Jim Mora: UCLA no closer to naming a starting quarterback

» UCLA head coach Jim Mora talked after UCLA’s final spring practice on Saturday at the Rose Bowl, and immediately quashed the biggest question of the Bruins’ offseason: Who will be the new starting quarterback?

“I don’t think we’re any closer to a decision than we were when we started spring,” he said, with more or less a straight face. And he isn’t planning to name one until the season-opening kickoff against Virginia on Sept. 5.

Regardless of what happened through four weeks of spring practice, the coaching staff has consistently insisted that no hierarchy has emerged among the four candidates vying to be Brett Hundley’s successor. On Saturday at the Rose Bowl, all four got 11-on-11 reps. Jerry Neuheisel and Josh Rosen ran with the first-string, while Asiantii Woulard and Mike Fafaul got their chances with the second string.

Rosen subbed in for 11-on-11s more than an hour into practice, and completed his first five passes. His sixth was a nice-looking 35-yard pass to Logan Sweet, but cornerback Marcus Rios reached over and tipped it away at the last second. He eventually finished 13 of 17 with two touchdowns and an interception on the day, with the pick going to Johnny Johnson.

As has been the case at times this spring, Rosen didn’t look as sharp during seven-on-sevens. He missed a couple of back-to-back swing passes to Paul Perkins, one thrown slightly too far ahead and the other thrown too low.

» Instead of running a real, live scrimmage like it did last spring at the StubHub Center, UCLA opted for what was essentially a regular practice. When Mora announced that decision to the team on Monday, not everyone was excited.

The coach specifically warned linebackers Myles Jack and Kenny Young not to hit anyone.

“I was definitely upset when I heard,” Jack said on Saturday. “I was mad. I’ll go ahead and say that. I would rather have a game. … I want it to be live the whole time.”

“Yeah, I was mad too!” Young said. “I wanted to go live and hit some people, man. We didn’t give the fans nothin’ to see.”

Mora said having a practice instead allowed the team to host recruits on the field. The focus of the day was also geared more toward the offense, with the defense not bringing anything in the form of extra pressure.

» Running back Craig Lee and receivers Jordan Lasley and Aaron Sharp were the only players who worked as kick returners on Saturday — which probably isn’t the best indication of what will actually happen when the season starts.

Cornerback Ishmael Adams will certainly reprise his role after emerging as one of the conference’s most dangerous special team players. And then there’s Jack, who tried returning kicks for three straight practices this spring, after a suggestion by assistant running backs coach DeShaun Foster.

As for whether or not Jack does so against a real opponent, that’s still undecided. “If it’s up to me, I’ll be back there,” he said.

» Sharp had a lot of drops today, but Mora was optimistic overall about his transition from quarterback. The coach added that Sharp, who has practiced mostly as an inside receiver, could have a chance to play outside at some point as well.

Senior Devin Fuller, who was second on the team in receptions last season, might be the most interesting receiver to watch when fall camp starts. After being used in the slot his whole pass-catching career, he has started practicing more outside.

“It’s demanded him to work more on his escape at the line of scrimmage,” Mora said. “Getting off the bump and run. Adding that versatility and being able to go outside will help him.”

» The Bruins came out of spring relatively healthy, and Mora said the team has learned how to practice more effectively since he’s arrived. He also said that he was more aggressive with how he ran practices during his first spring.

Besides offensive lineman Scott Quessenberry, who didn’t dress for spring camp at all as he recovered from offseason shoulder surgery, Mora expects every rotation player to be fully ready for preseason camp in San Bernardino.

» UCLA’s official attendance at the “Spring Showcase” was 8,738.

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  • Richard

    Rosen announces he will skip his Freshman yr & make himself eligible for the NFL Draft next Thur. Rosen picked in the 2nd Round. Oh, never mind, just a bad dream. # Thank God no “1 & done” in CFB

  • xtracool32

    Mora would be a huge idiot if he were to name josh Rosen the starter right now. He’s still supposed to be in high school, and if mora were to name him the starter today, I think it would not be good for Rosen mentally. If he were named starter today, then they are just inviting huge media exposure on Rosen, and at 18 years old he does not need that right now. Mora is playing it right.

    • I agree; the less hype, the better.

      While fun for the fans, all the championship and Heisman talk last year didn’t help UCLA.

      • ProbationU

        There is already a ton of hype. The question is, can he deliver? We will know soon enough. No need to build him up or tear him down. Virginia confused us last year with a lot of blitzing and a lot of pressure on the QB. It will be a real test for a freshman QB if he gets the nod. It sounds like he is our best QB at this stage.

        • Laker Rod

          I didn’t get any indication that Rosen was our best QB at this stage. We all know he has the most potential…that’s it.

