The player-invitee list for Pac 12 media days in Los Angeles last week featured the conference’s top two returning quarterbacks.
Josh Rosen was not one of them because, well, he is not one of them.
This tells you all you need to know about the state of UCLA football.
Rosen was a no show and nobody, really, cared.[membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]
It was sufficient that USC trotted out Sam Darnold and Washington invited Jake Browning. These are the Pac 12’s featured quarterback stars, put up on a pedestal for consideration as Heisman Trophy contenders.
Darnold led USC to a thrilling Rose Bowl victory over Penn State. Sam told his mom to never, ever wash that jersey again. Washington, with Browning under center, made the College Football Playoff.
You can cite extenuating circumstances for Rosen’s absence. He missed a lot of last year with a shoulder injury. Some in Bruin on-line world even fantasized how the Bruins would have been 8-4, not 4-8, had Rosen been in the lineup.
This is all cover, though, for overall underachievement.
Rosen enters his third, and presumably last, year in Westwood, with his third offensive coordinator.
He remains the question--“Is he The Chosen One?”—more than the answer.
He entered UCLA three years ago, out of St. John Bosco prep, the top quarterback recruit in Bruin history. Rosen was a sure-fire first pick in the 2018 NFL draft.
Rules would force Rosen to stay in college three years before he conquered the next frontier.
Two years in, though, Rosen exists as the fourth best returning Pac 12 quarterback behind Darnold, Browning and Washington State’s Luke Falk. And Oregon sophomore Justin Herbert may be pushing Rosen for No. 4.
Rosen’s only full season ended at 8-5, with a Foster Farms bowl loss to Nebraska, which qualified for post season with a losing record.
Last year, admittedly, was a wash-out.
Darnold came in and hacked Rosen’s account, with a more heartwarming story. While Rosen grew up in a life of privilege, the son of wealth and prominent parents, Darnold was unearthed from middle-class roots in the sea-side hamlet of San Clemente.
The Los Angeles Times did a blow-out profile this weekend that underscored Darnold’s regular-guy humility. His unkempt bedroom still had clothes from elementary school.
Rosen has this going for him. There will be no shortage of drama at UCLA this year. This IS the make-or-break season of Jim Mora’s tenure. Texas A&M is the most important home opener in recent years.
The futures of Rosen and Mora are tied like Thelma was to Louise. They can get this turned around or, maybe, this is the last year for both of them. It’s possible Rosen and Mora may both be in the NFL next year.
Rosen needs to reconvince coaches and scouts he is worthy of all the fuss. He must prove his shoulder is sound and he is still the quarterback with the can’t-miss tool kit.
He must un-prove that he is not a good teammate, who turns tail when things don’t go well. He must show he is not Jeff George, or Jay Cutler.
Rosen must win one, two or eight games of import. Even better if one of those comes against Sam Darnold in what may be their first, and only, meeting in college.
Darnold lost his first start, last year at Utah, then reeled off nine straight wins. Rosen is 7-8 in his last 15 games in UCLA command.
Rosen must prove he can be trusted in an NFL huddle. He must reassure professional people who think he has an NFL arm but an Arena League brain.
Mora simply can’t waste a once-in-generation talent (allegedly) with nothing to show for it but a flop in the Foster Farms.
“Last year was hard on Josh after he got hurt,” Mora said of Rosen.
It was hard on Mora, too. He has to once, in seven seasons, defeat Stanford or Oregon. He must elevate UCLA to a life style it can maintain. He must find more than 84.3 yards per game from the rushing game.
Mora has to hope new offensive coordinator, Jedd Fisch, is the right comfort blanket for Rosen. Why? Well, Rosen probably won’t be around next year to hire another coordinator.
See? This is the kind of cynicism Mora and Rosen have to overcome.
They are saying the right things.
Rosen is noticeably circumspect, less cocky, obviously humbled by his own doings and experiences.
He isn’t tweeting much and his favorite word these days is “grind.”
There is time for UCLA, Mora and Rosen to get back on script.
But this is THE time.
It’s doable, but it needs to get done.[/membership]