After the departure of Brett Hundley, UCLA's all time passing touchdown and total offense record holder, the Bruin coaching staff has two candidates for Hundley's successor.
The first candidate is redshirt junior Jerry Neuheisel, Hundley's long time backup, who already has a dramatic win over a decent-at-best Texas team under his belt. Neuheisel has plenty of first-hand experience with UCLA's offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone's play calling tendencies, but lacks many of the qualities that can advance an offense. Neuheisel will be able to spread the ball around and avoid turnovers, but won't be able to make plays on his own to keep drives alive consistently.
The second candidate is true freshman Josh Rosen. Rosen was ranked as the No. 1 pro-style quarterback in the 2015 recruiting class and already has a heap of big game experience from his time at St. John Bosco High School, where his team came into the 2014 season as the top ranked high school football team in the country.
Every scouting report on Rosen starts with his arm strength. His highlight video is littered with deep bombs to wide open receivers thanks to the playcalling in Bosco's advanced spread offense, which gave Rosen plenty of options to move the ball down the field.
As with any spread offense, Rosen also shows plenty of athleticism when he tucks the ball and runs. Bosco had Rosen running inverted power read, zone read and triple option sets in a variety of situations and Rosen showed consistent speed, awareness and power.
After watching enough of Rosen's games, it's easy to see that the continuity between Bosco's and UCLA's offensive system was a major factor in his choice in coming to Westwood. While there are obvious aesthetic differences between his high school offense and Mazzone's, they both use the same concepts to accomplish the same thing. According to Rosen's interactions with Trent Dilfer at The Opening, it's obvious that Rosen needs a coach he sees eye-to-eye with in offensive philosophy.
While Dilfer gave Rosen a firm warning about his lack of coach-ability, Rosen's scouting reports are littered with terms like "savant," and "off-the charts football IQ," and just watching his game film briefly gives you a sense of just how far ahead Rosen was in high school.
On Bosco's first play from scrimmage against No. 2 Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas's premier football program), Rosen immediately showcased his knowledge. Bosco called an inside zone play with a packaged hot route that gave Rosen the choice to hand the ball off, or sling it to his receiver. Rosen watched the Bishop Gorman cornerback retreat 10 yards off the ball before the snap, opted out of the run play and gunned the ball to the sideline.
Rosen's ability to manage packaged plays makes him a perfect fit for Mazzone's offense, which uses the familiar key motion in a majority of its pass and run concepts.
Rosen's arm strength also gives him the ability to get the ball downfield quickly. In the play above, Rosen recognizes the miscommunication in the Cover 3 defense and delivers a relatively accurate ball across the field.
Rosen has experience with even the most complex packaged play concepts. In the play above, Rosen is running a virtual quadruple option, as he can give the ball to the running back, keep it himself, throw the bubble screen, or throw the deep route.
Here, Rosen showcases a bit of his athleticism with a triple option look that he reads perfectly for a big gain behind the sticks. While Rosen isn't anywhere close to the runner that Brett Hundley was, he's a dependable option in the run game and will force defenses to keep a defender on the backside of every run play.
While the UCLA coaching staff continues to avoid answering the question about naming Rosen the starter, it would be a complete shock if Rosen wasn't given the start in UCLA's opener against Virginia. With all due respect to Jerry Neuheisel, Rosen brings so much more to the table.
His arm strength, running ability and deep knowledge of a complex spread offense set him apart from nearly every quarterback in his recruiting class and a string of solid performances in San Bernardino should set him apart from Neuheisel this fall.