Top Performer: Josh Rosen
We had high hopes for Rosen this spring, and we firmly expected that he would win the starting job in 2015, so, in a sense, his overall superiority as a quarterback compared to the other candidates this spring wasn't a tremendous shock. What was a shock, though, was exactly how good he looked in demonstrating that superiority. Despite Asiantii Woulard actually progressing significantly since last season, Rosen was still pretty clearly better, showing better footwork, arm strength, touch, accuracy, feel, and decision-making than the redshirt sophomore with plenty of talent in his own right. Obviously, having a high school career's worth of experience in a similar offense helped, and getting into school this January helped as well in giving him a comfort level to start the spring. While we don't expect a starter to be named until midway through fall camp at the earliest (about when it became obvious that Brett Hundley was going to be the starter during the 2012 pre-season), Rosen should pretty clearly be the runaway favorite.
Most Improved: Asiantii Woulard
Overshadowed somewhat by Rosen's brilliance, Woulard quietly put together his best, most consistent camp since coming to UCLA. His motion, which had devolved a little over the last two years, looked much more natural again, and he threw the ball better than he has since fall camp of 2013. The most obvious improvement was in his decision making. Previously, he invariably looked lost during 11-on-11 periods, unable to find open receivers and often making poor decisions that led to "sacks" or interceptions. This spring, he showed much better poise, and more often than not made good decisions in determining when and where to throw the ball. He's still very much a work in progress, though, and still has a tendency to lose his poise when confronted with a pass rush or very tight coverage. After a year of stagnation, though, he does appear to be back on a developmental track, which is a good sign. The big question is whether he can be convinced to stick around if Rosen does indeed win the starting job.
It is interesting to consider how this spring might have gone if Rosen had not become the first St. John Bosco student in history to graduate early. If this competition had been, instead, between Woulard, Jerry Neuheisel, and Mike Fafaul, with Rosen arriving in June with the rest of the freshman class, we might be discussing an entirely different scenario now; a scenario where Rosen would need to contend with three quarterbacks fresh off of a quality spring and with only a couple of months to get ready for the season.
Instead, we have the present situation, where Rosen has, if not won the job, established himself as the favorite to do so in fall camp. The question now becomes how the rest of the depth chart will fall, and it's an interesting thing to consider. If we were judging solely off of this past spring, we'd probably say that Woulard has the best claim to the No. 2 spot. He had some low stretches where he was worse than Neuheisel, but much more often he performed at a higher level, and his upside is significantly greater than Neuheisel's or Fafaul's.
Neuheisel showed last year and in stretches in 2013 that he has a very cool head under pressure, which is a great asset in a quarterback. Unfortunately, this spring was another demonstration that the physical tools just aren't there to be a starter at this level. His arm strength is below average, and he runs into issues especially when he has to throw to the sideline, particularly on throws of intermediate depth. Being able to make those throws is key to forcing a defense to defend the whole field, and he's just not able to do it consistently. The competition for the No. 2 spot comes down to this for us: which player would you want to start a game if Rosen were to miss a start? Woulard showed us quite a bit this spring to indicate that he might be the more likely candidate, but it'll be interesting to see how the fall competition goes.
Fafaul had a very good start to camp, but appeared to suffer some arm fatigue as the spring wore on, and by the last two weeks, he started to fade. He has a very good throwing motion, and has a good understanding of the offense. His decision making is a cut below Neuheisel and Rosen's, but it's not bad. Even as a Scout team quarterback, he's a real asset to the program.
Projected Fall Depth Chart
Spring Review: Quarterbacks
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