UCLA lands commitment from Dante Moore, highest-rated QB in Bruins history

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UCLA head coach Chip Kelly stands in front of players on the sideline
Chip Kelly coaches UCLA against USC on Nov. 19 at the Rose Bowl. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

The five-star high school quarterback didn’t grow up on the West Coast. He had no family ties to UCLA. He had never visited campus until this month. He didn’t even list the school among the 10 finalists he was considering before verbally committing to Oregon.

None of that mattered.

Dante Moore is now a Bruin.

In the ultimate comeback story, UCLA flipped the commitment of the Detroit King High standout Monday in the most colossal recruiting win of the Chip Kelly era.

“It’s definitely the biggest recruiting flip I’ve seen on the West Coast,” longtime 247Sports national recruiting analyst Greg Biggins said of the recruiting site’s No. 3 overall prospect in his high school class. “I’ve never seen a school go from just nowhere involved to just landing such a high-profile kid.”

Announcing his commitment with a Twitter graphic showing him in sunglasses above images of the Hollywood sign and the Rose Bowl, Moore immediately becomes a possible high-end replacement for the departing Dorian Thompson-Robinson, who has not announced whether he will play one final game in the Sun Bowl on Dec. 30 against Pittsburgh.

“Super excited for him,” said Thompson-Robinson, who spoke with Moore when he attended practice as part of a recent campus visit. “Any time you can get a big-time player to your program it’s huge.”

Moore is UCLA’s highest-rated quarterback recruit in the history of the 247Sports rankings and the school’s third-highest recruit overall, trailing only edge rusher Jaelan Phillips and defensive lineman Eddie Vanderdoes. He’s also the highest-rated player Kelly has landed in nine seasons as a college coach.

Since his arrival at UCLA, Kelly had been known for sprinkling four-star prospects into a heavy mix of more lightly regarded players that needed significant development.

That’s changed in a momentous way.

Moore’s commitment two days before national signing day boosted the Bruins’ 2023 recruiting class from No. 31 to No. 22 nationally in the 247Sports rankings. Moore’s change of allegiance came one day after Oregon quarterback Bo Nix announced he was returning for the 2023 season and less than a month after his primary recruiter with the Ducks, offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham, left to become Arizona State’s head coach.

While acknowledging those departures contributed to the flip, Biggins also credited Kelly and assistants Ryan Gunderson and Jerry Neuheisel in selling Moore on their vision of what he could do as a Bruin.

“UCLA put in a lot of behind-the-scenes effort to get him on campus,” Biggins said, “and then really were just able to sell him on NIL opportunity, the offense, the fit, early playing time — all that — so it was kind of like a perfect storm, being able to get him.”

UCLA’s move to the Big Ten Conference in 2024 was another lure, Biggins said, because it will allow Moore to play several games a season relatively close to home.

At 6 feet 2 and 210 pounds, Moore combines good size with a strong arm and precision accuracy on both short and deep routes. He’ll join a crowded quarterback room that might start to feel claustrophobic with the recent commitment of Kent State transfer Collin Schlee in addition to incumbents Ethan Garbers, Justyn Martin and Chase Griffin. Schlee is considered one of the nation’s top transfer quarterbacks after completing 59% of his passes last season for 2,109 yards and 13 touchdowns with five interceptions.

Biggins said Moore was the most college-ready of any top high school quarterback and could immediately compete for the starting job. Helping his bid, Moore is expected to enroll early and attend spring practice.

“In terms of physical tools, Dante will be the most talented quarterback in the quarterback room,” Biggins said. “Obviously, whether he starts is 100% dependent on how quickly he can get in there and adapt to Chip’s playbook and learning the offense, and that’s like, what, 70% of it nowadays?”

It’s possible that at least one UCLA quarterback will depart given the arrival of such a highly regarded player. Garbers, the primary backup the last two seasons who started one game in 2021 when Thompson-Robinson was injured, has three years of eligibility remaining and Martin has four. Martin was a four-star prospect out of Inglewood High who has impressed in practice with his poise and decision-making for a freshman.

A four-year starter in high school, Moore led his team to back-to-back state titles while throwing for 9,880 yards and 135 touchdowns with 20 interceptions. Moore was named the Associated Press player of the year for Division 3-4 by a panel of sportswriters from across Michigan.

Among the schools he seriously considered, Moore had initially picked Oregon over Michigan, his top home-state choice. Now he’ll attend neither, heading west for something new and completely unexpected.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.