Rick Neuheisel lashes out at Jim Mora’s criticism of his UCLA teams

Former UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel wasn't happy with Jim Mora calling his old Bruin teams "soft." (Keith Birmingham/Staff)

Former UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel wasn’t happy with Jim Mora calling his old Bruin teams “soft.” (Keith Birmingham/Staff)

On Tuesday, Jim Mora decided to explain the genesis of how he turned around the UCLA football program.

Appearing on The Herd with Colin Cowherd on FOX Sports 1, the Bruins’ current head coach described his first interview with athletic director Dan Guerrero back in December 2011.

“I’m thinking, ‘What do I say here?'” Mora said. “Do I tell him the truth or something like it’s a great school and we can be great? I said, ‘I think you’re soft. I think the football team is soft.’ Dan said, ‘That’s what I think, and we need to toughen it up.'”

This is not an entirely new story. Both Mora, who just completed his fourth season with the Bruins, and several players have told some version of it in the past — usually by describing the program’s culture in broader strokes rather than recalling a specific exchange. This iteration, however, was enough to set off former UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel.

On Wednesday, the 55-year-old lashed out at Mora during his own radio show on SiriusXM.

“All he did was go and paint the walls black and wear black on the sideline, and thinks that that’s tough,” Neuheisel said. “I’ve been in the locker room. There’s all sorts of stuff about Sun Tzu, and The Art of War, and pain and all that kind of stuff. He takes the team to Navy SEAL training. Congratulations. I’m glad you had the money to do it. But don’t talk about toughness with my football team. I’ll go to war with anyone.” Continue reading

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Three-star defensive lineman Jake Burton commits to UCLA

Less than half an hour after decommitting from Arizona, three-star defensive lineman Jake Burton announced a new pledge to UCLA.

The 6-foot-6, 255-pound end committed to the Bruins on Monday night, giving them another big body in the trenches. After UCLA’s season-ending loss to Nebraska in the Foster Farms Bowl, head coach Jim Mora had emphasized the need to recruit “more guys that can roll through there that have some girth to them,” Mora said, “so we don’t get pushed around.”

The El Cajon (Calif.) Granite Hills product is fourth 2016 defensive line prospect to pick the Bruins, joining Osa Odighizua, Marcus Moore, and JUCO transfer Nick Terry. Outside linebacker Breland Brandt, who is already enrolled at UCLA, could also potentially play defensive end.

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Noel Mazzone officially becomes Texas A&M offensive coordinator

A day after Jim Mora left open a slight possibility for his return, Noel Mazzone finalized his deal to become Texas A&M’s new offensive coordinator.

The Aggies announced his hiring on Friday, with head coach Kevin Sumlin saying in a statement: “I have known Noel for many years and he is a great addition to our coaching staff. His experience is outstanding and he will do an excellent job of coordinating our offense.”

The two first worked together in the mid-1990s as assistants in Minnesota, and their relationship continued through football clinics.

The former UCLA offensive coordinator will open the next stage of his career against the Bruins on Sept. 3 in College Station. A deal between Mazzone and the Aggies had been close to done since Wednesday, but Mora insisted on Thursday evening that the 58-year-old was still a part of his coaching staff.

UCLA quarterbacks coach Taylor Mazzone is expected to follow his father to Texas A&M.

Mora could seek to replace the elder Mazzone by promoting running backs Kennedy Polamalu, who held the offensive coordinator title for three seasons at USC but ceded playcalling duties to then-head coach Lane Kiffin.

UCLA has thrice filled coaching vacancies under Mora by looking in house: moving Taylor Mazzone from graduate assistant to Y-receivers coach in 2013; Jeff Ulbrich from linebackers coach to defensive coordinator in 2014; and Scott White from defensive quality control to linebackers coach in 2015.

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Jim Mora: ‘I’ve never really wavered’ on dedication to UCLA

UCLA head coach Jim Mora prior to a NCAA college football game against UCLA in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, on Saturday, Nov. 28, 2015. (Photo by Keith Birmingham/ Pasadena Star-News)

UCLA head coach Jim Mora suggested that talk of him returning to the NFL could be generated by his competitors. (Keith Birmingham/Staff)

Jim Mora reaffirmed his dedication to UCLA on Thursday afternoon, dismissing any talk of him returning to the NFL as “rumors and innuendo.”

“I’ve never really wavered,” he said on AM 570. “It’s interesting that people question that still.”

Appearing on the Petros and Money Show, Mora said that he has demonstrated “beyond reproach” his commitment to the Bruins. After finishing his fourth season in Los Angeles with an 8-5 record and a loss to Nebraska in the Foster Farms Bowl, the 54-year-old had been connected to the Miami Dolphins’ coaching search. On Sunday, NFL Network’s Mike Silver reported that both Mora and Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin are “trying hard” to get back to the pros.

Mora suggested that such talk may be generated by his competition to gain an edge in recruiting.

“I think it’s flattering not only to me, but to our program, that rumors are out there,” he said. “But at the same time, they’re just rumors.”

Mora also denied that UCLA offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone — whose contract was set to expire in June — is heading to Texas A&M. ESPN’s Joe Schad reported that Mazzone left College Station today to “think over” the Aggies’ offer.

“There is no confirmed validity to the rumor that Noel is leaving,” Mora said. “He may, but he may not. I would hope that by the end of the day, we’ll know one way or the other.”

UPDATE: Mazzone has finalized his three-year deal with Texas A&M, per ESPN.

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