Thought: Is Jim Mora the next Pete Carroll?
Posted Nov 4, 2012

Cirminiello Thought: Is Jim Mora the next Pete Carroll?

Richard Cirminiello

Maybe Jim Mora is the second coming of Pete Carroll after all.

When Mora was hired by UCLA last Dec. 10 to replace Rick Neuheisel, it was an odd selection, much the way the hiring of Carroll was a little over a decade earlier. The parallels were undeniable. NFL head coaches who'd been away from the sidelines for a while, and who'd come to Los Angeles from clear out of left field. Neither was considered a first choice, to say the very least, or even a sane choice by many observers.

We all know what Carroll did with his opportunity for a second chance at Troy, elevating the program back to its glory days before NCAA sanctions took a bite out of his legacy. Although Mora has a long way to go before approaching Carroll's on-field success, he's certainly off to the kind of start in Westwood that should have fans, students and future recruits absolutely giddy with excitement.

UCLA is relevant again, which hasn't been the case since Bob Toledo was calling the shots in the late 1990s. Mora inherited Neuheisel's talent, so it's not as if there's been some great influx of personnel that changed the dynamic of the roster. Yet, the results could not be more different than the past few seasons.

Through the first nine games of 2012, the Bruins are 7-2, ranked, leading the Pac-12 South and No. 11 nationally in total offense. They are inventive and exciting once again. A year ago at the same time, the Bruins were 5-4 and No. 65 in the country in total offense. The undeniable difference has been the presence of the new staff, from the head coach on down the line. Mora came to the program with a refreshing attitude, stripping away the nonsense of the previous regime and replacing it with a buttoned-up, businesslike approach that has paid immediate dividends.

UCLA is markedly different in a very short period of time. You can see it by the way they operate on Saturdays, how they conduct themselves in front of the media and by what type of players they've been recruiting. The Bruins are Brett Hundley, a first-year quarterback—and rising star at the position—who has already accounted for 27 touchdowns. The Bruins are their last two weekends, a gutsy comeback win on the road to defeat Arizona State on a last-second field goal, and a 66-10 rout of previously-hot Arizona that turned heads up and down the Western Seaboard late Saturday night. UCLA is the real deal, a surging program that hasn't even begun to scratch the surface of its untapped potential.

Mora as Carroll has never seemed as spot-on as it has during the current three-game winning streak. UCLA is laying the groundwork for an impressive revival and a second straight South title.

The difference this time around is that, unlike in 2011, USC is eligible to win the division. The Bruins are finally closing the gap on the Trojans … and Mora and his assistants have only just begun to rebuild and change attitudes in Westwood.