clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

UCLA Football Spring Preview: Quarterbacks and Running Backs

New, 28 comments

The Bruins get ready to start Spring Practice this week and Bruins Nation takes a look at the quarterbacks, which will be the most watched position battle of the year for UCLA, and also at Paul Perkins and the rest of the UCLA running backs.

Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

I will start out by saying that I put way too much thought into selecting the picture for this post. I wanted to try and find one with Asiantii Woulard and Jerry Neuheisel in it, then I thought about using one of Woulard because I think he is the most interesting candidate at QB, then I thought of using a picture of Jerry being lifted on his teammates' shoulders after the come-from-behind victory against Texas, then I looked to see if Josh Rosen had any pictures in the database but I was not going to use a non-UCLA jersey.

I copped out at the end and just picked Paul Perkins because this is a dual-preview and he was UCLA's leading rusher last season.

Let's get to the previews for the most important position on the field and what could be the most set-in-stone position on the field heading into the spring.

Quarterbacks

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

I'm just going to break it up by making the case for each of the 3 competitors for the QB position, since that is what I assume everyone wants to see happen in this preview.

Aaron Sharp is still listed here pending confirmation from Coach Mora about his status. Neither he or Mike Fafaul will be factors in this competition though.

The case for Jerry Neuheisel:

(thanks to Pac-12 Conference for uploading this)

I think it is pretty much a lock for Neuheisel to get the first reps once practice starts this week. How long that role lasts is something I have no idea of.

Jerry is physically limited. He's less athletic than either Woulard or Rosen. He has a significantly weaker arm than either Woulard or Rosen. He is significantly smaller physically than either Woulard or Rosen. He has significantly less upside than either Woulard or Rosen.

That being said, he has shown that he can handle in-game reps without imploding. He is the only QB (besides Fafaul in a blowout) with any game experience. He is a Pac-12 level talent at QB and could probably start at more than half of the programs in D1 college football.

I genuinely think that a team led by Jerry Neuheisel at QB could win 8-9 games in the Pac-12. But there is not a way that I can see a team with Jerry Neuheisel at QB winning the Pac-12.

My ideal scenario is one where Jerry is the backup QB for the next two years and gets to experience UCLA winning a Pac-12 Championship and Rose Bowl.

The case for Asiantii Woulard:

(thanks to steven moffet for uploading this a few years ago)

Needed to pull up that film just to remind everyone that Asiantii Woulard was:

  • The #1 dual-threat quarterback in the country when he was recruited
  • Won Elite 11 MVP in 2012 over Christian Hackenburg (Penn State QB, 5* recruit), Jared Goff (stellar performer at Cal thus far) and Malik Zaire (starter at Notre Dame).
  • Entering just his 5th year of playing at QB.
  • Has all the physical skills a coach could ask for. Size, speedarm strength (seriously, look at the arm strength), poise in the pocket (look at this moment from the tape and tell me that player can't be coached up), running ability out the yin-yang.

If you cannot turn someone that talented into a D1-level starter, that is an indictment on you as a coach.

I am a firm believer that Woulard would be able to perform if he were ever actually placed into a game (part of why I was immensely frustrated that UCLA was not able to get him playing time at any point last season).

He's the wildcard in this QB competition. If he loses out, I would not be surprised to see or blame him for transferring to another program where he could get a chance to show what he can do.

If everything clicks, I would not be remotely surprised to see him win and hold onto the job for the next three years.

But there is the one thing standing in the way of either of those two players making their way onto the field with the 1st thing offense at the Rose Bowl in September.

The case for Josh Rosen:

(thanks to Josh Rosen for uploading both of these)

In case you hadn't heard, UCLA will have a fairly talented addition to the QB competition in the Spring. Josh Rosen enrolled in the winter at UCLA and will be the most talked about player in a UCLA jersey for the next 5-6 months until the QB situation is decided.

I cannot think of a high school player that UCLA has successfully recruited that was as highly regarded as Rosen (note: Ben Olson does not count because he was a transfer and had not played QB in something like 4 years when he showed up).

Rosen deserves it as well. While he was probably on the most talented team in the United States (has to have been pretty close to 20 D1 players that he had around him at St. John Bosco), he was by far the biggest reason that football program went from Trinity League doormat to national championship contender.

Intelligence, height, build, arm strength, arm talent, accuracy, above average athleticism, stellar footwork. Plus, pissing off Trent Dilfer is a huge bonus for a player in my book.

Heavy favorite to win the job and start for the Bruins for the next 3-4 years (seriously though, there is no way Rosen doesn't graduate early. If he sticks after his 3rd season, he will be in the graduate program or taking ballet classes).

Running Backs

Running Backs
Paul Perkins RS JR
Nathan Starks SO
Steven Manfro RS SR
Craig Lee RS SO
Sotonye "Soso" Jamabo FR
Roosevelt Davis RS SR
Bolu Olorunfunmi FR

I will go on record of saying that I did not see Perkins' emergence coming. I thought he'd end up a rotation back.

The crow tasted amazing.

Almost 1600 yards rushing. Another 200 receiving. 11 touchdowns. 6.3 yards per carry.

(thanks to Football Only for uploading this)

I hope and expect for his touches to drop this year, just because 300 touches is too many for any RB in my opinion.

The production should still be there though and he is safely the incumbent starter. Would take something unexpected to change that.

Nathan Starks will continue to develop and should see more touches as a change of pace back, hopefully ending the Myles Jack at RB experiment permanently.

The return of Steven Manfro from injury should not be slept on. Not going to be a real factor running the ball, but still the best receiving option UCLA has on the roster out of the backfield. Easy to remember only the punt return miscues and forget he had 700 all-purpose yards in 2012 and averaged over 10 yards a touch on offense in that season.

Craig Lee is in a tough spot with the incoming talent and his current place on the depth chart. I saw enough flashes last spring and in camp at San Bernardino to have questions about why he never got touches as a redshirt freshman. If there is room to get Ahmad Harris, Logan Sweet, Tyler Scott and Taylor Lagace playing time on offense, then I think it would have been smart to throw Lee into game action at some point. Just throw dude a swing pass in the 4th quarter or something.

Soso (I prefer Sotonye because I already have Owamagbe Odighizuwa spelling/pronunciation withdrawals) Jamabo is the most intriguing option here to take some reps away from the other backs, but he is still in high school and will not be a factor until the fall. 5-star skill position recruits tend to not redshirt though.

That will be it with the offensive and defensive position previews, special teams will wrap things up tomorrow. Everybody is excited to see the UCLA Bruins back on the football field.

Until then, Go Bruins!