Roquan Smith picks Georgia nine days after announcing for UCLA

What started as one of UCLA’s most pleasant Signing Day surprises has finally fizzled out. Four-star linebacker Roquan Smith signed with Georgia on Friday, nine days after initially announcing for the Bruins on ESPNU.

His news wasn’t exactly a shocker — not after he essentially accused the UCLA staff of lying to him in an interview with Rivals.com this week. The top prospect out of Montezuma (Ga.) Macon County had yet to sign his letter of intent last Wednesday when news broke that defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich was leaving the Bruins to become the Atlanta Falcons’ linebackers coach.

After the debacle became a national story, Smith decided to sign a grant-in-aid agreement instead of an NLI. That leaves him the option to change schools without penalty until he enrolls.

UCLA finishes its 2015 class at No. 13 nationally on Rivals.com, and No. 9 on Scout.com.

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Roquan Smith: Jeff Ulbrich said he ‘declined’ Falcons’ offer

Roquan Smith will sign scholarship papers on Friday, but judging from an interview with Rivals.com, the four-star linebacker didn’t sound keen on picking UCLA.

The Montezuma (Ga.) Macon County product had originally committed to the Bruins’ last Tuesday on ESPNU, seemingly capping a huge morning for UCLA. But news of defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich’s job offer from the Atlanta Falcons broke shortly afterward, prompting Smith to hold off on signing his letter of intent — and eventually stepping back to reevaluate UCLA, Georgia, Texas A&M and Michigan.

Smith clearly feels like UCLA wasn’t forthright with him during the recruiting process — and should have notified him of Ulbrich’s potential departure earlier.

From Rivals.com:

“It’s a great school and all of this and that, but Coach Ulbrich did say that Coach Dan Quinn (of the Atlanta Falcons) had called him the night before, but he had declined the job offer. I felt like Coach (Jim) Mora should have hit me up and said there’s potential that Coach Ulbrich may be leaving. Then, they tried to get me to go ahead and send the papers in, but I wasn’t doing it. They tried to get me to send them in at 8 in the morning.”

Asked if he felt misled, Smith said: “I kind of do. For them to be my first offer, yeah. I thought they were keeping it real with me, but you know people are going to lie.”

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Clancy Pendergast officially hired by San Francisco 49ers

The San Francisco 49ers have officially hired longtime defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast, striking one potential name off the list of candidates for UCLA defensive coordinator.

The Bruins officially announced Jeff Ulbrich’s departure for the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday, although the offer was first reported last Tuesday.

Pendergast’s name had been tossed around as a potential replacement for Ulbrich, even though he had reportedly been hired by the 49ers. With the hire not yet finalized until today, the door remained open to the possibility that the 47-year-old might opt for the college ranks despite his distaste for recruiting. He had mentioned for defensive coordinator openings at both LSU and Utah last month.

He had been a defensive coordinator for the Arizona Cardinals and Kansas City Chiefs for over half a decade before taking the same position at Cal (2010-12) and USC (2013). Pendergast is about as bland as Ulbrich is charismatic, but is a football lifer with well-regarded knowledge of the Xs and Os.

UCLA could still opt for someone with a similar background — with the most popular name now being Jim Haslett, who worked with Bruin head coach Jim Mora on the New Orleans Saints staff in 1995 and 1996. Haslett mutually parted ways with Washington at the end of 2014, and is currently without a job.

An NFL-type hire would make sense for a few reasons. It would fit Mora’s pattern for hiring assistants, and could be used as a selling point with recruits — even if the candidate himself doesn’t turn out to be a stud recruiter. It also might be harder to lure a NCAA assistant away at this time of year, at least without a significant pay raise or other extenuating factors.

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UCLA announces departure of defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich

UCLA has officially announced the departure of defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich, who leaves the position after just one year.

Ulbrich is leaving to join the Atlanta Falcons, returning to the NFL to become a linebackers coach. The announcement comes two days after the 37-year-old accepted his new job.

“I would like to thank Coach Ulbrich for everything he has done for UCLA Football over the past three years,” UCLA head coach Jim Mora said in a statement. “The hard work he put in on a daily basis was surpassed only by his dedication to helping develop our student-athletes both on and off the field. It was a pleasure working alongside him and watching him develop as a coach, and I anticipate nothing but success for him in the future.”

Mora will soon be hiring his third defensive coordinator at UCLA.

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Jeff Ulbrich leaves UCLA to join Atlanta Falcons coaching staff

UCLA defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich will leave the Bruins to join the Atlanta Falcons staff, two days after news first broke that he was considering an offer to become the NFL team’s linebackers coach.

Bruin Report Online first reported the news.

Ulbrich, 37, had just completed his first year as UCLA’s defensive coordinator, having been promoted after two seasons as the team’s linebackers and special teams coordinator. On Wednesday morning, shortly after four-star linebacker Roquan Smith had announced his commitment to the Bruins, reports surfaced that Ulbrich would be joining the Atlanta Falcons and new head coach Dan Quinn.

Smith then reopened his recruitment, and is currently deciding between UCLA, Georgia, Texas A&M and Michigan.

UCLA head coach Jim Mora said on Wednesday that Ulbrich had not yet accepted the offer, and said he would “fight tooth and nail to keep him.” Both Mora and Quinn coached Ulbrich when he was a San Francisco 49ers linebacker.

The Bruins will head into the 2015 season with their third defensive coordinator in as many years. Lou Spanos, who held the position for the first two seasons of the Mora era, left to become the Tennessee Titans linebackers coach in January 2014.

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Roquan Smith in ‘no rush’ to decide on college destination

Roquan Smith is getting a second chance to sort out his recruitment, and he’s going to take his time doing it.

