January 9, 2014 |

UCLA Football Is Thriving; Coach Is Staying

When several National Football League coaching openings became available last week UCLA's Jim Mora Jr. was prominently mentioned.

Jim Mora Jr.

His response was to say thanks but no thanks.

Mora has concluded two spectacular years at UCLA. There were nine victories last season and 10 this season. UCLA beat USC both years. The Bruins routed Virginia Tech, 42-12 in last week's Sun Bowl, scoring 28 points in the fourth quarter.

Mora said he's not one to hop onto a new job. He likes it here. And he's building something special.

At this writing quarterback Brett Hundley hasn't announced whether he's staying or turning pro, but he seems to be leaning toward staying.

When Mora became the Bruins' head coach he revealed a five-year plan to be a contender for the national championship.

After two years he has established a no-nonsense program.

Next season he won't have linebacker Anthony Barr, a senior who is rated high in NFL draft projections.

And he'll have Pac-12 powerhouses Stanford and Oregon to compete against again, plus USC trying to end its two-game losing streak to UCLA.

But how nice for long-suffering Bruin fans that they now have a football team worthy of their interest.

Mora was briefly head coach of the Atlanta Falcons and Seattle Seahawks, and an assistant with the San Diego Chargers. Doubtlessly, his NFL experience was important as he learned what is required to win football games. Learned a lot from father Jim Mora, who was head coach of the New Orleans Saints and Indianapolis Colts and upgraded both struggling teams considerably.

Right away he upgraded the UCLA program and began a pre-season training period in the heat of San Bernardino, a clear signal to players that sacrifices in comfort would be part of the deal.

He immediately hired a staff of assistant coaches who were known for their recruiting success on a national basis.

One of them, Adrian Klemm, recently turned down a chance to move to USC. He decided to stay at UCLA despite the efforts of new Trojan coach Steve Sarkisian to take him away.

The last time UCLA won 10 games in a season was 2005, and that didn't translate to success in the next few years under Coach Karl Dorrell.

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