I will end our wading through the depth chart series by taking a look at our QBs. For your references here are the links to other reviews:
I am not going to bother writing up one on special teams. Sorry, I just cannot muster up the inspiration about our kickers. If one you out there wants to take a whack at it, please be my guest. I got sick and tired of watching Medlock and Perez tiring out their feet last season. And if we get the same deal again this season, then it will probably lead to a change at the very top of UCLA football program. FGs and punts will not do this season, which takes us to talking about the most important position - trigger man - of the WCO: the quarterback.
And it really all begins and ends with SPJ running the show:
The Southpaw Jesus (#7), Photo Courtesy Of Christopher Malcolm (flickr)
Mike Waldner of the Daily Breeze penned the perfect storyline wrt to SPJ in the following grafs:
He needs a big season to generate confidence in himself similar to the confidence he has shown in Olson.
And a big season is expected with 10 starters returning on offense and 10 more returning on defense.
What the coach has done is join himself at the hip with a quarterback.
The party line on Olson praises his poise, maturity, grasp of the offense and ability to remain within the framework of the offense along with his accurate, efficient passing. The impression is, and these words will never cross Dorrell's lips, they trust him more than Cowan and that they are more comfortable with him playing quarterback.
There is more than ability, raw or otherwise, in the decision.
"You can't go into the season feeling you've got to build the confidence in your quarterback," Dorrell said. "He needs to know his team is behind him and his coaching staff is behind him so he can continue to develop and grow. That's what the plan is."
An ancillary factor is the need for the coach to build his own confidence in his starting quarterback. It's easier to achieve that by artificially removing any competition and concentrating positive energy on the one you have selected.
So the decision to go with Olson was cold and calculating. It was a pick-one-guy-and build-him-up decision. It was a decision Dorrell clearly believes was necessary to get UCLA football, not to mention his career, to the next level.
I don't think I need to spill any more ink on the Southpaw Jesus. We have an entire section devoted to him. Last year, before the Nut bowl, I chimed in on the discussion re the SPJ v. St. Patrick. Of course, that discussion is now moot given the current injury to Cowan. However, the time is now for the SPJ.
He has had two and half years of practices, reps in this program. He should have the basic tenets of Dorrell's WCO memorized into his brain at this point. It is time for him (and his coaches) to deliver and show that the performance he put on against Utah last season was not an aberration. I happen to think the early season injury to Cowan could turn out as a blessing for all parties concerned. Now SPJ will no longer be looking over his shoulder and be afraid to make mistakes. He can let it rip and air it all out.
It will be up to his coaching staff to make sure they have the right offensive schemes in place so that he is well protected and a great game plan puts him in position to utilize the experienced weapons he is going to have at his disposal. And, no, Dorrell is not going to be able to get away with the excuse saying his prized recruit (again, the most talented quarterback recruit out of Southern California high schools since John Elway) is still growing and learning in this third year in the program.
As for Cowan, he needs to take his time healing up. And when he is healthy again he can get back to practice field to keep himself in game shape:
St. Patrick (#12), Photo Courtesy Of Christopher Malcolm (flickr)
I hope we don't have to see Cowan for another two years, or at least till next season. In my most ideal world, SPJ has himself the expected season and goes on to become a top-10 pick (I think if SPJ has a great year this year he will be gone). And then Cowan can come back next year ready, seasoned, and take over the reigns of a young team which will need all the veteran leadership it can get.
And then we have Mr. McLeod Bethel Thompson. Poor guy. He doesn't even have any text in his "bio" written in the official site (not much in his Scout.com bio either). How does UCLA find itself in a situation in which a walk-on QB is the second string QB headed into Dorrell's fifth season is a question that the Thinker will have to answer himself. But we will not give him or his minions any excuses here. Per some of the observations I have heard, this guy is a big kid - 6'4 224 - who has a decent size arm. He has been in the program for two years. So he knows the system and apparently is a quick study on the practice field.
So, given the only action we expect from him is to perform mop up duties in first few games, we think he should be just fine.
But I want to throw something else out there. I know OR is being strictly groomed to be a superstud WR. But why not give him some extra reps as QB/WR, oh I don't know, kind of like Kordell Stewart:
Osaar Rasshan (#11) Photo: Courtesy of adakbruin
I threw out that idea last year as well. But we never saw anything like that materialize on Saturdays. I don't see what Dorrell would have to lose by using OR as a slash weapon every now and then this coming season. It would make his offense ... gasp ... interesting, fun, and maybe a little unpredictable. But, of course, we will never see anything like that because that would require imagination on the part of Dorrell. But I will throw it out there anyways.
Lastly, there is 6-3 185 true freshman Chris Forcier. If you are just finding out about him you can see the write up we had on C-Force when he committed to UCLA. So he has a cool nickname already and he is supposed to be a pretty talented athlete. But he is at least an year away from making any kind of contribution at all. He will probably be running the scout team, sleep with the playbook, hold the clip board, and try to make his move next spring.
Anyways, this all comes down to the SPJ. If Dorrell cannot get it done with this kid, he will never get it done in Westwood.
Everyone knows it.