Whole Lotta Rosen — Everything’s coming up Rosen at UCLA, as True Freshman Phenom QB Josh Rosen makes a successful Rose(n) Bowl debut in UCLA’s Spring Showcase
Saturday morning marked the first day of the Post-Hundley Era for UCLA Football, and it just may be a smooth transition to another era marked by a Superstar signal caller. True Freshman Quarterback Josh Rosen impressed Coaches and fans alike, with his talent, and poise uncommon for a newbie.
Rosen was actually the third Quarterback to take the reins of the Bruin Offense on Saturday, AFTER Jerry Neuheisel and Asiantii Woulard, but Rosen is the one getting all the buzz. Neuheisel looked just fine in his time, and Woulard looked sharp as well, much improved from earlier reports. But when Rosen took over, the Offense seemed to be more crisp, with Rosen showing uncanny composure and knowledge of the Offense. His calm confidence bodes well for his potential leadership role on this team.
It seemed like Woulard has grasped the Offensive schemes as well, but when he was in, there was a certain franticness, as he was gesturing urgently before the snaps to get everyone where they needed to be. Rosen on the other hand, seemed unfazed by the hurry-up nature of the Offense, and always looked like he knew exactly what to do to make the plays work.
One thing Woulard and Rosen have in common is the HEAT they put on the ball when throwing to intermediate targets. They both rifled the balls to their receivers on button hooks and other approximately 10-yard patterns, getting the ball to their targets before the Defense could react. Rosen especially showed accuracy and a high completion percentage, on short and medium tosses. The long ball was another story. While each QB hit a few targets on long balls, there were also several that were way off-target, and some hit defenders’ hands instead of the receivers. And this was all while the Defense was not blitzing, and was barely tackling. Also, Rosen seemed to lose his edge toward the end of practice, missing on a couple of easy short passes to Backs. Maybe he got tired, or lost focus after such a dramatic, nerve-wracking, and successful start.
You can’t really draw too many conclusions from this Showcase, which was in no way a scrimmage or a game. It was just a glorified PRACTICE, with the whistles being blown before most tackles could be made. Coach Mora was so insistent on it NOT appearing to be a “game,” that he BANNED the Cheerleaders from performing or cheering on the sidelines during the game. Booooo! I love Coach Mora, but this is one decision that I can just not abide. Luckily for me (and you), the Cheerleaders (about half the Spirit Squad) were in attendance at the entrance gate before the Showcase, doing a fan meet n’ greet, and posing for photographs (thank goodness). There is some talk that by not classifying it as a “game,” UCLA can invite recruits to attend. If this is true, then I accept Mora’s decision as a wise one. But I still miss the Cheering and Dance Performances!
Getting back to the Practice… The highlight of the day came during a drill, when All-Everything Linebacker Myles Jack made a leaping one-handed Interception. Another Defensive highlight came when D-Back Adarius Pickett snagged a long pass, and returned it for a Pick(ett) Six.
On Offense, besides Rosen’s exploits, Tight End Thomas Duarte made some impressive catches, including at least one climbing the ladder in the end zone. Wide Receiver Jordan Lasley got targeted a lot, and made one circus catch right after dropping a TD that was right in his hands after he bobbled it. Reserve Wideouts Logan Sweet and Tyler Scott had good games, but they did that last Spring too, then weren’t huge factors during the season. Finally, it’s hard to say anything about the three leading rushers, as Paul Perkins, Nates Starks, and Craig Lee all seemed to find big holes and burst into the secondary, but the Defense didn’t seem to be going all out, and the refs blew the whistle right after the runners got into the secondary. One positive from this lack of contact: No major injuries have been reported this Spring. Speaking of reports, some people have stated that third string RB Lee has looked like the fastest of the rotation. I couldn’t tell, but I trust the observations made by these other reporters.
I can’t make too many in-depth, analytical comments, since I was watching everything through a camera lens, and there was no announcer to confirm what I think I saw. I couldn’t always see jersey numbers, and I did not see a replay on TV. But it’s okay, because it’s APRIL, and you shouldn’t draw any conclusions from what happens in the Spring anyway. The way Mora recruits, the Fall could bring some impact Freshmen that might change the roster considerably.
Speaking of changing rosters, this might have marked the final Rose Bowl Appearance for some of the Spirit Squad, with auditions for next season coming up next week. So good luck to anyone who is attempting to return. Please enjoy — and savor — the Cheer photos that follow the photos of the game action and player close-ups that I took during the autograph session. And it should be noted that all the Cheerleaders were super-nice and so fun to converse with… and, all the players were cordial and fun-loving and very accommodating to the throngs of demanding fans, many of whom are just trying to get stuff to sell on eBay. But my point is that Mora and staff are doing a great job of recruiting high-character, personable, intelligent players, and grooming them to behave in a professional, fan-friendly manner… and I truly appreciate it.
Here are 64 photos from the event.