AFTER A QUARTER CENTURY ON THE PRO SIDELINE AND TWO years in the broadcast booth, first-year UCLA coach Jim Mora cherishes the collegiate atmosphere. "When you're taking the field or when you score a touchdown, the band kicks up and they're wearing your colors and they're your fellow students—it's a unique setting," he says. "The kids are in such a hurry to get to what's next, but I want them to slow down and enjoy what's now."
It will be a challenge for the under-new-management Bruins to make the whole season so enjoyable, because what's now for UCLA is a major overhaul in the wake of a 49--31 loss to Oregon in the inaugural Pac-12 championship game.
But Mora, who brings 25 years of defensive-minded NFL coaching experience to Los Angeles, isn't afraid of a challenge. The son and namesake of the former Colts and Saints coach, who was a UCLA assistant under Dick Vermeil in 1974, the younger Mora wasted no time revamping the Bruins' program. He brought in seven new assistants, and in less than two months he and his new staff reeled in a recruiting class rated No. 12 by Scout.com.
Mora, who will institute a 3--4 defense with the strong D-line he inherited, will replace former coach Rick Neuheisel's pistol offense with a spread-option using his tight ends in the Y slot. Quality targets are at a premium in the new scheme, and the quarterback picture, which has been muddled in past years, is still unclear. Seniors Richard Brehaut and Kevin Prince split time in the pocket to inconsistent effect last season, and this year redshirt freshman Brett Hundley will also be angling for time as the signal-caller. Mora says he would like to ultimately stick with one quarterback.
UCLA's spring session was a bit of déjà vu for Mora, who went to two Rose Bowls as a Washington linebacker in the 1980s. "It was pretty neat at the spring scrimmage to go stand on the place where, when I was a freshman, [we] lined up for the opening kickoff against Michigan," he says. "We all like to relive our past a little bit." His focus now, though, is on molding his new charges so they can achieve their own moments of glory on that very turf.
COACH Jim Mora (1st year)
OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR Noel Mazzone
DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR Lou Spanos