The four-star linebacker’s coach at Montezuma (Ga.) Macon County, Larry Harold, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the decision could take “a week or so” — although the process could stretch on even longer. And while UCLA is still in the running along with Georgia, Texas A&M and Michigan, Smith sounds like he is considering the Bruins under the assumption that defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich will become the Atlanta Falcons’ new linebackers coach.

Smith had announced for the Bruins over UGA on ESPNU Wednesday morning, only to hear reports of Ulbrich’s potential departure soon after.

Harold, to the AJC:

“It’s not an open recruitment really, it’s just the same four schools and he’s going to take a week or so to decide. He’s going to take this weekend off, spend time with his family and relax, be a teenager. And then next week maybe he’ll start calling some coaches again and rehash it all. … There’s no rush.”

The high school coach spoke about Ulbrich’s decision between UCLA and the Falcons in the past tense — treating it as a done deal rather than an open possibility. He said that although Ulbrich had not officially agreed to a deal, the Bruin defensive coordinator had said “he was strongly considering it.”

The AJC reported in the same article that Ulbrich is in Atlanta today touring the Falcons’ facilities.

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Jim Mora: Jeff Ulbrich still ‘contemplating’ Falcons’ job offer

The Atlanta Falcons have offered UCLA defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich a position as the linebackers coach, interrupting what was looking like a very successful National Signing Day.

However, the 37-year-old has yet to decide whether to accept the job opening.

“Jeff has assured me he has not come to a conclusion yet,” said UCLA head coach Jim Mora. “He is contemplating whether or not he wants to do that. I’m going to fight tooth and nail to keep him here because I think he’s an outstanding coach. …

“I’m going to fight like crazy to keep that sucker, and it’s going to be a battle, because Dan Quinn, he’s a fighter.”

Mora said that newly hired Falcons head coach Dan Quinn first reached out to him as a courtesy on Tuesday night, asking if he could contact Ulbrich. Mora said no — smiling, as he recalled the moment — but in the NFL, permission isn’t needed. Mora and Quinn’s relationship stretches back to their time on the San Francisco 49ers staff. The former became the defensive coordinator in 1999, and hired the latter as a defensive quality control coach two years later. Quinn was soon promoted to defensive line coach.

That same connection also ties the men to Ulbrich, who spent his entire 10-year NFL career in San Francisco before retiring from playing in 2009. Continue reading

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With Ulbrich in limbo, linebacker Roquan Smith reopens recruitment

Roquan Smith’s recruitment won’t be ending today.

The four-star linebacker from Montezuma (Ga.) Macon County had announced his decision to attend UCLA over Georgia this morning on ESPN, but the news was soon followed by a stunner. FOX Sports reported that the Bruins’ defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich would take a job as the Atlanta Falcons’ linebackers coach.

A source indicated that Ulbrich and the Falcons were not a done deal, but the damage was done. Smith not only did not send in his letter of intent, but has now reopened his recruitment.

“He’s going to open things up with his recruiting,” Macon County coach Larry Harold told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “It’s pretty much UGA, Michigan, and Texas A&M – and UCLA is still in it. Coach Ulbrich told him that he hasn’t signed anything yet (with the Falcons), and that he hasn’t made a decision. So I think they are still in it as well. We’re going to sit back for a couple of days and see how this thing plays out.”

UCLA head coach Jim Mora is slated to talk to the media at 4:30 p.m. today.

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Atlanta Falcons looking to hire UCLA’s Jeff Ulbrich as assistant

On National Signing Day, UCLA might be at risk of losing one of its best recruiters.

FOX Sports reported that the Atlanta Falcons are hiring Jeff Ulbrich — who just finished his first season as the Bruins’ defensive coordinator — as a linebackers coach.

However, a source indicated that Ulbrich going to the Falcons is not a done deal. The 37-year old worked as UCLA’s linebackers coach and special teams coordinator for two seasons before being promoted in 2014.

Ulbrich has spoken highly about both UCLA head coach Jim Mora and newly hired Atlanta Falcons coach Dan Quinn, calling both tremendous influences on his defensive philosophy.

The reports could already have significant ramifications on the Bruins’ 2015 recruiting class. Four-star linebacker Roquan Smith committed to UCLA over Georgia on ESPNU this morning, but has not sent in his national letter of intent. The Montezuma, Ga., native called Ulbrich a significant factor in his recruitment.

Smith’s coach at Macon County, Larry Harold, confirmed to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that Ulbrich’s uncertain status was what held up the commitment.

“We just got off the phone with Ulbrich,” Harold told the AJC. “He said he hasn’t signed any papers with the Falcons. So he talked to Roquan, and he let him know that he was going to check into everything and get back to him. …

“That’s what his decision to UCLA came down to – Roquan’s relationship with Ulbrich. That’s what it came down to as the difference between UGA and UCLA. He has been there since the first day. Recruiting is about the relationships. It always comes down to the relationships.”

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Four-star linebacker Roquan Smith commits to UCLA

Screenshot 2015-02-04 at 8.30.18 AM

UPDATE: Smith has not yet signed his national letter of intent. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the four-star linebacker is waiting to see if defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich leaves to become the Atlanta Falcons’ linebackers coach.

***
UCLA is looking almost unstoppable on National Signing Day.

The Bruins picked up yet another high profile recruit, going four for four on ESPNU when four-star linebacker Roquan Smith pulled on blue and gold gloves. An inside linebacker who is one of the top-100 recruits in the country, Smith decided to pick UCLA over Georgia despite growing up about 2.5 hours south of the Athens campus.

“I just wanted to get out, do my own thing, experience something different. … It just felt like home,” he said.

The 6-foot, 203-pound linebacker credited defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich for keying his recruitment. Ulbrich, who served as the team’s linebackers coach before being promoted last year, first saw Smith as a sophomore.

“He’s been with me from day one,” Smith said.

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