The Bruins might run Los Angeles on the field at the moment, but on the recruiting trail it’s the Trojans that are still the dominant team. Credit new head coach Steve Sarkisian, blame it on the name brand that was established before the Moras were in the business of football – whatever the reason may be, it wasn’t the Bruins that won on Wednesday’s National Signing Day.
However, they didn’t exactly lose. They got better in areas that were thin – the secondary and linebacker – and added depth both lines and the receiving corps.
Mora has said repeatedly that the program isn’t at the level he intends to bring it to, but the Bruins are on their way. Signing day was no different – UCLA is on the path but has yet to catch up to the leaders.
"It’s an outstanding class for UCLA. It fills a lot of needs for us," Mora said. "It’s a small class but when you go to Scout or you go to Rivals, which are websites that I have a lot of respect for, they have us in the top-10 in average star rating. It’s not always how many you get, but it’s the quality you get."
The Bruins did land some high-profile commitments. Four-star receiver Austin Roberts out of Carmel, Ind., was the first recruit to send in his letter doing so at 4:01 a.m. Scout.com ranks the Bruins’ class as 20th overall, with 10 four-star recruits and eight three-star prospects.
But the UCLA staff woke up not knowing the status of other four and five-star prospects which was not the case last year, Mora’s first as a head coach. As it turns out, they weren’t able to haul in any five-star recruits despite being in the running for many.
It was a little bit of a reality check.
"We were the bridesmaids. Heck, we might have even been the ring girl on a couple of players today. But we were in the wedding, we were in the church," Mora said. "We’re never going to go, ‘Hey, this is an SEC guy. We don’t have a shot.’ If we got a shot, if there’s a crack in the door, we’re going to try to bust it down."
Kolton Miller, a 6-foot-8, 305-pound offensive lineman is arguably one of the most physical specimens of the class and a particularly exciting prospect is Serra receiver Jordan Lasley, someone they had in camp that excited the entire staff. His teammate, linebacker Dwight Williams will also join Lasley.
"Someone we think has a tremendous, tremendous load of potential," Mora said of Lasley.
Adarius Pickett, who Mora described as one of the best cover corners in the class, committed to UCLA in September and honored that commitment Wednesday morning.
The Bruins have six scholarship seniors on the roster at the moment. To Mora, a small class is using his resources wisely.
"We have to be careful about how we spend our currency," Mora said. "We have to be careful about how we use our scholarships. They’re precious."
UCLA might not have gotten the biggest guys in this class but come fall, the playing field will be back to even strength. They have pieces in place – most notably quarterback Brett Hundley and linebacker/running back Myles Jack – and they intend to go after recruits just as big, if not bigger than those two.
Mora and his staff intend to compete with the Alabamas, the Florida States and, of course, the USCs of the world.
"We want to be the best here at what we can do and we’re not going to compromise and we’re not going to settle. So we went after some big fish," Mora said. "We didn’t get them all, but that’s ok. We’re going to get ourselves on the map, we’re going to keep fighting for those guys."