UCLA’s 2012 class getting Fuller

As recruit after recruit has come pouring in for UCLA, one noticeable trend was forming.

The Bruins were getting more stout on defense and certainly bigger up front, but where were the skill players?

Mora got a good one today.

Devin Fuller, the No. 3 quarterback according to Scout.com, gave UCLA his commitment today, giving the Bruins back-to-back dual-threat quarterbacks ranked in the top-five nationally.

A year after poaching Brett Hundley out of Arizona, UCLA went all the way Old Tappan, New Jersey, to reel in Fuller, also rated the No. 3 quarterback by Rivals.com and No. 7 by ESPN.com. Fuller was likely headed to Rutgers before the surprising defection of head coach Greg Schiano to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and also heavily considered heading to Arizona under new coach Rich Rodriguez.

Fuller also had offers from most of the biggest programs in the country, including Alabama, Notre Dame and Nebraska after another brilliant season. Fuller had 2,247 yards passing with 20 touchdowns and 120 rushes for 1,326 yards and 17 touchdowns (including a 15-rush, 360-yard, four-touchdown day) as a senior, a year after completing 95-of-143 passes for 1,886 yards, 20 touchdowns and five interceptions while rushing 191 times for 2,306 yards and 32 touchdowns. As a junior, Fuller was named New Jersey Old Spice Player of the Year.

Fuller, who told Scout.com, “I’d say I’m like a Michael Vick-type quarterback” – interesting, who did Mora coach with the Falcons for three years? – could eventually find another spot on the field with the Bruins, as either a wide receiver or defensive back. But he is an incredibly gifted dual-threat quarterback, and for a program that looked so thin at the position just a few weeks ago, the verbal commitments of Fuller, T.J. Millweard out of Texas and Class of ’13 QB Eddie Printz from Georgia – which is a long way away from signing day, to be sure – has definitely changed things drastically.

Here is some video on Fuller:

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UCLA leaps for joy in big win over Colorado

Maybe it was just the shoes, but UCLA head coach Ben Howland sure did seem to have some extra pep in his step on Saturday afternoon.

Sporting sneakers to support the fight against cancer to go along with his fine suit, Howland was springier than a well-coiled slinky; still wound just as tight, but ready to let loose.

His players had a little extra bounce, too.

Playing against one of the hottest teams in the conference, it was UCLA that heated up, shooting 59.6 percent in a 77-60 win over Colorado in front of 9,253 at the Los Angeles Sports Arena.

“(Former UCLA head coach and current St. John’s head coach Steve Lavin) went to the sneakers and stayed in them the rest of the way last year,” Howland said with a smile. “I like it, too. Feels better on my feet.”

The Bruins were better off of them.

Their feet, that is, as UCLA converted alley-oop after alley-oop, putting on a show for what was certainly the best home crowd of the year at the Sports Arena. Already up seven but coming off a 3-pointer by Colorado’s Nate Tomlinson with just less than 14 minutes remaining, the Bruins went on an 13-3 run, capped off by a Jerime Anderson-to-Travis Wear alley-oop dunk, stretching the lead to 17 with 8 minutes, 44 seconds to play.

“Defensive stops – whenever we’re getting stops it definitely is a momentum booster,” sophomore guard Tyler Lamb said. “It gets everybody up more and then you come down and score, it all starts snowballing. We were in the huddle and we were communicating in timeouts, coach Howland was asking us what we thought would work and our senior guards stepped up a lot.”
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Jim Mora ON (Pt. 2):

Just five days remain before signing day, and new UCLA head coach Jim Mora is ready for it to be over.
Not because he is not enjoying the process – put simply, he’s loving it – but because he’s just ready to get pen to paper and get to work on changing some things around UCLA.
Mora sat down for a long phone conversation about the whirlwind that is January, and how the coaching staff’s chemistry and energy is paying off…

What are your thoughts on overrecruiting?
“I’d never heard it, quite frankly. I know what we’re recruiting – we’re recruiting guys we think can come in here and win football games. We’re not overrecruiting. There is natural attrition when a new staff comes in, a new set of standards – not everyone is willing to live up to those. Those are the choices of a new regime. You hope guys just jump on board. But you look at the history of college football, and that’s not what happens. We have a plan in place to make sure we get the right players in here who are what everyone wants them to be, and that means coaches, fans, alumni and players.”