          To me…it’s so what that Rosen can throw a little bit better supposedly. What’s the point of a fake touchdown in practice when he would have been sacked otherwise and possibly hurt had it been a real live game.

          Woulard can run and is a threat that opposing defenses don’t like. Rosen can’t.

          And i”m not buying that our offensive line is a “strength” at this point. Benenoch and Quessenberry have missed a lot of time this spring.

          Last year, we thought the O line was a strength. We thought we had Brendel, Redmond, Benenoch, and Quessenberry all returning along with adding Malcome Bunche and having guys like Najee Toran, Moala, Lacy, Wysocki, McDermott, etc.

          Last year…the opening game…Brendel was out and Najee Toran started as a true freshman and this messed UCLA up for almost the entire year.

          In addition, when your unit has historically been maligned year after year and you’ve been part of that unit…it’s hard to consider a strength.

          Brendel, Redmond, Benenoch, and Quessenberry have all been responsible for being part of a terrible offensive line who have given up way too many sacks. The one player who has helped stabilize the O line has been Connor McDermott. Ever since his insertion…the Bruins have played much better.

          With all that said…this should be a year where the Bruins turn the corner. Brendel is a redshirt senior..returning to start for his 4th year. Redmond, Benenoch, and Quessenberry all returning to start for their 3rd year and all juniors. McDermott redshirt junior and returning to start for his 2nd year. Simon Goines back.

          The Bruin O line is also going up against a pretty good D line but the defensive unit didn’t produce a lot of sacks last year and they are still unproven also.

          If Rosen starts then expect another type of 9-5 season with no conference division title. The team will probably lose at least 3 conference games.

          My hope is that the light bulb really clicks on for Asianti Woulard and he leads us to a Pac-12 title. The odds are better of this happening than with a true freshman QB.

          • ProbationU

            While I agree that it is difficult to expect a great year with a true freshman QB, I am not sure that Woulard presents a better option, with or without the light on. He has had 2 years for the light to go on. What I have read and this includes some paid sites, is that Rosen is markedly better than the other QB’s but Mora wants Rosen to earn the job and that 3 weeks of Spring practice is not enough to warrant handing him the reins. I think that is the wisest and fairest course as you have other QB’s that have been in the system and deserve their shot to prove themselves.

            What I have read is the Rosen has the best arm of the group and understands the offense better than everyone except Jerry Neuheisel. Jerry just lacks the arm strength to complete all the throws. If Rosen wins the job, it means he is the best QB on the team and it shouldn’t matter if he is a freshman or a junior.

            I expect the OL to be much improved and I expect that we will be a very good running team this year. That should take some pressure off of our QB. Many of Hundley’s sacks were from holding on to the ball too long and not reading the field quickly. I think it will be an interesting season starting with the Virginia game. Their defense gave us a lot of problems last year with their blitzes, albeit with Jake Brendel unavailable. Any OL that blocks for the leading rusher in the PAC-12 can’t be all bad. We will need to run the ball even better to take the pressure of the QB and improve in pass protection. It should be interesting and even with a freshman QB, we could win 10 or 11 games with our schedule.

          • Laker Rod

            Is it really wise to go off of paid sites? I cannot tell you how many times these paid sites have been blatantly wrong about many things in the past. Beat writers and followers of the program have been dead wrong also.

            Are you not able to see their agenda? They are a pay site mainly for “recruiting”. They simply love to promote the hot incoming freshmen and want you to follow these guys and read their stories and want you to pay for them.

            Do you not recall these same sites promoting Richard Brehaut to start as a true freshman? Do you not recall how these pay sites and practically every fan out there was promoting Ben Olson to start as a redshirt freshman vs that of senior Drew Olson.

            Why do you and others not follow a simple concept of “past performance is not indicative of future results”. Just because Woulard has not done much in two years does not mean the light bulb cannot click on. Often times the light bulb does finally go on in a player’s junior year. If you have followed the program long enough you would know this.

            Cade McNown struggled his first two years. The light bulb went on his junior and senior year.

            Do you remember a LB named Brian Wilmer? He was the RSr MLB for the 1997 Bruins. It finally clicked for him his senior year.

            Didn’t everything come together for Drew Olson his senior year.

            What about Anthony Barr his junior and senior year vs his frosh and sophomore year.

            What about guys like Kenyon Coleman, Brigham Harwell, Bruce Davis, Kevin Brown, Dave Ball, etc. All of these guys started playing much better their upper classmen years vs their under classmen years.

            Please name me a single true frosh QB who won 10-11 games in a season. And please don’t name Jamiel Holloway from Oklahoma or Terrell Pryor from Ohio State. They were more running QB’s which Josh Rosen is not.

