Jeff Ulbrich

Report says Roquan Smith not expected to sign a National Letter of Intent

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Four-star linebacker Roquan Smith is not expected to sign a National Letter of Intent when he finalizes his college decision, whenever that may be.

Smith announced his commitment to UCLA last week on National Signing Day, but he never submitted his signed letter of intent to make the choice final. This was because UCLA lost defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich to an NFL job with the Atlanta Falcons, a move that was made official just after signing day. Knowing the defensive coach was not going to be a part of his promising college future, Smith decided it would be best to take some time to weigh his options before going all in with UCLA.

UCLA may end up being the final destination, but Georgia, Michigan and Texas A&M are all under consideration according to an Atlanta Journal-Constitution report Tuesday. There is also no timetable for when a decision may be made. Instead, Smith will officially be a new member of his program of choice on his first day of summer classes.

“He’s not going to sign a letter of intent,” Smith’s high school coach at Macon County Larry Harold said to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Harold had previously ripped some colleges for the recruiting processes by some programs holding back information about coaching staff changes. “The reason why is because what he went through last week. This just gives us flexibility in case something else unexpectedly happens again.”

Andy Staples of Sports Illustrated recently explained why top high school athletes should not bother signing a letter of intent (which was led off by telling Smith’s recruiting story). It is often a common misconception that a player needs to sign a letter of intent, but this is not true. The letter of intent does bring an end to the recruiting process, but as Staples points out, it is not necessary, especially for top recruits that can get a scholarship almost anywhere.

For Smith, there is no real need to sign that letter of intent. A scholarship at UCLA or Georgia or Michigan or Texas A&M or just about anywhere else will be available to him when he does make his decision. For now, it is as close to free agency we will get in college football.

With UCLA now officially losing Ulbrich, what will Roquan Smith do?

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UCLA defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich is now officially former UCLA defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich. After reports surfaced last week linking Ulbrich to a job in the NFL with the Atlanta Falcons, today UCLA made the move official by announcing Ulbrich has stepped down from his position on UCLA’s coaching staff.

“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  released statement Sunday. “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.”

UCLA stated it has now opening up a search to fill the vacancy on Mora’s staff. Meanwhile, UCLA commit Roquan Smith is still taking time to decide whether or not he should follow through on his commitment to the Bruins. Smith announced his commitment to UCLA on National Signing Day last week but has held off on filing the necessary paperwork, his National Letter of Intent. Smith picked UCLA over Georgia, but now some wonder if he too may choose to stay in Georgia instead of heading out to the west coast. Smith’s high school coach has come out in defense of those criticizing Smith’s decision to hold off on finalizing his decision.

Georgia HS coach rips college programs that lie during recruiting

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Recruiting in college football can, at times, get ugly. The past few days after National Signing Day have seen a handful of incidents that cast a dark cloud over college football recruiting.

Ohio State was accused of lying to Detroit Cass Tech and running back Mike Weber while recruiting the four-star running back to Columbus. Weber committed to Ohio State and a day later running backs coach Stan Drayton was on his way to the NFL. Ohio State lured Notre Dame running back coach Tony Alford to fill the vacancy, but the thought of Ohio State deceiving a Michigan recruit may not have gone without subtle comment from new Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh (which may have sparked yet another Twitter battle).

A similar tale has unfolded in Austin, where defensive tackle Du’Vonta Lampkin expressed some bitter feelings after Texas defensive line coach Chris Rumph left the Longhorns for Florida just two days after signing day.

Four-star linebacker Roquan Smith is also in the middle of a rather public stressful situation regarding his recruitment, but he is fortunate to not have submitted his official letter of intent just yet. Smith announced his commitment to UCLA on signing day, but he has held off on taking the next step to making his commitment official because UCLA defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich took a job with the Atlanta Falcons.

Criticized by many for stepping back from his UCLA commitment until he can make a decision he feels best for him, Smith’s high school coach,Macon County coach Larry Harold, has come out in his defense.

“If you’ve never played sports or anything like that, you are more than just a coach to these kids. You’re their dad, their mom, and their extended family,” Harold explained to Atlanta Journal Constitution. “You’re everything to these kids. So when they’re going to get recruited by the next coach, to find the person who is going to be charge of the next four years of their life, they are looking for the same things.”

The experience of Smith and other recruits that never get a chance to play for the coach that took the lead in recruiting them is a reality of the coaching game. Sometimes a better offer comes around, or an opportunity to be put in a more comfortable or secure position. This is essentially what America is all about in a sense.  It may be tough to handle on the end of the players and the high school coaches that stand by their sides through the process, but it is the reality of the sport and most everybody understands that.

That doesn’t mean it is any easier to accept.

“So how can these guys (college coaches) talk about the people and the relationships — and then you get these kids signed and then you bail on them at the first time you get the opportunity,” Harold asked. “You can’t tell me that these head coaches aren’t telling these assistants that they know are leaving – don’t tell anybody until after signing day and then we’ll announce it. That’s deception and that dishonesty. And, most importantly, it’s not fair to the kids.”

There is likely some insider information among the coaching staff at various college programs, and sometimes all of the information is not going to be shared. Again, this is part of the game.

It stinks, but it’s not changing anytime soon.

UCLA DC fully expects Jim Mora to stick with Bruins, not leave for Michigan

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As of Wednesday, UCLA’s Jim Mora held 8-1 odds to become the next head coach of the Michigan Wolverines. Mora only trailed Michigan’s prodigal son, 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh, as the favorite to eventually claim the position.

If Mora is actually interested in leaving the West Coast for the Midwest to coach one of college football’s most prestigious program, he has hasn’t been forthright with his current coaching staff.

UCLA defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich discussed the possibility of Mora leaving the Bruins for Michigan with the Orange County Register‘s Ryan Kartje.

“I’m convinced that Coach Mora, he loves it here,” Ulbrich told Kartje. “He loves this program. He loves these kids. He loves the direction we’re going. I think he’s in it for the long haul. I really do. He’s built a beautiful home in Manhattan Beach. It doesn’t look like he has any intention of leaving that. His kids have stayed here close to go to school locally to be together, to be near him.”

Michigan still carries a lot of clout as one of the nation’s highest profile programs, yet Mora is currently in a better place after rebuilding the Bruins over the past three seasons. The Bruins are currently ranked 14th overall and spent the bulk of the season among the Top 10 overall. Michigan, meanwhile, finished 5-7 overall.

These reasons and more (namely the weather) led Ulbrich to think “everything would indicate to me that he’s staying.”

UCLA promotes Jeff Ulbrich to defensive coordinator

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After losing their defensive coordinator to the NFL, UCLA opted to promote from within to find a replacement. Special teams and linebackers coach Jeff Ulbrich was given that promotion. UCLA announced Ulbrich has been named defensive coordinator on Friday.

Ulbrich replaces Lou Spanos, who left the Bruins for a position on the coaching staff with the NFL’s Tennessee Titans. Ulbrich was destined for a move up in the coaching staff at some point after drawing praise for the job he has been doing on the staff. Last season Ulbrich was named the Special TEams Coach of the Year by FootballScoop.com and the Bruins have established one of the top special teams units in college football under Ulbrich’s leadership. Of course, his work with UCLA’s linebackers is what has helped mold him in to the perfect fit for the next defensive coordinator of the Bruins.

“Coach ‘Brick’ is a natural fit for this position, having run an NFL defense for years as a player while honing his abilities to get the most out of his players as a coach,” said UCLA head coach Jim Mora. “We couldn’t be more excited about this move.”

UCLA was ranked fifth in the Pac 12 in total defense and scoring defense last season.