The Past, Present, And Future Of UCLA Quarterbacks, Part II: The Roller Coaster Of QB Recruiting

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Sep 25, 2014; Tempe, AZ, USA; UCLA Bruins offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone against the Arizona State Sun Devils at Sun Devil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Problems And Circumstances

It seems fair to say that consistent issues are plaguing UCLA’s quarterback recruiting. These are the elements that seem to exist in most of these yearly recruiting tales for the Bruins:

  1. Despite doing, for the most part, a good job identifying the top quarterback talents in the class and jumping into their recruitments early, UCLA hasn’t been able to garner early commitments from the quarterback recruits at the top of its board.
  2. Making matters worse, UCLA has also done a poor job maintaining relationships with viable “Plan B” targets to whom it could immediately turn and secure a commitment if the recruits at the top of the board said “no”.
  3. After plans A and B have fallen through, the Bruins have been left scrambling to collect whichever quarterback is available once the best talents have been picked off. They usually have to go way down their QB board to bring in a raw, boom-or-bust quarterback prospect who is athletically gifted but needs time to develop and learn the various ins-and-outs of the quarterback position. Josh Rosen’s recruitment was the only exception.
  4. Once on campus, that raw quarterback fails to develop and either, once his lack of a future as a UCLA quarterback becomes clear, changes position (Fuller/Sharp) or transfers to another program in which he sees more potential for the kind of live game action that will accelerate his development curve (Millweard/Woulard). Josh Rosen’s situation is the only exception.

Among the many facts one can highlight from those four-plus years of escapades on the quarterback recruiting trail, here are a few that stand out:

How did UCLA football get itself to a place where the entire program’s ability to compete for championships in the near future will likely depend on one teenager?

  • In the Mora era, which started in December 2011 and is in the midst of its fifth recruiting cycle, only one quarterback signee remains on the UCLA roster as a quarterback: Josh Rosen.
  • In the Mora era, only one quarterback signee committed to UCLA more than a month before his respective Signing Day: Josh Rosen.*
  • In the Mora era, only one quarterback signee for UCLA has come from the state of California: Josh Rosen.
  • In the Mora era, no quarterback signee has taken a live snap in a real game for UCLA, although that will likely change soon with Josh Rosen (sensing a theme yet?).

*Note: Matt Lynch does not sign until February 4, 2016.

We will explicitly say this again just to make sure it’s understood: once it saw an opening with Rosen, UCLA did extremely well to take advantage of that opening and bring in a player who projects to be its most gifted passer since Troy Aikman. Rosen is such a singular talent that everything that went right to bring him in goes a very long way towards glossing over everything that went wrong with quarterback recruiting in the 2013, 2014, and 2016 classes.

However, Rosen’s recruitment stands out as the clear exception to what has been the rule. For a program of UCLA’s caliber to consistently run things down to the last second in the era of the way-too-early quarterback commitment and a program in UCLA’s location to consistently need to leave the area to find anyone willing to join its class late in the process speaks very poorly to the planning and execution of these recruitments.

To be completely fair to Noel and Taylor Mazzone, though, hindsight vindicates many of their scouting evaluations. Also, circumstances have often, for various reasons, been beyond their control.

  • In 2012, on a month’s notice, Noel Mazzone brought in Millweard, who he had recruited for months at Arizona State before coming to UCLA. That was a perfectly logical and defensible grab in such a small time frame.
  • In 2013, none of the quarterbacks in question panned out in what turned out to be an awful QB crop, so despite a small media mess with the Printz clan, it’s fair to give UCLA’s coaches a pass on that awful class.
  • In 2015, they got it absolutely right.
  • And 2016 was always likely to yield a project player, given the aforementioned Specter of Rosen looming over this quarterback recruiting cycle for UCLA.

However, 2014…

Next: The 2014 Problem