Post-Rosen Era Depth Chart Analysis: Offensive Backfield

July 18 -- Worried about what UCLA's football team will look like after Josh Rosen leaves? We continue the series analyzing UCLA's depth and talent in the post-Rosen era, and how it reflects on UCLA's recruiting needs now. In this installment we review the future depth chart of the quarterback, running back and fullback positions...

-- Post-Rosen Depth Chart Analysis: DB
-- Post-Rosen Depth Chart Analysis: OL

 It's our next installment in the series analyzing what UCLA’s football team will look like in the post-Josh-Rosen era.  We’re pretty confident – as is the rest of the world – that Rosen will jump to the NFL early, after his junior season, so this is a projection of UCLA’s depth chart for the 2018 season.  

As we said in the other installments, we would have never been able to do this until Jim Mora arrived at UCLA; he’s recruited and built out depth so well that you can actually project a depth chart two years out, and it helps to analyze UCLA’s current, specific recruiting needs – as opposed to previous regimes where you could assume UCLA needed help at every position.

The 2018 offensive backfield depth chart looks pretty good.  Again, this is two years out, so you’d naturally expect some thinness in places on the team’s projected depth chart, but this looks just about what you’d like to see.

The quarterback spot obviously will be a competition of who replaces Rosen. If there is a position in the “post-Rosen era” that will most define the era, it’s, well, who takes over post-Rosen.   We’re going to take a stab with some complete speculation and say it goes like this:  whichever of the two between Modster and Lynch is clearly behind the other at this point in time would be a candidate to transfer; if one of them transfers the depth is a bit concerning;  if we had to pick which one will emerge ahead of the other we’d pick Modster; in this scenario, it’s critical UCLA gets a very good 2017 quarterback prospect, one that would be capable of seriously competing for the starting spot as a redshirt freshman; in fact, we think UCLA quarterbacks coach Marques Tuiasosopo could take two quarterbacks in 2017, based mostly on one of Lynch/Modster probably transferring; and more than likely we wouldn’t expect the 2018 prospect to compete in this scenario, unless he’s practically a Josh-Rosen-level talent.

Devon Modster

For ages we’ve been advocating how it’s never good to ever take two quarterback recruits in a recruiting cycle.  We know that Tuiasosopo was forced to take two in 2016 because of the quarterback depth chart he inherited. But, as we described above, when you do it, first, it means that you’re thin at quarterback, and then it starts you on a near never-ending loop of having to take two quarterbacks too often to make up for the transfers.  The ideal quarterback depth chart scenario is four scholarship quarterbacks all spaced out comfortably across five potential years (four years and a redshirt year).  That’s the most conducive for all of those quarterbacks staying at UCLA for their entire college career and waiting their turn for a chance to start.  It’s sometimes hard to manage in today’s era – like in recruiting, with high school quarterbacks envisioning themselves to be Josh Rosen-equivalents and coming in and starting as true freshmen and then going to the League by the end of their true junior year; or managing unrealistic expectations that leads to a premature transfer as soon as they don’t immediately get named the starter.   But we think it’s still realistic to shoot for this depth chart scenario. 

One thing we’ve seen as a recurring phenomenon is, when an out-of-state quarterback competes and doesn’t win the starting quarterback position, he’s far more likely to transfer.  It’s why we feel that UCLA should almost always recruit its quarterbacks from California. There is enough quarterback talent every year to supply UCLA good quarterbacks and it’s far less risky that they’ll transfer. If they don’t win the spot there’s a decent chance even Californian quarterbacks will transfer but more of a chance they’ll stay and fight it out.  It’s one reason we think ultimately Lynch, who is from Colorado, is the most likely transfer candidate, as opposed to Modster, who is from the Inland Empire. In this depth chart scenario, you can see now how critical Jack Sears, the 2017 four-star quarterback prospect from San Clemente, is to UCLA’s quarterback recruiting.   He, at this point in time, is the only quarterback UCLA is seriously recruiting who we think has the talent and upside to compete for the post-Rosen starting spot beginning in spring of 2018.  Of course, if UCLA missed on Sears, they could absolutely find another quarterback of this talent level, but it’s unlikely.  Looking at the projected depth chart, if that slot of “2017 Recruit” isn’t filled with a player talented enough to compete for the starting spot, and one of Lynch/Modster transfers, that’s a potential quarterback depth chart you should actually start worrying about.   We have to admit, we’re getting worried about Sears.  The prevailing sentiment a month ago was that UCLA was leading, but he has dragged out his announcement and the longer it goes the more likely he chooses USC or Duke. 

If UCLA missed on Sears, it would absolutely be scrambling.  This isn’t a recruiting analysis piece, so we’re not going to go deep into who would be the other options, but it more than likely wouldn’t be pretty – and potentially Mazzone-esque. 

But let’s paint a picture that’s less cloudy: UCLA has at the very least one of Modster/Lynch, Sears and, say, the 2018 prospect from Las Vegas Bishop Gorman, Dorian Thompson-Robinson, as a true freshman. That’s completely satisfactory.  And then you can speculate that UCLA hangs on to both Modster and Lynch, has Sears and DTR, and then you feel very secure about the competition to replace Rosen.

So, with the projected 2018 running back depth chart we took a little license. We didn’t pencil in “2017 Recruit” but, instead, “Najee Harris,” who is the #1 prospect overall in the national class of 2017.  We did that, first, just to troll everyone, but also because it so illustrates the different kind of impact an elite talent can make on a depth chart.  With someone like Harris as the 2017 incoming running back, the depth chart is potentially scary-good.  You’d have two national #1 running backs in their respective years (Harris and Jamabo) on the roster.  It’s not a remote longshot, either, that Harris, who is verbally committed to Alabama, ends up a Bruin.  With him on this depth chart there really isn’t any analysis to talk about – just sit back and look at it.

RB Bolu Olorunfunmi (photo by Steve Cheng)

The running back depth chart overall, though, for 2018 is a very appealing one. You’d have to think that Jamabo would have come into his own as a true senior, after two seasons of probably being the featured tailback.  Olorunfunmi is a frightening idea as a senior.  We’ve heard that many players have been impressed with Stephens so far, and think he’s a Jamabo mini-me.  Having, then, two more talented players as the 2017 and 2018 recruits is mostly important to ensure that the level of talent is sustained after the Jamabo-Olorunfunmi era, and not necessarily needed in 2018.  Really, so much of how good this depth chart looks is due to Olorunfunmi.  Being who he is, we anticipate that, even if he doesn’t win the starting job, he’ll stay at UCLA, and his talent really makes this projected depth chart. Olorunfunmi is critical, too, in case Jamabo opts to leave for the NFL after his true junior year.  So, let’s keep Olorunfunmi happy.

We’ve been hearing good things about Jalen Starks, the true freshman fullback, from the off-season workouts.  Things like – he could very well compete to start with Griffin and Taua.  Of course, that’s really premature, and going on second-hand opinion.  But if Starks is actually the caliber of a future starter, the fullback position looks set for, well, the next five years.  It will be interesting to see how UCLA populates the fullback spot – by converting players from other positions or actually recruiting specifically for it. We could see it being a little bit of both.  That being the case, and recognizing that UCLA isn’t really recruiting a fullback type for 2017, and that Taua and Griffin are currently just redshirt sophomores and Starks a true freshman, it’d be pretty safe to wait until the 2018 class to recruit a fullback. It could very well depend, too, on what kind of fullback talent is available in the high school ranks.  No matter, UCLA looks very good for a while in its projected fullback depth chart.   



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