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UCLA FOOTBALL

UCLA sees highly rated recruit class as just the ticket seller

The Bruins' football newcomers include seven offensive linemen. Coach Jim Mora says depth at secondary, linebacker is addressed.

February 06, 2013|By Chris Foster
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The work by UCLA's football recruiters was done. But the work by other school officials was just ramping up.

The ink on football letters of intent was barely dry before ticket sales were being pushed during a fundraising gala at Pauley Pavilion.

UCLA, coming off a strong season that included a win over crosstown rival USC, was now also looking down on the Trojans in recruiting for the first time in more than a decade, so why wait to try to cash in?

GRAPHIC: UCLA recruits

UCLA's haul Wednesday received a national rating of fifth by Scout.com, eighth by Rivals.com and 12th by ESPN.

Coach Jim Mora kept a pragmatic view.

Asked when it would be fair to judge the class, Mora said, "Maybe in a couple years when we see how they play. There will be different stages of development. That's a hard one."

GRAPHIC: USC recruits

It was much easier to judge the impact around the program.

"When you are able to put together what people perceive to be a good class, it certainly energizes your fan base and gets people nationally talking about your program," Mora said. "And that's a good thing for us."

Athletic department officials certainly thought so. The first fundraising plea — for the Wooden Athletic Fund — was posted on Twitter.com at 9:43 a.m., hours before the football recruiting class was signed and sealed.

SPREADSHEET: Southland's top recruits

And hours later, premium tickets for football games were being hawked for added Wooden Fund donations ranging from $100 (way high in the Rose Bowl) to $2,500 (close enough to the UCLA bench to hear a coach scream).

"One of the things that really intrigued me with this recruiting class was the focus that the public has on recruiting," said Mora, who was hired after the 2011 season. "Last year, it was such a whirlwind. I didn't get a chance to pay attention to anything other than what we were trying to do right at that moment. This year, there has been more time to feel how much interest there is out there."

Mora saw value in the class beyond dollars and cents. "We filled some needs," he said.

The 23-member class included seven offensive linemen, a need at UCLA for more than a decade.

Mora said the depth in the secondary and at linebacker was addressed. The Bruins also landed what could be quarterback Brett Hundley's successor, Asiantii Woulard from Winter Park (Fla.) High. Hundley will be a redshirt sophomore this fall.

"Quite frankly, we got lucky that he was out there, available," Mora said. "The stars aligned. He committed at a time we were looking for a quarterback."

As to who could have an immediate impact, the only player with an ironclad guarantee is punter Sean Covington from St. Petersburg (Fla.) High. UCLA does not have a punter on scholarship returning.

"For us, it's about trying create competition at every position," Mora said. "I don't know who will have an impact. We don't want to restrict anybody."

But Mora said he did have a message for returning offensive linemen. "The attitude guys who are on campus right now have to have is that there are seven guys coming to take their jobs," he said.

UCLA is waiting on two more recruits. Tempe (Ariz.) Niza High defensive back Priest Willis, who committed to UCLA, told the Arizona Republic that he could not sign because his mother was out of town. Redlands High running back Craig Lee needed to retake the SAT to academically qualify.

"We are very happy with the class we put together," Mora said.

Of course, wins on the recruiting trail don't guarantee success. UCLA had top-10 rated classes from 2008 to '10. All it produced in 2011 was a 6-8 record and an interim coach for the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl.

"We've got to follow this up with success on the field," Mora said.

UCLA also got a recruiting bonus. Running back Malcolm Jones, who left UCLA last fall, will return to Bruins as a non-scholarship player, Mora said.

Jones was a high-profile recruit out of Westlake Village Oaks Christian, where he was named the national Gatorade player of the year as a senior. But Jones' career meandered in his first three years at UCLA.

chris.foster@latimes.com

Twitter: @cfosterlatimes

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