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Spaulding Report: Quarterback Questions for UCLA

Who is going to be the starting quarterback for UCLA? Nothing is official so far. We all have our suspicions, but it sounds like every Bruin coach & player is going to get asked that question until it is official. But none of them are caving so far.

Caleb Benenoch thinks the Bruins Offensive Line can be the best in the country.
Caleb Benenoch thinks the Bruins Offensive Line can be the best in the country.
Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Hey, who's going to be the starting quarterback?

Well, we all have our suspicions (Rosen) but the media is still asking the Bruins players and staff at every opportunity, and the Bruins players and staff are not naming any names. This is not a surprise.

The Bruins held their second practice of preseason camp at CSU SB today and it went a lot like yesterday. The team practiced in helmets and pads and shorts in a beautiful day in the Inland Empire.

The Bruins are following their usual pattern with the OC meeting with the media on Tuesdays, and while his comments were pretty brief, he was his usual jovial self. He responded to the inevitable quarterback questions with a brief weather report and said he didn't know who his QB is, but did add that he is happy with the competition. He says it is a matter of reps and play in pads and routine until one guy distances himself from the others. Stay tuned, or not.

Mazzone noted that he was pleased with the depth and personnel at tight end, and that the current roster allows the offense to call more standard run plays that they haven't been able to for the last couple years "because of the lack of a guy at that position". Chris Clark's absence due to mononucleosis has slowed down his inclusion at that spot a bit but he has been participating in meetings and film study and watching practice and it sounds like he should get up to speed quickly when he gets back on the field.

Mazzone said QB/WR Aaron Sharp "is kind of flashing" at WR and RB Soso Jamabo and Bolu Olurunfunmi are fitting in very quickly. He intimated that Soso will be moved around so they can get him the ball in various places, and that was evident today with Soso taking direct snaps in the Wildcat.

Thank you, as always, to Ed Lewis and Bruin Sports Report for all of today's videos.

video from Ed Lewis and BSRTV via YouTube

I think it will be very interesting to see how this offense is called and how it performs with the new quarterback and running backs this season. There are definitely more play making tools available to the staff and so there seem to be some different opportunities for the offensive coordinator this season. Whether that translates into a more diverse or a more productive offense or not remains to be seen.

Junior OL Caleb Benenoch is not lacking for confidence in himself or his offensive linemates this season, and I'm fine with that. I'll take that as a good sign. He said that the veteran presence on the line "makes everything easier" and that for the first time that he's been at U.C.L.A. he feels like the line is gelling as a unit. He cited the OL's improvement over the last half of 2014 as evidence and says now he has no doubt that "we can be the best unit in the country".  One very interesting point that came up is when Benenoch admitted that not having a running QB makes his job easier because he knows where his QB is going to be and in the pocket.

video from Ed Lewis and BSRTV via YouTube

If this line really becomes the best in the country, or even one of the best in the country, then look the hell out. I'm all for it, and they've proven they can be a good run blocking group. But they still have a lot to improve on with QB protection, and as I've written, that takes on an extra degree of importance this season, no matter if that pocket QB is Jerry Neuheisel or Josh Rosen. (aka "J Chosen" - yes Caleb, we all caught that). Also, I expect that Tom Bradley's defense will show a lot more blitzes and odd man rushes in practice than we saw with Jeff Ulbrich's D last season, and that should also be beneficial for the OL and its development.

And speaking of Jerry Neuheisel,

Little Neu got some questions about the quarterback position, but the media did have the decency to not ask him to pick a starter. Jerry says he and all the QBs are working like the position is open and he spoke confidently about his abilities and responsibilities. He did say it's a lot more fun being in camp this year because he has a lot more to do instead of signaling plays in to Brett Hundley.

video from Ed Lewis and BSRTV via YouTube

Is there a kid in the country who looks and sounds and acts and has mannerisms exactly like his dad as much as Jerry? It's crazy. I wonder how he is with a guitar…  I do feel for this kid as I think he would make a great game manager and would be a very solid QB, but that it's his misfortune to be at U.C.L.A. with Brett Hundley and now with Rosen. But one thing is for sure, the Bruins will not have as much drop off from 1 to 2 as most teams, as they'll have a mature and intelligent leader ready to take snaps when called upon. And let's hope that time comes only in a lot of 4th quarters with a lot of big leads. Of course, his dad had to step up to fill a sudden void at QB himself and that worked out alright, too.

Jordan Lasley's inclusion in the second day of media interviews at practice seems to say a lot about his development both on and off the field. No one has questioned his athletic gifts, but his biggest enemy so far has been his own impatience and short temper, and to his credit, he addressed those concerns and said he is working to be a "more accountable" player to his teammates.

video from Ed Lewis and BSRTV via YouTube

Having a year of familiarity with both the system and his own strengths and weaknesses has to be helping Lasley this year. Understanding the environment and what to look forward to must provide some bit of comfort and security to a young player who is prone to get overly emotional overly quickly. His comments suggest he is growing and if he can learn to focus that bubbling intensity into a productive way of overcoming the various frustrations on the field, he's going to be a freak of a player.

Nate Iese was the final player interviewed today and he spoke about familiarity with being in camp in San Bernardino and how he has transitioned from following upperclassmen like Anthony Barr and Jordan Zumwalt to now being one of the the veteran leaders on the team that the younger players are looking up to. He agrees with Mazzone's earlier comments that the TE role is expanding and that he expects to get more opportunities with the football, and that his experience on the squad can help the new QBs get acclimated.

video from Ed Lewis and BSRTV via YouTube

I'm pretty sure the scattered awkward silences in the interview are normal when ordinary humans come face to face with Nate Iese. Dude looks like a football player.

Elsewhere, Jack Wang tweeted a link to a great photo gallery from today's practice. Thanks to the SBSun and Eric Reed for The Daily News for sharing the pictures. Note the clear skies in San Bernardino. Nice.

Ed Lewis and Joey Kaufman (UCLA Beat writer for the OC Register) gave their impressions of today's practice and the post-practice interviews in their daily Cover 2 Recap. Lewis named OL Kenny Lacy and F-back Steven Johnson and Kaufman named ILB Kenny Young and WR Aaron Sharp as their standouts for the day.

Kaufman had a nice list of notes from today's practice over at the OC Register. A few highlights:

* As expected, UCLA rotated all three quarterbacks. Mike Fafaul worked primarily with the first-team offense, while Josh Rosen also got reps with the first string. Jerry Neuheisel got a bulk of the work during 7-on-7s toward the end of practice.

* Receiver Aaron Sharp probably had his best day since switching from quarterback in the spring. He had a couple nice catches over the middle.

* During the second portion of 11-on-11 drills near the end of practice, Nate Starks had a long touchdown running, showing some good speed at the second level. He continues to look like the second option behind Paul Perkins.

You can see all of the notes in his article here.

The Bruins will hold practice #3 tomorrow at 3pm. The practice is again open to the public and we'll be following your comments and the tweets from the media on our open thread.