The UCLA football program is in the midst of rebuilding its image, and nothing provides more credibility on the recruiting trail than results. To that end, the Bruins got some amazing ammunition on Thursday night, as Datone Jones was selected by Green Bay in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft.
The Packers added the 6’4″, 283-pound defensive end with the 26th overall pick, ending a six-year span of UCLA players missing out on the first round. Jones had a breakout senior season as a pass rusher in the 3-4, and should be well known in the NFC North soon.
Before Jones, the last UCLA footballer to cross the stage on Day 1 was TE Marcedes Lewis, who went to Jacksonville 28th overall in 2006. Jones is only the fourth Bruin taken in the first two rounds since the Jaguars drafted Lewis and RB Maurice Jones-Drew (60th) in the same year.
Quite frankly, it’s tough to sell a recruit on a program that doesn’t put players in the league. There’s really no way around that. And considering how consistently Southern Cal pumps out top picks, UCLA desperately needed to reestablish itself as a destination for NFL-bound talent in Los Angeles.
Truthfully, one player doesn’t change much in the big picture. ‘SC still has the most first round picks of any school and will continue to recruit against all odds. But it’s a step in the right direction for a program that has been off track for a decade.
While Jones gets settled in Green Bay, the Bruins back home will reap the benefits of his success. Jim Mora has undoubtedly generated some juice with this milestone. Couple it with the Trojans’ uncharacteristic absence from the first round this year and it should pay dividends in recruiting going forward.
And if that wasn’t enough already, all signs indicate more good news will be coming down the wire this weekend.
UCLA’s all-time rushing leader Johnathan Franklin has been projected as a Day 2 pick, while others like Joseph Fauria and Jeff Baca could be taken on Saturday. Given the fact that there were zero Bruins drafted in 2012, having 3 or more chosen this year would truly be an astounding accomplishment. Obviously, you have to credit the players for getting themselves to this point, but their coaches deserve an ounce of credit too.
Mora and his staff have done plenty to impress since taking over in Westwood, and today’s headline is just another example of the forward progress they preach. The UCLA football program has a new mentality that demands effort and expects excellence. Anything less is failure, which isn’t in the Bruin vocabulary.
Datone Jones bought in, and now he’s cashing in. Who’s next?