Currently on roster
Jimmy Jaggers 4-Star Medically retired in June 2018
Rahyme Johnson 4-Star Currently on roster
Martin Andrus 3-Star Currently on roster
Odua Isibor 3-Star Currently on roster
Jay Shaw 3-Star Currently on roster
Quentin Lake 3-Star Currently on roster
Moses Robinson-Carr 3-Star Currently on roster
Jax Wacaser 3-Star Medically retired in June 2018
Mo Osling 3-Star Currently on roster
Zach Sweeney 3-Star Medically retired in September 25, 2018
Sean Seawards 3-Star Left program in June 2018
Austin Burton 3-Star Currently on roster
Kanan Ray 3-Star Grayshirted in 2017 due to injury; Left program in January 2018

This class has lost three of its blue chip recruits. Jimmy Jaggers took a medical retirement in June while Greg Rogers and Stephan Zabie both left the program in the Spring.

Even the 2018 class has lost a blue chip recruit. Bryan Addison, who signed with UCLA in February, never made it to campus due to a situation with the UCLA Admissions office.

2018 UCLA Roster Summary

Year Blue Chips Recruits Still on the 2018 Roster Blue Chip Recruits Not on 2018 Roster Total of Blue Chip Recruits Who Could Have Been on the 2018 Roster
Year Blue Chips Recruits Still on the 2018 Roster Blue Chip Recruits Not on 2018 Roster Total of Blue Chip Recruits Who Could Have Been on the 2018 Roster
2014 1 3 4
2015 7 2 9
2016 7 4 11
2017 4 3 7
2018 9 1 10
Total 28 13 41

All told, UCLA has lost 13 blue chip recruits who could have been on the roster this season . That amounts to almost 32% of UCLA’s blue chip recruits who still had college eligibility for this season. Think about that for a moment.

Don’t forget that that’s just the blue chip recruits — guys who were rated as 5-star or 4-star recruits coming out of high school. That isn’t factoring in any 3-star or lower recruits who have left the program since the end of last season.

I haven’t looked at other programs to see what kind of blue chip turnover they had when they replaced their head coach, nor have I looked at what kind of turnover other UCLA head coaches had when they took over the program. But, to me, the simple fact that about a third of UCLA’s highest rated players coming out of high school that could still be with the program are no longer in Westwood appears to be huge.

I don’t know if the turnover is due to players not wanting to get with Chip Kelly’s program or Chip Kelly and staff deciding that certain players don’t fit into their view of the program or anything else. Of course, that number factors in things like medical retirements and players leaving for the NFL which may not be related to either.

But, just in terms of numbers, it’s not a recipe for winning football and certainly helps explain why so many younger guys are playing as well as why the team has not looked as good or as talented as many of us believe the team to be.


Go Bruins.

[UPDATE] 9/25/18 4:56 pm: This article has been updated to reflect the fact that Chip Kelly announced this morning that center Zach Sweeney has chosen to opt for a medical retirement. This does not affect the blue chip talent on the team because Sweeney was a three-star recruit. It does, however, make an already-thin offensive line even thinner.