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UCLA Football: We Can Always Use Mora Players, Recruiting Class Rankings Since 2012

As we run up to National Signing Day, we look back at our previous rankings, since Jim Mora took the reins in December, 2011. Spoiler alert- we seem to have hit a plateau. It could be a lot worse, but it could be better.

We need to step up our recruiting if we want better trophies
We need to step up our recruiting if we want better trophies
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

247sports.com publishes annual rankings of incoming football recruiting classes. These rankings are compilations of other ratings, such as Rivals.com. Here is the 247sports.com current ranking of the 2015 recruiting classes.

Jim Mora was named head coach in December 2011. He stepped in mid-stream to a process which had already commenced with Rick Neuheisel. According to 247sports.com, the Bruins had the 4th best recruiting class in the Pac-12 in 2012, which was also the 19th best in the country.

The UCLA starting lineup for the Alamo Bowl win over Kansas State featured five members from this class- TB Paul Perkins (leading rusher in the conference), FB Nate Iese, WR Jordan Payton (leading receiver on the team), DB Ishmael Adams (1st team all-conference) and DB Fabian Moreau (recruited as a running back). Perkins was from Arizona, Iese was from Sacramento, Payton and Adams were high school teammates at Oaks Christian in Thousand Oaks, and Moreau was from Florida.

The teams ahead of UCLA in the conference for 2012 recruiting were Stanford (with David Shaw), Southern Cal (with Lane Kiffin !), and Oregon (with Chip Kelly). But Mora was scrambling after joining mid-stream, and wound up with the 19th best class in the country.

The next year, 2013, was the high water mark to date for Jim Mora recruiting at UCLA. The class was ranked #1 in the conference, and #7 in the country. Mora could point to greater stability as a returning coach, and the 2012 team won the Pac-12 South in his first season as head coach. The other teams in the top 20 nationally from the Pac-12 were Southern Cal (with turmoil, as Kiffin was given bus fare home from LAX and Ed Orgeron finished out the season), Washington (with Seven Win Steve), and Oregon (with Mark Helfrich in his 1st season).

The Alamo Bowl starting lineup included seven members from this recruiting class- TE Thomas Duarte (honorable mention all-conference), LG Alex Redmond (honorable mention all-conference), RG Scott Quesssenberry (honorable mention all-conference), RT Caleb Benenoch (honorable mention all-conference), NT Kenny Clark (2nd team all-conference), LB Myles Jack (2nd team all-conference), and LB Deon Hollins. Duarte was from Mater Dei, Redmond was from Los Alamitos, Quessenberry was from Encinitas, Benenoch and Hollins were from Texas, Clark was from Rialto, and Jack was from Washington.

Heading into 2014, Mora was entering his 3rd season, so there were presumably good marks for stability. The Bruins had stubbed their collective toes in 2013 with a late season loss at home to ASU, which knocked the Bruins out of the conference championship, and all the way down to the decidedly non-glamorous Sun Bowl. But Southern Cal had changed coaches, and been schooled in the cross-town matchup 35-14 by the Bruins. And after bringing in the best recruiting class in the conference, and a top 10 national class the year before, Jim Mora's staff fell back in 2014 to the 3rd best class in the conference, and #19 in the country. This was the same national rank as 2012, when Mora had to jump in mid-stream.

The Alamo Bowl starting lineup included two members from this recruiting class- LB Kenny Young and DB Jaleel Wadood (honorable mention all-conference). As true freshmen, it may not be all that surprising that there were only two starters. But still- 19th best in the country? Young was from New Orleans and Wadood was from St. John Bosco.

The teams ahead of UCLA in conference recruiting were Southern Cal, with Seven Win Steve moving in from Washington, and Stanford, with David Shaw.

Please look here (offense) and here (defense) for AHMB's excellent analyses of 2015 recruiting to date. 247sports has the UCLA class ranked 3rd in the conference and #18 in the country, leading up to national signing day. Jim Mora has brought in two ***** recruits in the same class for the first time since he arrived in Westwood, in the persons of Josh Rosen (St. John Bosco) and Keisean Lucier-South (Lutheran, Orange). But the class to date only has six **** recruits in the commit column. The 2013 class had 17 **** recruits.

At the time of these rankings, we were once again 3rd in the conference, behind Southern Cal (Seven Win Steve) and Oregon (Helfrich).

The big question for me is what happened to the momentum we had achieved after the 2013 class. Southern Cal was in disarray, Oregon was switching coaches. There was no other real competition besides Southern Cal, Oregon and Stanford at the top of the conference.

And here we are with Coach Mora's 4th recruiting class, and we are in about the same position within the conference and nationally that we were with his first class in 2012. Based on 2014, given the returning talent we had, it is not clear that the coaching staff is able to build on the sum of the parts (individual player talent) to obtain a whole which is greater than the sum of the parts. We should have at least won the Pac-12 South. If we can't make the whole greater than the sum of the parts, then it would behoove us to make the sum of the parts as large as possible.

We are clearly way ahead of the game compared to the recruiting results in the Dorrell years. And our win-loss record is obviously way ahead with Mora compared to the Neuheisel years. But the recruiting results the last couple of years reflect a team which would be expected to finish in the top three or four in the conference, and in the mid-teens nationally. I was hoping for more.

In the immortal words of Mike LaFontaine in "A Mighty Wind", wha happened?