2016 Recruiting Analysis: Quarterback

Feb. 12 -- This will be a series of articles that breaks down UCLA's 2016 recruiting -- its needs and strategy - by position, and takes an early guess at what 2016 recruit would be the ideal fit...

UCLA clearly signed a considerably talent-laden class for 2015. Plugging that into the existing talent in the program, UCLA is definitely at its most talented point in quite a long time.

In analyzing the projected depth chart after plugging in the incoming freshmen, it’s fun to nitpick and analyze what are some areas of need for the program, specifically for the 2016 recruiting class.

It definitely is a new era in UCLA football recruiting. Just a few years ago, we couldn’t write the type of article this is – where we selectively pinpointed specific needs in the program. Pretty much under the last couple of coaching staffs you didn’t have that luxury – you’d just say UCLA needed to load up on talent at every position from top to bottom.

So, here it is, what UCLA needs position by position, in 2016, and the 2016 prospect out there that UCLA has a chance to get that best fills that need.

QUARTERBACK

Need and Recruiting Tactic: UCLA definitely needs to bring in a quarterback for 2016, but you’d think it could be difficult getting one to come into the program a year after the #1 quarterback in the country, Josh Rosen. So, recruiting quarterbacks for UCLA in 2016 is going to be interesting – and actually a big test for the program, first, to see just how much pull it has to be able to bring in a good quarterback after Rosen. Secondly, it will test the staff in how smart they are in approaching quarterback recruiting for 2016. We think it wouldn’t be prudent to go after a super-elite, five-star quarterback in this class, especially if he’s out of state. Those kind of quarterbacks are looking to start as a true freshman, even if that’s delusional, and you could be wasting your time pursuing them. The out-of-state element of it means, first, you’re spending a huge amount of time and money for something that is a low-percentage reward – and then, if you actually did get him, there are very good odds an out-of-state quarterback will transfer back home when he crashes from his delusion that he can’t beat out Rosen, and that will cause a hole in your quarterback depth chart. In fact, given this circumstance, it wouldn’t behoove UCLA to spend much time going after, say, even four-star out-of-state quarterbacks – unless they clearly have expressed an unusual affinity for UCLA and are completely willing to recognize that they’ll probably be sitting for a while. Even then, it’s still risky because they just aren’t anticipating how they’ll feel in two years, away from home, sitting on the bench. But we do, because we’ve seen it before.

So, what’s the ideal 2016 quarterback for UCLA to pursue? We’d say he’s local, west coast but even preferably from Southern California. He's a prospect who clearly is good enough to start at UCLA down the line but has enough humility to recognize the very real possibility of sitting behind Rosen for a while might be a great thing for him. So, right there, that’s enough to make 2016 QB recruiting a tough proposition. Probably one of the things that would sell the prospect would be if he were different than Rosen – that he offered a different skill set, like being a true dual-threat guy.

One element to 2016 QB recruiting that could change the dynamic is what happens with Rosen for the 2015 season. if Rosen either doesn’t win the job or does and struggles considerably, you could sell a 2016 QB on the prospect of coming in and winning the starting spot as a true freshman. That’s easy. But if Rosen is UCLA’s starter for 2015 and does fairly well, at the minimum, a 2016 QB prospect will have to be the type we described here -- one willing to sit for a while. So, it’s probably not even worth pursuing a guy on the premise he can beat out Rosen because, if by October, say, Rosen is showing he’s the guy for the next few years, you probably just wasted a huge amount of effort recruiting the five-star guy that now sees he doesn’t want to compete with Rosen.

So, 2016 quarterback recruiting for UCLA is going to be difficult, tricky – and different. UCLA should recognize who might be the right type of prospect before even spending too much time recruiting him.

Our Pick for the Right Fit:

Why:
Modster fills many of the criteria we laid out above. He’s a dual threat, is great with his legs, and can run the read option and scramble effectively. He might have the best pure throwing motion in the west among 2016 QBs, and one of the strongest – if not the strongest – arms. He throws a ball 50 yards down the field effortlessly. He definitely has the arm strength to make every throw, and he throws a pretty, catchable ball. He, too, just doesn’t have a strong arm, but he knows when to take something off it. Perhaps what we like best about Modster is his feel in the pocket and his toughness. He’ll stay in when his protection is collapsing and find a receiver, but also has a very good feel for when to take off. It’s probably the most difficult characteristic of a quarterback prospect to find – and to analyze, since so many now are being evaluated too much in 7-on-7s or camps.

Devon Modster
So, you ask, what’s the knock on Modster? If he’s so good, why is he ranked just the #15 quarterback in the nation? Well, he’s probably just 6-1 and a bit thick in his body. It’s not a bad thickness; he’s pretty well-built, but the height and body make you a bit wary of where his body is going to go. As we’ve said before, in evaluating, a prospect almost always gets bigger and thicker in college. It’s encouraging that he looks like he’s grown a bit since last summer and maybe stretched out a bit.

For UCLA, it’s actually a perfect situation. Modster’s size has kept away many big national programs, at least, to date. UCLA will more than likely be competing with west coast programs for him. As of now, only Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado State and Kansas have offered. UCLA has the local advantage over those programs and can turn the Rosen issue into a positive. UCLA would be smart to sell him on the possibility of playing at UCLA earlier than those other programs because there is probably a better chance of the starting QB spot opening up at UCLA sooner because of a decent chance Rosen goes pro after his true junior season. That would mean the UCLA starting spot would be open for Modster in his redshirt sophomore year. Sitting for two years with the potential to start for three – while staying close to home – might be more attractive for Modster than going away from home and facing the very real possibility of sitting at least as long before the starting spot opens up.

Of course, UCLA has to offer Modster first. We’ve heard the staff, specifically Quarterbacks Coach Taylor Mazzone, has been showing Modster a good deal of attention and an offer might be coming fairly soon. We would think it might happen at least by May, when coaches can actually go see a prospect in person work out at their high school, but it might come before that.









Others That Could Fit:

Why:
Fink is more physically what you look for in a quarterback prospect in his high school junior season -- about 6-3 and 185 pounds, with a body and frame that projects to easily holding more weight. He has a very good arm and a very good throwing motion and, to top it all off, he's very mobile, and quite fast for a quarterback, and would be very capable of executing the read option. So he's a bit of a dual-threat type too. UCLA hasn't offered, while Washington and Oregon State have. As soon as he gets out on the circuit this spring/summer we think he'll hear from far more schools. He missed the last few games of his junior season due to what we believe was a lower-leg injury so it will be interesting to see if he's fully recovered for the spring camp/7-on-7 season. The knock is that his accuracy might not quite be there on the level of, say, Modster.




Why:
Tate is a true dual-threat quarterback. He is a very good athlete, and very fast, at about 6-1 and 200 pounds, and could probably play a number of positions on the next level. In fact, he was recently offered by UCLA as an athlete, but we think, wherever he goes as an "athlete" he'll get a shot at quarterback. Given that, he might be a very good fit for coming into UCLA a year after Rosen. He has a strong arm but is a bit raw in his throwing technique and footwork. With his speed and elusiveness, a big part of his game is improvising and throwing on the run, and he does it very well. There is always an issue of UCLA recruiting Gardena Serra and whether it's worth it, especially now that he's been offered by USC, but we've heard Tate might actually be open to coming to UCLA because he grew up a UCLA fan.




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