UCLA quarterbacks work on drill during spring football practice at Spaulding Field on April 23, 2015. (Andy Holzman/Staff)
Much has already been made of UCLA’squarterbacksituation over the past several weeks. Through 15 practices, the consensus among observers was this: Josh Rosen looks like the Bruins’ best starting option this season.
Jim Mora and the rest of the coaching staff has declined to officially name a starter, which is unsurprising for a two main reasons: it’s not a good look to have a true freshman, however talented, zoom to the top of the depth chart; it might persuade those who lose the competition to think longer and harder before potentially deciding to transfer out.
For a moment, he teetered on the verge of divulging some real information.
Asked today if there’s a timeline on UCLA’s quarterback competition, head coach Jim Mora said: “Well, you know, the sooner the better, once we get to fall camp.”
After insisting for the past few weeks that no one will no the starter until the season-opening kickoff against Virginia, that felt for a moment like a softened stance.
Then he remembered that he was doing a conference call in late April, and that telling anyone whether the Bruins will start Josh Rosen or Jerry Neuheisel or Asiantii Woulard or Mike Fafaul serves the Bruins themselves little purpose.
“But it’s not something that we’re going to push,” Mora continued. “We want it to just happen the way it’s supposed to happen. Heck, we might go three games and not know who our starter is. … We might give each of them a quarter in each game. We don’t know yet.”
» 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. Continue reading →
» For someone who has yet to play a down at UCLA, Asiantii Woulard’s career as a Bruin has seen its share of ups and downs. He committed late to the Bruins in the 2013 cycle, reputed to be a talented athlete but raw passer. Then, he opened eyes during the first week of preseason camp, making himself look like an underrecruited gem. And then, he faded — eventually hitting a wall that kept him from even being a backup last season.
So he deserves some credit for making a bit of noise this spring. Woulard had a rough start to spring camp, a stretch of the quarterback competition that was seized early by the precocious Josh Rosen. But halfway through, he finally broke out — completing what Jim Mora later called the best Woulard had looked in a UCLA jersey. (It’s worth mentioning that, on that day, Rosen still looked the best of the four quarterbacks.)
Since then, the 6-foot-3 quarterback has put together a decent — albeit still uneven — finish to his spring. Thursday’s morning practice was a microcosm of that. During 11-on-11s, Woulard made the best throw of the day by any UCLA passer: a bomb to Kenny Walker on a go route that he placed perfectly beyond cornerback Fabian Moreau. But a few minutes later, Woulard threw into the flat for what would have been a bad pick — had Johnny Johnson not let it bounce off his hands. Overall, however, the former four-star recruit is definitely trending up.
Taking into consideration everything that’s happened this spring, Josh Rosen still looks like the best choice to start at quarterback. Continue reading →