Another swing on a highly-rated quarterback may not save UCLA football, but DeShaun Foster has to keep swinging

Chip Kelly and UCLA pinned their hopes on five-star freshman quarterback Dante Moore to elevate the program, but just one year later, both Kelly and Moore are gone. Even after being spurned by a top QB from the Class of 2023, DeShaun Foster needs to go back to that well in the transfer portal.
Arizona State Sun Devils quarterback Jaden Rashada (5)
Arizona State Sun Devils quarterback Jaden Rashada (5) / Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Quarterbacks littered the top of the 2023 high school recruiting rankings. Arch Manning and Nico Iamleava were the headliners, but the rest of the elite crop was rounded out by Dante Moore, Jackson Arnold, Malachi Nelson, Jaden Rashada, and Aidan Chiles, among others who will soon be college football starters. 

However, just one year later, three of those seven quarterbacks have found new homes and Jaden Rashada is searching for his. Malachi Nelson left USC for Boise State, Aidan Chiles followed Jonathan Smith from Oregon State to Michigan State, and Dante Moore fled UCLA to backup Dillon Gabriel at Oregon. 

With Moore gone after just nine games and 213 pass attempts, UCLA’s new regime under DeShaun Foster needs to find its quarterback of the future and that player could come via the game of musical chairs that the class of 2023 is playing. 

Jaden Rashada started three games as a freshman at Arizona State, a failed experiment with a true freshman quarterback, one that left him with bad habits and battle scars, but retained all four years of eligibility for a new coaching staff to rehabilitate his career. UCLA is the favorite to take the former Florida commit in and potentially be his forever home in college football, though such a thing may not exist anymore. 

The Bruins could be gun shy from Moore’s struggles last season and the fragility of the modern quarterback who can constantly look to the transfer portal as both leverage and an escape hatch. Still, UCLA has to dust itself off from its most recent breakup, ready to get its heart broken again. 

Rashada is far from a perfect prospect. Last season, the former four-star recruit threw for 485 yards, completing just 53.7% of his attempts with four touchdowns to three interceptions. Of the 189 quarterbacks in college football with at least 80 dropbacks last season, Rashada ranked 169th in yards per attempt at 5.9 and 174th in adjusted completion percentage at 61.8%. 

Arizona State was an utter disaster, finishing 3-9 in 2023 and playing four different quarterbacks. Rashada missed time due to injury, but when he was healthy, he was still probably the team’s best option. The 6-foot-4 185 185-pound passer still oozes potential, and the fact that Kirby Smart and Georgia bringing him to Athens for a visit confirms that. 

It’s obvious that Rashada needs to sit a year before jumping right back into the fire, especially in the Big Ten or the SEC. Georgia can provide that for him, but so can UCLA with Ethan Garbers. Garbers played well across eight games last season, throwing 11 touchdowns to three interceptions. 

There is no more important position in sports than quarterback and having an elite one can be transformational for the entire football program. There’s no guarantee that Rashada is that, but Foster needs to swing for the fences and take a chance on the upside. 

Forever, football has been obsessed with evaluating quarterback talent, yet nobody seems to consistently get it right, even Ohio State occasionally ends up with Kyle McCord. If the goal is to get a bullseye then it’s better to have more darts to throw at the dartboard and Rashada is exactly that. Sure, he’s a flight risk who’s already on the move after just one season and he played terribly in his only three games, but he’s a talented player with four years of eligibility remaining, and if he hits he’ll cement Foster’s team as a Big Ten contender for multiple seasons. 

If he misses, he’ll move on and so will UCLA. That’s the beauty of the transfer portal, it allows coaches to cover up their own mistakes quickly. In a year or two there will be another highly-rated recruit unhappy with his freshman season, another dart to throw at the dart board. That’s the game in college football, just because it got burned by Dante Moore, UCLA can’t be scared to play it because the prize is huge.

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