We already covered the defensive backs, linebackers, and defensive line earlier this month. Now, we'll turn our attention to the quarterback position, which will have its first competition since Brett Hundley won the job in spring of 2012.
Projected Depth Analysis: Quarterbacks
Brett Hundley has made it very clear that 2014 will be his last year as a Bruin, despite having a year of eligibility remaining. Given the way the 2014 NFL Draft went, there's probably a good chance he would have been a first round pick this year, so you'd have to suspect that he'll be a likely first rounder in 2015 as well.
Hundley's departure sets up what should prove to be a very interesting quarterback competition next spring between redshirt sophomore Asiantii Woulard, dark horse redshirt freshman Aaron Sharp, redshirt junior Jerry Neuheisel, and the true freshman Josh Rosen. It'll be the first time Jim Mora's staff will have had to deal with a quarterback competition since spring of 2012.
Woulard, from what we saw this spring, has flattened in his progression — at least at this moment. There's obviously plenty of time and room for him to grow as a quarterback. His issues this spring stemmed mostly from the mental side of the game and his ability to read coverages and make quick decisions. There was a small, physical worry in that his arm motion seems to have changed a little, looking shorter, which may have sapped him of some of his arm strength. He was a little inconsistent with it as well, which led to some wild overthrows on swing passes and other short passes.
We admittedly have little idea what Sharp will look like when he starts practicing in August. From film, he certainly looks like a very good athlete, but it's difficult to evaluate arm strength, throwing motion, feet, and various other factors that go into playing the position off of film. From what we heard during his recruitment, he's still developing as a quarterback, and wasn't actually opposed to eventually moving positions if he didn't end up starting. It's obviously too early to rule him out of the competition though, given that we haven't seen him.
That leaves us with Rosen. The five-star, No. 1 quarterback in the country in 2015 is sewn up for UCLA, as long as Jim Mora is still the coach next year. Based off watching him extensively throughout his career in high school, there's little that Rosen doesn't do well. He runs the zone read arguably better than any quarterback on the roster right now, and has underrated athletic ability. He has very good arm strength, is accurate, has a very good throwing motion, and has very good size for the position. He's grown as a leader as well in the last year, and seems to be developing more maturity as he ages.
Not to call our shot this far in advance, but at this point, we'd guess that Rosen will ultimately win the job. Obviously, Woulard could make a huge leap this summer, be the obvious backup to Hundley in the fall, and then be seen as more of an incumbent by the spring. But, as it stands, all we have to go on is what we've seen so far in his development. Woulard has all the physical tools necessary to be a great quarterback, but thus far he's struggled developing in the offense and refining the mental side of the game. Again, the light could turn on, but we can't just bet on it. Rosen, right now, strikes us as a more polished quarterback prospect.
Either way, though, 2015 is going to be an interesting year. In many ways, it's the most favorable season for UCLA in years. The Bruins will have a very weak non-conference slate and avoid both Oregon and Washington in conference. The defense, as we've gone through at length, should be stacked with elite talent. The offense, as we'll get to, should also have good, experienced talent at virtually every position.
The question marks are quarterback and, to a lesser extent, running back. No matter who wins the job, Rosen, Woulard, or Sharp, UCLA will be starting an inexperienced quarterback who is almost certainly going to take his lumps throughout the year. There's no real way around that, as is the case whenever a team loses a longtime starter at quarterback. The hope is that with the rest of the team being very talented and experienced, that will help to mitigate any lack of experience at quarterback.
As for 2016 and beyond, much depends on how the competition turns out. If, as we guessed, Rosen wins the job, and Woulard is the backup, UCLA will be well set at quarterback for at least three years. UCLA is also doing well with 2016 quarterback Malik Henry, who figures to be one of the top prospects in the West in 2016 class. If the Bruins can land Henry, despite having Rosen already ahead of him, that'll be a testament to the growing recruiting prowess of Jim Mora's staff, and, perhaps, a sign that UCLA is officially an elite football program.
Projected 2015 Depth Chart