LOS ANGELES (AP) Although Jim Mora landed a third straight solid recruiting class for UCLA, the coach had to be frustrated by the names that got away.
The Bruins put together another top-20 recruiting class in Mora’s third offseason in Westwood, but a series of blue-chip prospects declined to choose UCLA on national signing day. At least six players who had strong interest in the Bruins went elsewhere, with only New Orleans linebacker Kenny Young picking the Bruins.
Mora acknowledged the Bruins were ”bridesmaids” in several cases, including two elite local athletes who both chose archrival USC: Adoree Jackson and John ”Juju” Smith.
Yet the very idea that a top-20 class could be seen as a disappointment is a testament to the progress made under Mora by the Bruins, who will head into next season as a Pac-12 title contender behind quarterback Brett Hundley.
Young picked the Bruins over LSU and Texas A&M, choosing to line up next to Myles Jack on the Bruins’ impressive defense.
Defensive back Jaleel Wadood was generally considered the highest-rated individual player in the class, and the Bruins can use his help in their young secondary.
UCLA also improved its athleticism and depth at receiver, and dual-threat quarterback Aaron Sharp committed to the Bruins out of Texas.
The Bruins relied heavily on freshmen and young players last season, and fewer newcomers are likely to see as much immediate playing time in the fall. Mora still believed UCLA had a shot at landing several five-star talents until they gradually got away Wednesday.
National rankings (Rivals 18; Scout 19).
Best in class: DB Jaleel Wadood, Bellflower, Calif.
Best of the rest: LB Zach Whitley, Galena Park, Texas; WR Austin Roberts, Carmel, Ind.; WR Alex Van Dyke, Roseville, Calif.; DB Adarius Pickett, El Cerrito, Calif.
Late addition: LB Kenny Young, River Ridge, La.
One that got away: S Budda Baker, Bellevue, Wash.
NOTE: The Bruins signed three sets of high school teammates, including Wadood and DE Jacob Tuioti-Mariner from St. John Bosco High School in nearby Bellflower.