The highest-rated high school quarterback Chip Kelly ever landed will throw his next pass for another coach.
Dante Moore intends to enter the transfer portal, according to multiple reports, ending one of the most turbulent seasons in recent UCLA history.
A five-star prospect out of King High in Detroit, Moore’s arrival in Westwood early this year generated massive buzz after he flipped his commitment from Oregon. After losing the starting job to Ethan Garbers before the season, then winning it after one game, then losing it again amid three consecutive games with a pick-six, Moore ended the season as Garbers’ backup.
Moore played in most of the Bruins’ 33-7 loss to California last weekend after Garbers went down with an apparent arm injury near the end of the team’s first drive. In a moment that symbolized UCLA’s season, Kelly called a pass on Moore’s first play off the bench and the quarterback threw into heavy coverage, the ball tipped by one Cal defender to another before being intercepted.
Garbers’ status for the Bruins’ bowl game that will be announced Sunday remains unknown. Quarterback Collin Schlee is also recovering from an unspecified injury, further thinning the depth at a position that also includes fifth-year senior Chase Griffin, redshirt freshman Justyn Martin and true freshman Luke Duncan.
Moore becomes the fourth UCLA player to enter the transfer portal, joining tight end Carsen Ryan and wide receivers Kam Brown and Keegan Jones.
Having started five games and played in four others, Moore finished the season with nearly as many interceptions (nine) as touchdowns (11) while completing 54% of his passes for a team-leading 1,610 yards. He also struggled to escape the constant pressure he faced playing behind a shaky offensive line that also minimized his ability to go through a series of progressions with his receivers.
Late Saturday night, as he met with reporters at the Rose Bowl, Moore acknowledged the burden he felt during a season in which his mother battled cancer before declaring herself free of the disease this week on social media.
“There’s just a lot of things I’ve been going through, you know, mentally and things like that,” Moore said. “Just far from home and doing these type of things can be pretty tough at times.”
Moore’s problems on the field were compounded by an offensive line that allowed 42 sacks, ranking No. 122 out of 130 Football Bowl Subdivision teams. Kelly’s play-calling also failed to accentuate Moore’s strengths, particularly early in the season when the coach did not call for rollouts or quick passes during a 14-7 loss to Utah.
The first pass Moore threw against the Utes was intercepted and returned for a touchdown, starting a streak of three consecutive games with a pick-six. Garbers reclaimed the starting job against Stanford in late October and never lost it except for a game against Arizona State in which Schlee served as an injury replacement.
After having thrown for three touchdowns against San Diego State, tying a school record for a true freshman, and barely playing in a blowout of North Carolina Central the following week, Moore appeared shaken by a Utah loss in which he was sacked seven times and lost a fumble while under pressure. He never seemed to regain the same confidence he had shown earlier in the season.
Moore’s departure might prompt questions about more than UCLA’s remaining quarterback depth.
When Oregon fell out of the running for Moore in the wake of offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham’s departure for Arizona State, Moore told The Times that he pivoted to UCLA in large part because of Kelly’s history developing quarterbacks.
“The biggest positive,” Moore said at the time, “was coach Kelly.”
But in what appeared to be a condemnation of the coaching he received in his one season as a Bruin, Moore told 247Sports that he was seeking that same quality in his next destination.
“For these next upcoming years, I just want to go to a place where I can get developed,” Moore told the recruiting website. “That’s the main thing is really development, making sure you’re bettering yourself every day and having a staff around you that’s going to help develop you.”
Last weekend, Moore noted his own need for growth, mentioning how Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes overcame mistakes to blossom as NFL quarterbacks.
“All the greatest quarterbacks have been through issues and faced them,” Moore said.
After one bumpy season in Westwood, Moore will face his somewhere else.