          • ProbationU

            Look, Laker Rod, I respect your opinion and the statistics will back that up more often than not. However, Woulard has not displayed that he is better than Jerry Neuheisel yet. I am not advocating the Rosen starts. I am advocating that the best player starts, regardless of his class. You can’t start Woulard if Rosen is better. And it isn’t just the paid sites reporting that. I asked the question of Wang, so let’s get his appraisal of the situation. ESPN had a video piece on it today.

            Jim Mora and his staff get paid a lot of money to make this decision. With all due respect, I trust the decision of a coaching staff over that of a fan, whether that fan be you or me. Rosen may be a special talent that blows all of the odds out of the water. He may not be. Neither one of us actually knows. I trust the UCLA staff to make the right call.

            Are you advocating that Josh Rosen not start at QB, even if it is clear that he is the best QB?

          • Moises Rosiles

            love how you always argue against starting freshman yet you say this year our O-line will turn the corner because they’ve started for 2 years…can’t have it both ways Laker Rod!

          • Tommy B Low Us

            Hah! Word. Glad someone else called him out on it.

          • ProbationU

            He also cited Cade McNown who started as a true freshman. But hey, logic can get confusing. Just maybe our coaches know even more than Laker Rod or any of us here.

          • Tommy B Low Us

            That would make sense since they recruited them, and since they spend all day working directly with them. But hey…

            What do we know?? 😉

          • ProbationU

            2 Words…. MYLES JACK! Guess he should have been redshirted too!

          • Tommy B Low Us

            Yeah and wadood. Every guy is different and come along at different times. He likes to throw around history and stats, but for every guy that red shirts, there are guys that develop more quickly with true game experience. Take Najee, if he red shirted he would not have realized he was better suited for d line.

          • Laker Rod

            Your lone exception. Anybody else? Crickets chirping.

          • ProbationU

            Eddie Vanderdoes, Kenny Clark. Jaleel Wadood, Simon Goines, Caleb Benenoch, Kenny Clark, Deon Hollins.

          • Laker Rod

            I didn’t say the O line will turn the corner. I said they “should”. And you make no sense in about having it both ways. Both Redmond and Benenoch should not have started as true freshman. Much like how Najee Toran had no business starting the first game of the season. It’s the not “player”…it’s the age and class which is the issue.

            The good thing is I don’t see too many uneducated Bruin fans promoting the incoming 2015 offensive linemen to start or play. Hopefully they all redshirt.

            There are still some numbskulls who think Kesian Lucier-South is going to win a starting job. Oh brother. The guys is like 6’5 215. That’s a basketball player’s size/frame. Might be different if he shows up at 235 or 240 but I doubt it. He’s not starting either. Just a reserve at best.

          • Moises Rosiles

            I saw KLS up close at the spring showcase, no way he sees the field in 2015 the dude’s a stick. he’s gonna have to hit the weight room hard and eat up!

          • Laker Rod

            The sad part is that there is a group of posters over at Bruin Gold who think KLS can indeed start and there are not many posters pointing out how wrong they are.

          • Moises Rosiles

            you can’t have it both ways meaning you can’t say the O-Line will or should or whatever be a strength because Caleb, and Alex will be 3 year starters because if you were coaching they wouldn’t have played early on in their careers.

          • Laker Rod

            Man. You make no sense. Jake Brendel redshirted and he’s here as a 5th year senior. You don’t need to have started 3 years in row to be successful. Look at Connor McDermott. He’s a 2 star recruit also.

    • ProbationU

      http://www{dot}bruinsnation{dot}com/2015/4/27/8503253/josh-rosen-already-a-true-bruin

      Maybe the kid is growing out of his ego and his character flaws.

  • ProbationU

    One of these days, I hope to be as educated as you, Laker Rod. The facts are that none of us clearly have your intelligence and grasp of all things UCLA football. I can only hope to be as wonderful as you some day.

    And, like a politician, you did not answer the question. Should the best QB start or not, regardless of who it is? I am not rooting for one QB or another, just that the best man win.

    And given that none of the QB’s have any real game experience, other than 1 game for Jerry, I have no expectations that the QB will carry the team. However, we have 18 returning starters and others will have to pick up the slack for the Bruins to win the South Division.

    But hey, what would I know. I am an ignorant moron who has only been watching the Bruins play since 1965, so what would I know about the program and the history of the program. I should never dare to disagree with Laker Rod.

    • Laker Rod

      You don’t have to come back with such sarcastic remarks. Usually those that do…it’s an admission of defeat and can’t acknowledge one was perhaps wrong.