Significance of Josh Rosen's Recruitment

The fact that UCLA has gone from an after-thought to the pole position for what will be the #1 2015 quarterback in the nation is a testament to the effective recruiting efforts of the staff...

It's not standard that we publish a story about an unofficial visitor almost a year before he can sign a National Letter of Intent, especially when the focus is so much on the class currently being recruited.

But Josh Rosen visiting UCLA today is that significant.

The 6-3, 200-pound junior quarterback from Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco is currently ranked the #2 quarterback in the national class of 2015. He is ranked behind Ricky Town, the quarterback prospect from Ventura (Calif.) St. Bonaventure who just flipped in his commitment from Alabama to USC Saturday. Both are excellent quarterback prospects, but it's generally accepted that Rosen will probably move into the #1 spot when's new rankings of the 2015 class come out, based mostly on the performance in leading St. John Bosco to the California Open Division State Championship in 2013.

We've asserted many times over the years that quarterback recruiting can be a major factor in making or breaking a program. The failure of it definitely contributed to the demise of Bob Toledo, Karl Dorrell and Rick Neuheisel. Of course, there were many other factors that contributed to the demise of those three regimes, but you could make a case that a lack of talent at quarterback was a very significant contributing element.

What was interesting about those three regimes, too, was the lack of foresight in quarterback recruiting. Without getting into detail and drudging up terrifying memories, the coaching staffs under those three head coaches failed to recognize, first, that quarterback recruiting should be among the top few priorities of your program – not recruiting priorities, but overall priorities. They consistently made bad evaluations in quarterback recruiting. They consistently opted for the easy out in quarterback recruiting – that is, taking the quarterback prospect they could easily get rather than the superior one that would take a more concerted recruiting effort. They failed to recognize that you need many talented quarterbacks in your system, not only because of depth to offset injuries and transfer, but because it optimized your chances of finding your starter. In a sub-category of that category, they failed to recognize it was key to recruit a quarterback in each recruiting class, and didn't recognize how taking two quarterbacks in one class can more often hurt you than help you.

Jim Mora and his coaching staff have definitely turned the corner in quarterback recruiting, because they clearly get all of these issues now. Admittedly, the staff hit some bumps and potholes initially in its quarterback recruiting but it now seems to get it these factors pretty clearly.

Getting a commitment from a 2014 quarterback, Aaron Sharp, the 6-3, 190-pound prospect from Houston (Tex.) Summer Creek, is a big indication of a new, smart perspective on quarterback recruiting. We had heard back in spring that UCLA was potentially not going to take a quarterback in the 2014 class. After it missed on Kyle Allen, the #1 prospect in the nation, there was a feeling that the program didn't need a 2014 quarterback. But to the credit of Mora, Offensive Coordinator Noel Mazzone and Quarterbacks Coach Taylor Mazzone, they recognized soon after that bringing in a quarterback in 2014 was critical, for all the reasons listed above. When they aggressively went after Brad Kaaya, the prospect from West Hills (Calif.) Chaminade, it was, perhaps, a bit late, but it was an indication of conscientious quarterback recruiting. When it looked like they weren't ultimately going to get Kaaya, or that the prospect was taking too long in deciding whether he was going to flip from Miami, the UCLA staff quickly pivoted to other prospects, which led them to Sharp.

Rosen talking to Mora at UCLA's camp last summer.
The fact that UCLA and Mora have been going hard on Rosen over a year from when he will sign an NLI is also a testament to this newfound perspective on quarterback recruiting. Last spring, Rosen had Stanford and Cal as his leaders, and UCLA was an after-thought. When things fell out for Rosen with Stanford, UCLA picked up the ball. Rosen actually knows Mora's daughter and they live near each other in Manhattan Beach, so Mora had a bit of a personal relationship with Rosen. Mora and his staff then actively took up Rosen's recruitment. Taylor Mazzone is a key factor in recruiting Rosen; being young (26), Mazzone, from what we've heard, related well to Rosen and their relationship has been a big element in, over the months, moving UCLA to the top of Rosen's list. While the fans were primarily watching UCLA recruit the 2014 class, one of its biggest recruiting efforts over the last six months was being put into recruiting Rosen. It wasn't easy – Rosen will reiterate quite often, and has just recently to us, that he'd prefer to get out of the area for his college ball. He was enamored with Stanford, before that relationship went sour, and there is always the specter of Stanford potentially jumping back into Rosen's recruitment. He liked Cal, and still likes the Cal staff. After a stunning star turn in St. John Bosco's 2013 dream season, he has quickly become the #1 2015 quarterback target for programs across the country. Alabama's Nick Saban recently came to the St. John Bosco campus. Michigan is coming on strong with him. So, working against all of those factors, it's a significant recruiting effort that UCLA has secured the pole position with Rosen at this time.

It's developed so far that Rosen contacted three elite 2014 offensive prospects, Malachi Dupre, Bryce Dixon, and Joe Mixon, this week in a direct message on Twitter, presumably to talk about UCLA.

So, the hype over Rosen's unofficial visit today is pretty deserved. We had said previously that there was a reasonable chance that Rosen would verbally commit on the unofficial visit, and it's still true. It can be pretty compelling to be on campus when there are other official visitors, hanging out with the coaches, and almost certainly meeting with the offensive coaches to hear a pitch and watch videos that show how Rosen would succeed in Mazzone's offense. Talking with Mora in person would be, in itself, pretty compelling when the program has so much current momentum.

Of course, a verbal commitment from Rosen today would be a huge coup for UCLA, especially after Town verbally committed to USC Saturday. But the fact that UCLA has been so active – and proactive – in recruiting Rosen this early, and that Mora and the Mazzones have put in so much time in the recruitment, is an indication of the difference in quarterback recruiting with the current UCLA staff.

That's the significance of Rosen's unofficial visit today.


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