On August 26, 2015, just a few days shy of a year ago, Jim Mora stood in front of reporters and announced that UCLA, for the first time in school history, would start a true freshman at the quarterback position in the season opener. Josh Rosen, the wunderkind from Manhattan Beach, was tapped to lead an offense that returned 10 starters from the previous season — everyone but him.
A year later, teammates say Rosen is a leader of the team.
"He’s more of a leader this year," Junior WR Eldridge Massington said of Rosen. "Last year it was more of him just getting adjusted, starting college football. This year he’s more vocal. He’s holding people more accountable this year, holding himself more accountable this year."
Mike Fafaul, a fifth-year senior QB, about as veteran as it gets in college football, has noticed greater maturity in the sophomore.
"I think he’s really taken advantage of his job and what he has to do. He’s grown a lot in that sense, I think," Fafaul said.
In fall camp, Rosen stood in front of the team and told them he was willing to do whatever it takes if anyone on the team needed his help to get better.
Devon Modster, a true freshman QB battling for a backup spot, said of the starter, "He knows the playbook in and out and whenever I need some help he just helps me with it, and same with all the other quarterbacks."
And the team is following his lead.
"I think everybody looks up to him, everybody tries to push that standard," Fafaul said. "You got a guy that’s at the pinnacle of his spot right now, and everybody wants to kind of chase that."
For his part, Rosen, newly ascendant into his leadership role, believes that the Bruins have their heads in a better place this year than during the disappointing 2015 campaign.
"I think last year we had a few too many guys with their heads in the wrong places, looking either ahead or behind or what’s about to happen or what has happened," Rosen said.
"I think right now we got a lot of guys that are working in the present, and are putting aside some maybe personal issues or dilemmas that their dealing with for the betterment of team. We’re really excited (about) the direction everyone’s heading."
Rosen Doesn’t Care That Mazzone Is Calling Plays for the Other Team
The Bruins began formally preparing for Texas A&M at Monday’s practice, and, stop me if you’ve heard this before, but Noel Mazzone, former UCLA offensive coordinator, is now the offensive coordinator in College Station, a town near the Brazos in Texas where the Bruins happen to have a date on September 3rd.
When asked if playing against the Mazzones would give the team "more oomph," Rosen dismissed the angle in typical Rosen flare.
"No, because, if you’re not playing with all the oomph you’ve got, then you got issues."
Rosen said he hasn’t been in contact with Mazzone since he left UCLA.
Mike Fafaul Is Ready If He Needs to Be
Mike Fafaul, a former walk-on, graduated in the spring and had opportunities to play as a graduate transfer at other programs, but chose to stay at UCLA.
"I just wanted to finish what I started. I never like quitting and I always wanted to always follow through on what I end up doing," Fafaul said to reporters. "I wanted to stick it out here."
Fafaul would seem to be the backup QB should the unthinkable happen (UCLA doesn’t release depth charts). He’s out-played the other potential second QB’s in spring and fall camp, and has a better grasp of the new offense.
"It puts a lot more on the quarterback. It gives me a lot more control out there, and I like that a lot."
Check out more from Rosen, Fafaul, Massington, and Modster after practices. Videos are all courtesy of Edward Lewis of Bruin Sports Report. Thanks, Ed!
UCLA Sophomore QB Josh Rosen:
UCLA Redshirt Senior QB Mike Fafaul:
UCLA R-Jr. WR Eldridge Massington:
UCLA Fr. QB Devon Modster: