Ricky Town vs. Josh Rosen
The USC-UCLA rivalry is one of the greatest in college football lore and with the resurgence of UCLA football in the last handful of years, that won't be changing in the near future. Two future stars in college football will soon be injecting a shot of adrenaline into this yearly battle for the Victory Bell. A pair of 5 star quarterbacks in the 2015 recruiting class, Ricky Town and Josh Rosen, will take their place on opposite sides of this illustrious rivalry. Rosen, from Bellflower California, is currently committed to UCLA, while Ricky Town of Ventura, California is committed to USC after decommitting from Alabama in late January. As the debate continues between these two big time players, I hope to shed some light on the topic and offer my two cents.
Where They Stand
Each of these rising high school seniors finds himself squarely at the top of the 2015 Pro style Quarterback ratings. 247 has Town as the #1 quarterback and player overall, with Rosen right behind him at #2 overall, but the 247 composite rankings (based on the four main recruiting sites) has them flipped at QB and a little further down overall. With that, lets see how the two compare.(Note, highlights from their Junior Season can be seen above.)
Town: ★★★★(out of 5)
As seemingly everything else with these two quarterbacks, their size is extremely comparable. Town and Rosen are each listed at about 6'4" and a hair over 200 pounds. This is almost prototypical size for a pro style quarterback to stand strong in the pocket, see over the trees up front and survey the field. As would be expected for QBs entering their of high school, they could use a little more weight to aid in their durability and strength to absorb hits. But that will come with years in weight rooms and with training staffs in the next levels of football.
Arm strength is one of the few areas that Rosen really sets him apart from Town. From the first instant of watching Josh, it's apparent that the ball simply shoots out of his hand. On short throws, it allows him to fit balls into tight windows and complete passes quickly on balls over 15 yards. But, what's truly fun to watch is the way he throws a deep ball. On go routes, where an average QB flutters a pass hoping his receiver makes the play, Rosen delivers balls with a lot of velocity to get it to its spot quickly and to the right place, even 40 yards down the field. Not to mention, he can sling it 60 yards, in a game. But, Town is no slouch. Though he doesn't have the quite the arm that Rosen has, and can't stretch the field quite as much, he's a master of the intermediate pass. Time and time again, he completes balls with precision because of the zip he can put on the ball. Even on passes across the field and down the sideline, it gets there in a hurry. Simply put, he can make every throw.
This is the area of Town's game that really stood out to me from watching his tape. He can place balls in great spots for his receivers to come down with it. Whether it's over the outside shoulder, or up and away from a defender, his passes end up where they need to be. On top of that, he's lethal in the red zone, where he's mastered the tricky back corner fade. It's apparent to me, though, that Rosen loves him some post corner and back shoulder passing. He makes them look easy. Each ball is gently passed over the shoulder, towards the sideline and away from the defender, which is rare in such a young quarterback. But, his high-powered offense at St. John Bosco's didn't focus on the short passing game, so he isn't quite as polished as Town in that area.
While the stars act as mostly a way to compare the two, this is one where the stars tell it all, Ricky Town, is as solid technically as you'll see in a recruit's Junior QB tape. His movements in the pocket are clean and effortless, he sets (when he can) and steps into his throws. He goes through progressions and makes quick decisions in an offense that seems much more complex than Rosen's. The one knock I have on Town, is that he does have a 3/4 delivery which is not as over the top as most elite quarterbacks use, but it has worked for him so far. Rosen is just not on the same level technically, as Town. He shows good footwork, but often doesn't step into the pocket, or into throws, and often relies on his arm strength rather than technique. His offense in high school seems simpler than Towns and doesn't seem to be relied on as much to make reads, but he is adept at knowing when to run and runs the read option extremely well. Also, it should be noted that coaches on the next level can work on these areas of their game; I'm simply describing where they are now.
Rosen reminds me a lot of Aaron Rodgers. He's not a running quarterback, but he makes a lot of plays with his legs. He can avoid pass rushers and outrun a high school front 7 rather easily. When the play breaks down, he has surprising speed and can make big plays in space. He ran the read option a lot in high school, and he looked very natural in that system. Town, though, is not a threat on the read option like Rosen. But, he isn't a statue either. Ricky moves around the pocket easily and naturally, and is effective in rollouts.
Outlook for Playing Time
Town faces an uphill battle for playing time when he steps onto campus. In his first year, where he's all but guaranteed a redshirt, he will have redshirt senior Cody Kessler ahead of him and carrying the load for the Trojans. But the real competition is Max Browne and Sam Darnold. Browne will be a Redshirt Sophomore when Town steps onto the scene. He was the #1 pro style QB coming out of high school in 2013. Darnold is a recently committed member of the 2015 Trojans and is a top 10 dual threat quarterback. Look for Ricky to redshirt his first year and then compete with Darnold for the starting job as a Redshirt Junior, once Browne departs. Rosen, too, will face some competition when he arrives in Westwood. On day 1, he will be behind redshirt senior, Brett Hundley, and junior, Asiantii Woulard, who was the second highest rated dual threat quarterback when he came out of high school. Like Town, odds are that Rosen will redshirt his first year, but he looks set to have the job when Asiantii moves on, as a redshirt sophomore.
After taking a long look at these two extremely talented quarterbacks, its apparent that this rivalry is in very good hands. There is a lot to like about both quarterbacks, Rosen has great athleticism and a live arm. But, I truly believe Town is special. His footwork and mechanics are incredibly polished for such a young quarterback. Not to mention, he has an arm that can do it all. He really reminds me a lot of Matt Ryan, a QB who can overpower you with his arm but kills you with precision and will make the right decision. I see no reason why, after a few years in college fine tuning and developing his game, he couldn't be a top pick to play on Sundays.