LOS ANGELES — A year ago, Jim Mora was beginning his education in college football coaching.
This year, it’s Mora doing the educating.
Today marks Mora’s first-ever draft on the other side of the table. The longtime NFL coach has been using his past experiences to advise his UCLA players entering the draft.
So far, Mora’s enjoying being on the other side
“I am so excited for those guys,” said Mora, the ex-Atlanta (2004-06) and Seattle (2009) head coach. “It’s a totally different experience for me. I’ve never been on this side of it. I’ve always been on the other side of it and I’m really excited for those kids.”
No Bruins were taken in the 2012 draft. While four players managed to find their way on to rosters as free agents, this season’s class is expected to make up for it.
Datone Jones and Johnathan Franklin headline a group of eight hopefuls and another handful that Mora feels could make moves in free agency. Jones and Franklin could potentially go as high as the first or second round and it’s in no small part due to Mora and his staff. The Bruins were represented by 14 seniors in senior games this past offseason, giving them valuable opportunities for last chances to impress scouts.
While some players, such as tight end Joseph Fauria and cornerback Sheldon Price, have family members with significant NFL experience who are helping them through the process, several of them, Franklin included, do not.
“Fortunately these guys have enough confidence to come in and talk to me about the process,” Mora said. “Before we went to the combine I sat down and talked to a few of them about how they should present themselves.”
As a former head coach and coordinator — he ran the 49ers defense from 1999-2003 — Mora can share his knowledge of not just the process as a whole but the minutiae players might not be aware of.
“Everything is a test,” Mora said. “Coaches will fly in here and say, ‘We’re going to dinner.’ The kid just says, ‘Ok, we’re going to dinner.’ But it’s a test; everything is a test. From what you wear to where you’re going to having made reservations at the restaurant to having directions to the restaurant.”
Mora made sure the Bruins knew how to get to the hotel and got there on time in the right attire, and knew where to park once they got to the restaurant. He kept his players informed and made it a point to preach having class.
“I want our kids to know that they’re responsible adults, that you can count on them if you draft them,” Mora said.
For those who don’t get drafted, Mora will be able to act as an intermediary presence of sorts following the draft. His network of coaches allows him to receive information and also sell teams on free agents.
Mora is confident that most of the eight ex-Bruins will be drafted and he will work to make sure that players like Dalton Hilliard, David Allen, Donovan Carter and Kevin McDermott get noticed.
“I’m going to make myself very available the last two days of the draft for phone calls for some of these teams (that) want to know about these guys that they may not have information on,” Mora said. “As soon as the draft is over, if our guys aren’t drafted my job now is to get on the phone and call teams and get David Allen a tryout; maybe Brett Downey gets a tryout? At least a tryout, if not a contract.”