You’re always trying to get them a couple levels above it. You set a standard, you reach it, you push it higher. That’s how you create success. I don’t know that there will ever be a base level. It’s always evolving, always expanding. I know that sounds like coach speak, psycho babble – but true competitors, and I’ve been fortunate to be around a lot – that’s how they look at it, that it was never good enough. Standard? Then push the standard higher. That’s the kind of environment we’re trying to create. To be perfectly honest, when you’re dealing with 115 young men, it’s not realistic to think everybody is going to buy into it.”
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Jim Mora ON:

Just five days remain before signing day, and new UCLA head coach Jim Mora is ready for it to be over.
Not because he is not enjoying the process – put simply, he’s loving it – but because he’s just ready to get pen to paper and get to work on changing some things around UCLA.
Mora sat down for a long phone conversation about the whirlwind that is January, and how the coaching staff’s chemistry and energy is paying off…

Jon Gold: How are things going as the recruiting season winds down?
Jim Mora: “It’s been fun, it’s been educational, it’s been challenging. I’ve enjoyed it. As much as i’ve enjoyed it, I’m ready for it to end next Wednesday. I want to get these guys locked up.”

JG: A new coach coming in has only a couple options: A complete attitude overhaul or maintaining status quo. You seemed to have gone with the first; did that change how you recruited?
JM: “We had a choice with this first class. We could’ve conceded it and focused all efforts to 2013. We chose to to attack it. If the status quo was OK, I wouldn’t be the head coach here, the last guy would. Status quo is unacceptable. Rather than say, oh well, forget this year because we’re a year and a half behind, that’s not the makeup of this staff. We said lets go, and we’ve been going.”

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Quick chat with Nate Iese

Nate Iese is a lot of things. He’s a linebacker, a defensive end, a tight end and now, he’s a UCLA football commit. The 6-foot-4, 240-pound athlete was offered by almost 20 schools to play one of three positions.

Iese, who is finishing up his senior year at Sheldon High School in the Sacramento area, chose to be a Bruin where he will play as a hybrid OLB-DE in UCLA’s new 3-4 defense. The staff also said he would play a little tight end if needed in a pinch.

Of the schools that offered Iese, (a list that included Cal, Nebraska, Washington, Washington State, Oregon State, Arizona and Arizona State) he ultimately narrowed it down to UCLA and Nebraska before choosing UCLA last week.

Iese is now one of UCLA’s 25 current commitments and it would a surprise if he signed with anyone other than the Bruins next week. Here’s the conversation that Inside UCLA Campus Correspondent Jacob Ruffman had with Iese:

Ruffman: You made your choice not too long ago, talk me through the decision.
Iese:” I was coming close to making a decision and I kept a couple of schools on my list. Oregon State, Nevada, Nebraska and UCLA were all recruiting me really hard and those were my top schools. I eventually called up Oregon State and told them I wanted to be closer to home. I kept Nebraska in there because I thought they were worth being that far from home. Eventually it came down to UCLA and Nebraska and they kept visiting me and coming to my school and then Cal offered, which made me think a little bit. But what happened with coach Tosh Lupoi made me second guess taking a visit out there and I made my decision to go to UCLA then.”

JR: You were offered at several positions, what does UCLA want you to play?
NI: “I talked with (linebackers) coach Jeff Ulbrich and coach Mora and they wanted to see me as a hybrid linebacker who can put his hand in the dirt and rush the passer but also be able to drop back into coverage. The also told me that I’ll play a little bit of tight end if they need me there.”

JR: You’ve kept in touch with several recruits throughout the process including fellow UCLA commit Marcus Rios, Shaq Thompson and several others. Talk about the relationships you’ve built through the process.
NI: “It was a great experience when Marcus and I took our trip to Nebraska together. We knew each other a little bit before because we had worked out over the summer at True Grit program and then we played against each other during the season so it was really nice to go down there with someone you know. We both ended up liking the school a lot and then we decided we were going to make our decision together. A little time went by and we didn’t keep in touch too much but then he committed to UCLA a little bit earlier than I did. I was really happy for him and it didn’t have a major effect on me but knowing that he was there made me a little more comfortable with UCLA.”

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UCLA brutes the Utes

Nothing quite boosts the confidence like stomping on a doormat.

The Pac-12 gave the UCLA men’s basketball team a bit of a reprieve on Thursday, a quick pick-me-up after what was a weekend to forget in Oregon.

