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2015 UCLA Bruins Football Fall Preview: Quarterbacks

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A look at the quarterback position for the UCLA Bruins in 2015-16, where the Bruins have to replace UCLA legend Brett Hundley. The "competition" will feature starting QB and 5* true freshman Josh Rosen, Jerry Neuheisel and Mike Fafaul.

Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Josh Rosen is UCLA's starting QB.

Do not believe that there will be a competition.

Do not worry about how the reps are divided the first few days of practice in San Bernardino.

Do not listen to any quotes saying that Jerry Neuheisel or Mike Fafaul are making the choice difficult for the coaching staff.

For the life of me, I cannot figure out what Jim Mora (or any coach) gains by pretending that anything else is possible. Coach speak is a disservice to everyone because putting the label of "coach speak" on it defers from the fact that it is lying. That is what coach speak is, it is being less than honest to the person asking you the question and the people interested in the answer to the question. Why it is socially acceptable for coaches and politicians and leaders (and anyone else in a position to answer a question that way) to answer questions with lies and not be reprimanded for it is beyond me.

Mini-rant aside...

Barring injury or suspension, UCLA will have a true freshman taking the offensive snaps against Virginia in a month.

It is the best choice for UCLA's present and UCLA's future.

The shoes that Rosen will be filling are massive. He will be replacing arguably the greatest UCLA quarterback. While Brett Hundley had no national/conference title or prestige bowl win on his resume, in terms of raw statistics and the transformational path that the UCLA football program took with him running the show puts him there. From the Pistol offense and 50-0 to the Bruins being a consistent top 15 program on the rise and having the 3-0 start of what should be a long winning streak over Southern Cal.

Brett Hundley was certainly not without fault, but what he meant to UCLA is undeniable. I struggle to think of a more important UCLA player than him outside of Troy Aikman, Kenny Easley, Jonathan Ogden and Gary Beban. He is on the same level as all of those greats and should be recognized as such. This program was in absolute shambles before he stepped into the QB role and now it is set up to be a national title contender for the foreseeable future. Coach Mora deserves credit, as do other leaders like Jonathan Franklin, Eric Kendricks, Datone Jones, Anthony Barr and more. But when we all look back in 20 years at this decade, Hundley is who will be remembered as the spark that started the fire.

Now back to the 2015-16 team.

Depth chart:

Quarterback
Josh Rosen FR
Jerry Neuheisel RS JR
Mike Fafaul RS JR
Aaron Sharp RS FR

Jerry Neuheisel will be one of the better backup QBs in the conference, but there is not a scenario where UCLA wins the Pac-12 with Neuheisel starting at QB. I will never be able to forget how amazing that Texas game was to witness in person. Genuinely one of the greatest moments I have had as a fan of sports. I am not sure that my heart can handle another game like that in 2015 and I do not want to find out if it can. With Neuheisel serving as a mentor to Rosen (and maybe to future UCLA QBs as an intern or assistant coach down the road), UCLA is in a nice place at QB off the field.

Mike Fafaul should be congratulated for improving to the point where he has earned a scholarship (I personally would not mind a scenario where those scholarship funds get to be applied retroactively to athletes for the years they were not on scholarship, but that is another story for another day). He's probably not a Pac-12 level QB, but the depth is necessary with the transfer of Asiantii Woulard to South Florida. Woulard's departure leaves the Bruins thin at QB moving forward, putting a lot of pressure on UCLA to recruit the position after having landed a 5* QB just one year prior. Not the easiest sell to a young QB looking to have a college career, but that is where money is earned on the recruiting trail.

Aaron Sharp is listed at QB, so his development will be something to keep an eye on. He is the only QB on the roster with running ability besides Rosen, so he'll be essential on the scout team for a defense that will face off against the likes of Taysom Hill at BYU, Kevin Hogan at Stanford, Anu Solomon at Arizona and Vernon Adams at Oregon (in a hypothetical Pac-12 Championship game). I think any potential move to WR is out of the question given the situation UCLA is in at QB. Jake Hall is also on the roster at QB still, but is a walk on.

The story is Rosen.

How he adapts to the Pac-12 is going to be the largest factor in whether this is a 9-win UCLA Bruins team or a team that can win the Pac-12 and get to the NCAA Football Playoff.

I think he's going to end up being closer to the latter than the former on the season as a whole.

UCLA will probably be in position to lose a game it should not lose because Rosen is going to have a bad game. Like the game Hundley had against Cal as a redshirt (which is important to note) freshman where he threw 4 interceptions, fumbled and ran for 7 yards on 14 carries (counting sacks).

When will that game happen? I don't know. I do know that the 2015-16 Bruins are talented enough on defense and everywhere else to win a game with a young QB playing that poorly where the 2012-13 Bruins were not.

Do not underestimate the difference between being a true freshman and a redshirt freshman like Brett Hundley and Jameis Winston and Johnny Manziel and Andrew Luck and most other "freshman" QBs that pop in your mind. The redshirt year is a huge deal that should not be explained away by something as trivial as "he ran a similar offense in high school".

That is almost literal inconsequential in the grand scheme of things and it frustrates me when I see it brought up. The Trinity League might be the best conference in all of high school football, but the defenses there are is not even on the same level as a good D2 conference. BYU will be running out a defense with 24-year old grown men, not 17-year old private school children from Orange County. Stanford and Arizona State and Southern Cal are not comparable to Mater Dei, Santa Margarita and Servite.

Rosen is as poised and prepared a QB to enter the college game since Andrew Luck and (a part of me dies inside by typing this praise) Jameis Winston. He's insanely intelligent, probably a touch overconfident, and possesses every physical tool you could hope for in a quarterback aside from being built like the sentient tank with a Bachelor's degree known as Cam Newton.

Size, arm strength, accuracy, poise in the pocket, arm talent, enough athleticism to keep defenses honest. If you want it, Rosen has it.

Translating that talent to the football field on Saturdays is the question.

I am unbelievably excited to find out the answer.

Go Bruins!