Once again, it's rumor time involving UCLA Coach Jim Mora

Once again, it's rumor time involving UCLA Coach Jim Mora
UCLA Coach Jim Mora celebrates with his players during the final seconds of a 38-20 win over USC on Nov. 22. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

If it's December, then a rumor that UCLA Coach Jim Mora could be headed elsewhere has to be circulating.

This time, his name has been bandied about as someone the San Francisco 49ers could look at. Mora was being pitched as a replacement for 49ers Coach Jim Harbaugh even before Harbaugh was officially out.

Now Harbaugh is gone — he is expected to take over at Michigan — and the Mora drumbeat could get louder.

There is no indication that Mora has even spoken with anyone from the 49ers, a person with knowledge about the situation said, but that won't tap the brakes on speculation.


UCLA players waved aside the topic Monday as they prepared to play Kansas State in the Valero Alamo Bowl.


"I don't think we pay too much attention to it," tackle Caleb Benenoch said. "At the end of the day, we love Coach Mora, but we're focused on this football game and we're focused on our teammates. That's who we play for."

UCLA has grown used to this annual dance since Mora's first season. The Bruins went 9-5 in 2012, which brought cursory interest from colleges with coaching vacancies and a greater financial commitment from UCLA to football.

That scenario repeated after the Bruins finished 10-3 last season, only the threat was more credible. The lure of Washington, where Mora played college football, was tempting.

"Last year a lot people on Twitter thought he was going to Seattle, and we knew he wasn't," defensive lineman Eddie Vanderdoes said. "I don't worry about that. I do my job to the best of my ability to help the team. I don't worry about what goes on in the coach's life."

A job with San Francisco may be of interest to Mora, who had a combined record of 32-34 as head coach of the Atlanta Falcons (2004-06) and Seattle Seahawks (2009). Mora was an assistant for the 49ers from 1997 to 2003. He was the team's defensive coordinator for the last five seasons and remains well-liked by the owners.

Mora was unavailable for comment Monday. He is not scheduled to address the media at an Alamo Bowl event until Thursday.

"If people aren't talking about your coach, that means he's not doing his job very well," Benenoch said. "We're happy when he gets the attention. It means we have a pretty good coach."

Country boys

Vanderdoes is relishing the chance to play against Kansas State. It's like going home.

"They're a country football team," Vanderdoes said. "That's the best way I can describe them, coming from a small town myself."

Vanderdoes played at Auburn (Calif.) High, in a town 33 miles north of Sacramento.

"The kids I used to go against, the mentality, the way they finished plays, their toughness, Kansas State reminds me a lot of them," Vanderdoes said.

Ceiling fan

This will be the second game in the Alamodome for Vanderdoes. He played in the Army All-American Bowl after his senior season at Auburn in 2012.

"I had six tackles and a couple sacks," Vanderdoes recalled. "I love playing inside. I don't know why. I just always play well in domes."

Vanderdoes had four tackles, two for losses, in a 20-17 victory over Texas at AT&T Stadium this season.

The 2015 Army All-American Bowl will be played Saturday. Orange Lutheran High linebacker Keisean Lucier-South, who has verbally committed to UCLA, was selected to play in the game.

Bunche out

Tackle Malcolm Bunche did not accompany the Bruins to San Antonio because of an academic issue, a UCLA official said.

Bunche transferred from Miami as a graduate student last spring. He started the first six games, but lost his spot to Conor McDermott.

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