The Bruins rebounded from back-to-back losses in the Beaver State with a 76-49 win over conference cellar-dweller Utah on Thursday in front of 4,434 at the Los Angeles Sports Arena.

“This was a real confidence-booster for us,” UCLA sophomore forward David Wear said. “To have two good days of practice and to carry it into the game from practice – we wanted to play 40 minutes without any let-down.”

Heading into the matchup with the Utes, no Bruin was as blue as Joshua Smith. The hulking sophomore center admitted to being in his own head in recent games – particularly in a four-foul, four-turnover performance in a seven-point loss at Oregon last Saturday – and adding a 6-10, 315-pound behemoth to the opponent certainly can’t help UCLA.
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UCLA up 36-21 over Utah at the half

All it took to cure some of UCLA’s ills was a visit by conference cellar-dwelling Utah.

The Bruins went on a 14-4 to close the half as the team’s shooting improved down the stretch. That coincided with a concentrated effort to get Joshua Smith the ball.

Smith had a team-high nine points at the half on 3-of-4 shooting, with 3-of-5 from the free-throw line, in 10 minutes. David Wear added seven points and Tyler Lamb and Jerime Anderson each added five points.

UCLA’s defense improved as well, as Utah shot just 8-for-23 from the field and 3-of-9 from 3-point range. Only Chris Hines (eight points) has more than three for the Utes.

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The Young and the Restless

I tried to set up some interviews this week with UCLA’s new coaching staff, but I was rebuffed pretty quickly. “They’re pretty much all on the road,” is what I was told. Let’s just say I haven’t been told that so often in the past.

But it appears that the Bruins’ new staff is full of tireless recruiters, and the results so far have proven that to be true. UCLA has already secured the verbal commitments of 14 players since Jim Mora’s hire on Dec. 10, while losing a handful of formerly committed players, and closed the gap on some of the country’s top recruits. With less than a week until signing day, and players such as Arik Armstead, Shaq Thompson, Bryce Treggs, Kodi Whitfield and others still up in the air, Jim Mora and Co. are racking up the frequent-flyer miles.

Why?

Call it a youth movement.

As Mora’s staff started to round into form, there was a trend setting in: the assistant coaches all seemed to be around the same age. Now that the staff is complete, we have the full picture: Aside from offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone and wide receivers coach Eric Yarber, all of Mora’s new coaches are between 32-44 years old, with an average age of 41.8. Consider: In 2008, Rick Neuheisel’s staff averaged 48 years old.

I’ve heard some horror stories about UCLA’s recruiting the last couple years, and the lack of emphasis put on recruiting by some of the Bruins’ elder statesmen. Ultimately, Neuheisel was left with a pretty big burden, and sometimes he succeeded and sometimes he failed. To have landed the ’09 and ’10 classes with the relative amount of help he got was a pretty big feat.

Mora, though, is no one-man army, and he recognizes that. As a first-time recruiter, he has humbled himself and accepted that so much of the game in college football is having a staff of hungry go-getters who will get out on the road and put in time to maintain relationships. In assembling a staff that is more 21 Jump Street than Matlock, Mora has brought in guys who relish some of the dirty work. Forget the ties formed between coach and recruit at each of the coach’s previous schools – relationships that have paid off handsomely for the Bruins – the coaches have been hustling.

As I’ve written before, I’ve always thought that one of Neuheisel’s biggest issues was his staff make-up. How is there supposed to be real staff chemistry when half the room is 55-plus, and the other half is under 38? One of the themes consistently mentioned by recruits in recent weeks is the team effort that UCLA is utilizing in recruiting, with Adrian Klemm, Eric Yarber, Angus McClure and Demetrice Martin frequently mentioned by recruits.

Here’s a breakdown of the new staff and their respective ages.

Head Coach: Jim L. Mora – 50
Offensive Coordinator: Noel Mazzone – 54
Defensive Coordinator: Lou Spanos – 40
Offensive Line: Adrian Klemm – 34
Running Backs: Steve Broussard – 44
Wide Receivers: Eric Yarber – 48
Tight Ends: Marques Tuiasosopo – 32
Defensive Line: Angus McClure – 44
Linebackers/Special Teams: Jeff Ulbrich – 34
Defensive Backs: Demetrice Martin – 38

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