2015 Season Position Projection: QB

Jan. 28 -- With no Brett Hundley, for the first time in three years, UCLA will break in a new starting quarterback in 2015...

***We initially ran this analysis, and this series of analyses, in December but, in revisiting it, think it's timely now, with National Signing Day just a week away.

2015 Quarterback Projection

Departures
RS JR Brett Hundley

Returning Players
RS SO Asiantii Woulard
RS JR Jerry Neuheisel
RS JR Mike Fafaul
RS FR Aaron Sharp

Incoming Player
FR Josh Rosen

A Look at 2015

For the first time in the Jim Mora era, in the 2015 season, Brett Hundley will not be the starting quarterback. Hundley started three consecutive years at quarterback — something essentially unheard of for UCLA in the last decade or so. His departure leaves a gaping hole, and, while there are a few candidates to replace him, it would take a great deal for any of them to jump in and immediately provide what redshirt junior Hundley provided, in terms of his combination of athleticism and ability to make throws to all levels.

Of the group of players that will be involved in spring and fall camp, it’s no secret that we think Rosen has the best shot to seize the starting role. The No. 1 quarterback prospect in the country has an advanced feel for the game, a strong arm, and underrated athleticism — he’s not going to make anyone forget Hundley when he takes off and runs, but he’s far from a statue. He’s certainly more advanced in terms of feel and reading defenses than Hundley was coming into college, and in this offensive scheme, that’s arguably more important than anything. Rosen has enrolled for Winter quarter, giving him three months to digest the playbook before spring practice even starts. We expect there are going to be some considerable growing pains in practice, it being his first look against a college-level defense, but we wouldn’t be shocked if he won the job coming out of April.

The player with the next best shot is probably Asiantii Woulard, despite Woulard not winning the backup job this year. He has a far superior set of physical skills compared to Jerry Neuheisel, and there’s always the chance that physical upside starts to translate more and more to the field. He’s not the athlete that Hundley was, but when he’s throwing the ball well, has a slightly stronger arm. He’s seemed to tinker with his delivery, though, over the last year or so, which has led to some inconsistency in his accuracy and velocity. He’s still learning how to read defenses and make the correct calls in Mazzone’s offense, and that’s probably been the biggest limiting factor for him. If he suddenly makes strides in that department, though, he could be a real challenger to Rosen in spring.

This is going to sound like a backhanded compliment, but you really have to hand it to Neuheisel. He’s absolutely maxed out his physical skills and made himself into not just a decent scout team quarterback, but a pretty ideal emergency backup — someone who’s not going to make too many mistakes, is going to play with poise, and is going to run the offense. He doesn’t have the arm to make all the throws, and with so much of the offense predicated on getting the ball out quickly to receivers in the flat, that’s pretty much a deal breaker for him as a potential starter. But as a guy to come in for a series or two and not completely lose his head, he’s perfect. We’d imagine he’ll fill that role again next year, and during his senior year.

We’ll have a more detailed evaluation of Aaron Sharp coming out of signing day, but as of now, we wouldn’t expect him to be a serious contender for the starting job in spring. We also expect him to switch positions at some point to receiver. He practiced there on scout during the season and looked good, with good size, speed and athleticism -- and the opportunities might be limited at quarterback. While it may not happen initially from the first practice of spring since Sharp may want to see how the quarterback competition goes, there's a chance the switch could be made by the end of spring and definitely by fall camp.

Fafaul doesn’t project as a starter, but he was instrumental on scout team this year. He (and freshman receiver Jordan Lasley) were huge parts of UCLA’s prep this year, and gave the Bruins a great offensive look, especially in the second half of the season. Fafaul, like Neuheisel, gets the most out of his physical ability, and is part of the depth you want in a good program, where the walk-ons are scholarship-caliber players at lower level schools.

Projected 2015 Depth Chart
FR Josh Rosen
RS SO Asiantii Woulard
RS JR Jerry Neuheisel
RS JR Mike Fafaul

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