Jim Mora, former coach of the Falcons, is making football news again in the Atlanta area.
The newly-hired coach at UCLA landed one of Georgia’s top uncommitted football prospects on Monday night.
Lassiter High School safety Kenny Orjioke said he picked UCLA over Arkansas, Boise State, and Miami among nearly 20 scholarship offers, which also included Georgia Tech, North Carolina, Ole Miss, Vanderbilt and Oregon State. He did not have much contact with UGA.
Ironically, Mora beat out another ex-Falcons coach for the recruit – Arkansas’ Bobby Petrino.
Back to Mora: He showcased his salesmanship skills with Orjioke, closing the deal in a hurry. Mora offered on behalf of UCLA on Sunday night, with Orjioke calling back to commit the next day.
“I just couldn’t see any of the other schools matching up with what UCLA could offer me with athletic and academic opportunities,” Orjioke told the AJC.
Mora and his new recruit had a lengthy conversation, and yes — they talked about the Falcons. Mora was the team’s coach from 2004-06. “He talked about … winning the NFC South, and his old days with the Falcons. He said that was a long time ago and it was a good run.”
The 6-foot-4, 210-pound safety liked Mora and UCLA so much that he made the surprising decision to commit before taking an official visit to the campus. Orjioke, who moved from California to the Atlanta area last summer, has a recruiting trip scheduled for UCLA on Jan. 14.
“I’ve always felt strongly about UCLA,” Orjioke explained. “I’ve always liked the program, and I’ve been waiting for them to offer. I had to wait on the coaching change, but it was the offer I wanted. I decided to commit because I was kind of getting tired of the whole recruiting process. I was kind of wanting to know where I would play the next four years of my life.
“As far as committing before my official visit, I’ve been to UCLA before and seen the campus. I lived in California and had a few friends that attend UCLA. I’ve seen the football field, and saw UCLA play at home against USC. I don’t think I will be surprised about anything on my visit. I’ve already seen the campus and I already know how it looks. I already know how the dorms look. UCLA is where I want to be.”
Orjioke’s commitment completes maybe this year’s most dramatic rags-to-riches recruiting story in Georgia. Orjioke was virtually unknown to college scouts when he lived in California, finally going out for the school team as a junior but only playing three games due to an injury.
This past summer, Orjioke’s family moved to the Atlanta area after his mother – who is lung doctor – accepted a job opportunity. He enrolled at Lassiter High School, and quickly caught the attention of Georgia Tech assistant Mike Sewak, who has a son that also plays at Lassiter.
Orjioke caught the attention of other scouts after his performance in Lassiter’s season-opening upset over 2010 Class AAAAA state champion Brookwood in the Georgia Dome, and the offers started coming in. “I think it was a combination of many things,” Lassiter coach Jep Irwin said. “I can’t speak for California, but when you have a kid that big and that fast … who made plays like he did in a big game against a team like Brookwood, they are going to get noticed around these parts.”
Orjioke is also a year ahead in school, only turning 16 years old last June. The senior helped lead Lassiter to this year’s playoff semifinals, and is projected to play safety or linebacker at UCLA.
– By Michael Carvell, AJC Recruiting Blog
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