Jim Mora begins work to revive UCLA

UCLA Coach Jim Mora has been busy, though out of sight.

“We got a ton of work to do,” Mora said of reviving a program that has been stagnant since the Bruins’ last Rose Bowl appearance in 1998. He will pick up help for that chore this week.

San Diego Chargers linebackers coach John Pagano is expected to be hired as defensive coordinator and Seattle Seahawks assistant Jeff Ulbrich as special teams coach, while current UCLA assistant Angus McClure will be retained, according to people familiar with the situation who are not authorized to speak publicly.

Mora declined to comment specifically on hires, saying: “We’re in pretty good shape. We got a couple guys we’ll probably announce right after the new year.”

The full staff will be in place, Mora said, by the time he has his first meeting with the Bruins on Jan. 9.

Mora kept his distance while the Bruins prepared for the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, maintaining that he did not want to be a distraction. He has visited practices only three times, once to launch into a my-way-or-the-highway monologue to the media last week.

“I’m going to get a lot of time to get to know these kids and watch them,” Mora said. “I wanted to form my own opinions, with me coaching them, not someone else coaching them.”

Now he will insist on being the center of attention, starting with his first team meeting.

“This will be about our standards, how we’re going to proceed, what’s important to me, how we’re going to practice,” Mora said.

In short, Mora said, “We’re going to talk specifics.”

Mora has been preparing for that moment since being hired Dec. 9. Late at night, after recruiting efforts were done, he would watch UCLA games from the past season.

“I wanted to see how it flowed, see if a guy jumps off screen, one way or another,” Mora said. “It might be something good or it might be someone not hustling. I wasn’t taking notes, but mentally, I was trying to get a feel for what the team was like.”

That feeling was?

“There is some talent to work with, but we have to change the mind-set a little bit,” Mora said. “We need to become more disciplined and tougher, mentally and physically. That process takes a little time.”

The new coaches could help accomplish that.

Pagano has been with the Chargers since 2004, spending the last five seasons as linebackers coach. He has also been an assistant with the Indianapolis Colts and the New Orleans Saints.

Ulbrich has been a Seahawks special teams coach the past two seasons. He was a linebacker for the San Francisco 49ers for 10 seasons before joining Seattle’s staff.

McClure has been at UCLA for five seasons, the last two as special teams and assistant offensive line coach.

Mora needs only to hire a receivers coach.

“The staff should be filled Monday or Tuesday,” Mora said. “The [recruiting] dead period ends on Tuesday, and we want to hit the road running on recruiting Wednesday.”

Mora has already hired staff to kick-start recruiting: offensive line coach Adrian Klemm and defensive backs coach Demetrice Martin. UCLA has received four commitments since they were hired, including Westlake Village Oaks Christian defensive back Ishmael Adams.

“We’re behind in recruiting,” Mora said. “When you come in late as new head coach, you got ground make up.”

As for those already at UCLA, they will start getting the ground rules.

“I know what I’m going to ask them to do,” Mora said. “I want to judge them off that.”

–Chris Foster