Touted QB prospect Dante Moore flips from Oregon to UCLA

ByPete Thamel ESPN logo
Monday, December 19, 2022

Dante Moore, the No. 3 player in the Class of 2023, told ESPN that he's flipped his college commitment to UCLAfrom Oregon.

Moore is a 6-foot-3, 200-pound quarterback from Detroit powerhouse Martin Luther King High School. He led King to a state title earlier this month, and in a four-year high school career as a starter threw for 135 total touchdowns and nearly 10,000 yards.

Moore visited UCLA earlier this month and said he picked the Bruins because he felt like it would be best for his development.

"I went on a visit to UCLA," Moore told ESPN. "I talked to God and my people and really within myself. I knew that UCLA was the right move for me."

Moore indicated the biggest factor in his flip from Oregon was former Oregon offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham taking the head-coaching job at Arizona State. He said that he'd built a relationship with Dillingham that dated back at least three years. He said that he's happy for Dillingham -- "I'm proud of him, no hate at all" -- and appreciated everything that Oregon's staff did during his recruitment.

Moore had been committed there since July. He said that quarterback Bo Nix's decision to return next year, which was announced last night, did not factor into his decision. He said he's appreciative of how the Oregon coaches handled his decision to commit elsewhere.

"It's a spot that I truly love still," Moore said. "No love lost at all. I appreciate them recruiting me and taking my commitment and understanding my position."

Moore's commitment marks the highest-profile recruiting win of Chip Kelly's tenure in Westwood, which is entering its sixth season. Moore trails only No. 1 Malachi Nelson (USC) and No. 2 Arch Manning (Texas) in the ESPN 300 rankings.

According to ESPN Stats & Information research, Moore's commitment as the No. 3 player in the class ties a record for UCLA, as he'd join Jaelan Phillips of the Class of 2017 for the highest-ranked recruit in school history. (ESPN rankings go back to 2006.) Moore is also the first ESPN 300 five-star recruit in Kelly's career, per ESPN Stats & Information research.

Moore mentioned that the UCLA heading to the Big Ten, where it starts play in the 2024 season, was a factor in his decision.

"The TV time and exposure is going to be great for me to market myself as being a quarterback and being an athlete at this point," he said.

Moore said that NIL did not play a big factor in his decision. He acknowledged that if he plays well at UCLA there will be NIL opportunities, but he said on his recruiting visits he'd decline to go to NIL meetings if they showed up on his itinerary. He said he didn't want a dollar amount thrown at him by a school impact a decision that should be based on football.

"I want to keep football the main thing and be a college student and enjoy life," he said. "Football is my main thing. That's what I love, and I can keep that the main thing."

Moore credited the bond he built with Kelly, quarterback coach Ryan Gunderson and wide receiver coach Jerry Neuheisel in his recruitment.

Kelly is one of the most innovative offensive playcallers in college football, and Moore gives him a high-profile quarterback who could be a linchpin for the Bruins upon arrival in the Big Ten.

Moore grew up watching Marcus Mariota at Oregon and recalls the run-pass option game that Kelly ran while coaching Mariota there, before Kelly's departure to the NFL.

Kelly is entering his sixth year at UCLA and has gone 17-7 in the past two years.

Over his career, Kelly has figured out ways to maximize different styles of quarterback, as he led Oregon's Dennis Dixon on a Heisman-caliber season in 2007 when Dixon ended up as the Pac-10 offensive player of the year. Dixon's Heisman campaign got derailed by injury.

Kelly tutored Ricky Santos to become the top FCS player at New Hampshire in 2005, worked with Darron Thomas on a team that played for the national title in 2010 and led Mariota to a prolific redshirt freshman season in 2012. Kelly's return to college football at UCLA featured five years of Dorian Thompson-Robinson as the primary starter at quarterback, including a stellar 2022 when he accounted for 36 touchdowns.

Kelly coached with both the Philadelphia Eagles and San Francisco 49ers as an NFL head coach. Along with Mariota, Moore also mentioned Kelly coaching Colin Kaepernick in the NFL as someone he'd watched over the year.

Moore said his priority in recruitment was a place that could develop him the best, and he feels like he found that at UCLA.

"Coach Kelly, him being in the game for so long and being in the NFL and being in college and recruiting young kids, he told us not to rush anything," Moore said. He added: "Coach Kelly is a funny guy, very intelligent. He knows a lot about the body and how quarterbacks work and has a program that helps benefit the player. ... I know Coach Kelly is a great mentor and a person I can trust my years being in college."

Moore's commitment marks the second significant quarterback commitment for UCLA in recent days. Kent State transfer Collin Schlee announced Saturday that he's committed to the Bruins.

Moore told ESPN that he's graduating early from high school and will enroll at UCLA in January.