UCLA announces Tom Bradley as new defensive coordinator

UCLA has announced the hiring of former Penn State assistant Tom Bradley as the Bruins’ new defensive coordinator, officially ending a search the began almost three weeks ago.

“To bring a coach of Tom Bradley’s caliber to UCLA is very exciting,” head coach Jim Mora said in a statement. “His knowledge of the game, extensive experience, level of intensity and attention to detail all make him one of the best defensive teachers in college football.

“Combine that with the fact that he has strong national recruiting ties and is one of the most well respected coaches in the game — it all adds up to Tom being a tremendous addition to our staff.” Continue reading

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How would Tom Bradley fit as UCLA’s defensive coordinator?

After two weeks, UCLA appears to be close to finding a new defensive coordinator.

Former longtime Penn State assistant Tom Bradley, who was named AP Defensive Coordinator of the Year in 2005, is close to filling that role for the Bruins. Once finalized, he will become UCLA’s third defensive coordinator in as many years, following Jeff Ulbrich and Lou Spanos — who left to coach linebackers for the Atlanta Falcons and Tennessee Titans, respectively.

Bradley’s status as a leading finalist was first reported by Bruin Report Online last night, and confirmed again by FOX Sports’ Bruce Feldman this morning.

The Bruins had actually “sniffed around” Bradley a year ago, according to ESPN, but he opted to spend a season as West Virginia’s associate head coach. He also helped coach defensive linemen.

Here’s a closer look at the veteran college assistant.

Defensive credentials

Bradley’s resume is about as impressive as any UCLA could have hoped for in a candidate. He was one of the key architects in making Penn State into “Linebacker U” — a title that the Bruins started tossing around recently. In 2002, his third season as defensive coordinator, Bradley turned the Nittany Lions into the No. 11 defense in college football. From 2004 to 2009, they never fell out of the top 10. Continue reading

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Q&A: Looking at ‘The Drive’ with producer Michael Tolajian

After two seasons of shooting football, the Pac-12 Networks’ “The Drive” docu-series is trying to focus on basketball for the first time — jumping around the conference to focus on its various teams. Tonight’s episode, which airs at 9 p.m. on Pac-12 Networks, is focused on UCLA and Oregon State.

“The Drive” crew shot the Bruins’ loss to Oregon State on Jan. 22, their win at home over Colorado on Jan. 31, and some of the practices leading up to each one. It also focused on the respective coaches, Steve Alford and Wayne Tinkle, as well as Bruin freshman Kevon Looney and Oregon State’s Gary Payton II.

I caught up with senior coordinator Michael Tolajian to ask him how the experience of shooting the two sports compared, as well as his thoughts on Alford and Jim Mora.

How did you pair teams together for episodes? This is the first episode that isn’t arranged geographically (i.e. Arizona State and Arizona, Colorado and Utah). Was it a factor that UCLA and Oregon State are teams have underachieved and overachieved, respectively?

Michael Tolajian: We weren’t set in stone with doing the local teams. We did it sometimes. A lot of it had to do with what the programming lead-in was going to be. … Ideally, there would be a live UCLA game or live Oregon State game going in. we weren’t able to do that every time, but that’s a good way to get audiences to tune in.

The other aspect was talking to the coaches and talking to the school. A lot of the times they had preferences. There was no set formula. It was kind of a combination.

We kind of set this early. We didn’t really know (who was good). Other than knowing Arizona would be good and maybe Utah. Really, the rest of the Pac-12, you could throw them in a hat. Any given night, you don’t really know. We shot with Cal. They started off well, went in the toilet, and then now they’ve won a few in a row. … It’s really been hard to predict. Like any documentary type programming, you just have to be there and follow along. Sometimes the stories contrast nicely, and sometimes not.

How does it compare to shooting “The Drive” for football the past two seasons? Do you lose a bit of depth in favor of breadth versus depth compared to the football format? Are there any advantages to being able to dabble around the conference through the season?

Tolajian: Unlike football, where it’s kind of episodic, you’re following along each and every week. You’re tied in every week. With basketball, we’re bouncing around the conference. More than it being about the narrative of the team, it’s really taking a step behind the curtain, hearing from some of the players, hearing how the coaches run the teams. … It’s really sights and sounds and process, rather than trying to tell some overarching story. Continue reading

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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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UCLA’s Spring Game scheduled for April 25

For those trying to mark their calendars, UCLA’s Spring Game has been set for Saturday, April 25. The time and location have not been announced, and the rest of the Bruins’ spring camp schedule is also not yet released.

Quarterback Josh Rosen will obviously be the main attraction, and is set to compete for the starting spot after enrolling in January along with JUCO transfer offensive tackle Zach Bateman. Of the 2015 recruits that just signed their letters of intent this week, linebacker Joshua Woods and defensive backs Nathan Meadors and Will Lockett are expected to enroll early.

Head coach Jim Mora also said Wednesday that one player he can’t name could potentially participate in spring practices — likely referring to still-undecided four-star linebacker Roquan Smith.

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VIDEO: Jim Mora talks about UCLA’s 2015 recruiting class

UCLA head coach Jim Mora talked about UCLA’s 2015 recruiting class, which included 19 players and four five-star recruits: quarterback Josh Rosen, linebacker/defensive end Keisean Lucier-South, running back Soso Jamabo, and tight end Chris Clark.

Here’s a complete list of the new Bruins, with links to profiles.

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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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No. 1 tight end Chris Clark commits to UCLA

No. 1 tight end Chris Clark has committed to UCLA, giving the Bruins a big start to National Signing Day.

The 6-foot-5, 253-pound Connecticut native picked Los Angeles over Michigan, which had made a hard push for him after hiring former 49ers and Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh.

“I have an unbelievable relationship with UCLA’s coaches,” Clark said on ESPNU. “Coach Mora has basically become a second dad for me these last few weeks.”

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Donation pushes UCLA’s football facility fundraising to $53 million

An eight-figure donation has pushed UCLA’s football facility fundraising $3 million past its original goal — but $12 million behind its new target.

The athletic department announced on Monday that Jim and Carol Collins had donated $10 million toward the new football facility, bumping the fundraising total to more than $53 million in cash and pledges.

The Wasserman Football Center, scheduled to break ground in fall 2015, was budgeted at $50 million when the project was announced in September 2013. After receiving its latest donation, UCLA athletic department stated that it has set a new goal of $65 million in private funding — a “phase two” that it said “will allow for first-rate finishes, furniture, branding and technology.” Continue reading

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UCLA earns first top-10 finish in Associated Press poll since 1998

For the first time in 16 years, UCLA has finished the season as a top-10 team.

The Bruins earned a No. 10 ranking in the final Associated Press poll, released a few hours after Monday night’s conclusion to the first-ever College Football Playoff. It marks UCLA’s highest year-end placement since its No. 8 ranking following the 1998 season.

That campaign ended in a Rose Bowl loss, and since then, the Bruins have been left out of all but three final AP polls. They finished No. 16 after both the 2005 and 2013 seasons.

You can see the complete final 2014 rankings below: Continue reading

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