The Bruins only had Josh Rosen for their first six games last season, and they dropped five of their final six games without the junior quarterback.
It took seven and a half games before a Rosen injury scare cropped up this season. It will become clear whether that narrative could repeat itself this Friday.
UCLA football’s (4-4, 2-3 Pac-12) coaching staff wouldn’t say whether Rosen would be ready to go for the upcoming matchup against Utah (4-4, 1-4).
Offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch said Tuesday that redshirt freshmen Devon Modster and Matt Lynch have been getting all the quarterback reps. A day prior, coach Jim Mora said that Rosen could play even if he doesn’t practice.
If Rosen isn’t in, Modster is the one most likely to fulfill signal-caller duties. He took over in the second half against Washington and threw 7-of-12 with 77 yards and a touchdown.
After that game, Fisch said he looked more comfortable drive by drive, and the offensive coordinator said Modster has carried some of that confidence into this week.
For Fisch, that process started with a screen pass.
“We gave him a screen to get him a completion – probably the third play or so,” Fisch said. “I think you always need that as a quarterback. And then after that, I mean he threw a nice seam ball, he threw a nice ball to (redshirt freshman tight end) Jordan Wilson, a nice ball to (redshirt senior wide receiver Darren Andrews).”
Fisch also made note of how Modster was carrying himself.
“He’s only a redshirt freshman,” Fisch said. “And I hate to talk about age, but he’s learning how to present himself in the huddle, he’s learning how to talk with conviction and run the line of scrimmage with great confidence.”
Coaches and players have both said they don’t expect a huge shift in game planning based on Rosen’s potential absence. The offensive line is coming off a performance in which it let Rosen get hit enough times to knock him out of the game.
“After the Washington tape, we definitely all can perform better,” said senior defensive lineman Jacob Tuioti-Mariner. “Defensive line, I know we can perform better.”
And it doesn’t care which quarterback it’s blocking for.
“It doesn’t matter who’s back there – if you put (Modster), you put (Rosen), you put coach Mora back there,” said redshirt sophomore offensive lineman Andre James. “It’s just the same thing: We’re going to block it as best as we can, all five of us or six of us if that includes tight ends.”
The defensive line, too, will play knowing it could have done better last weekend. The Bruins gave up 348 yards on the ground to the Huskies last Saturday. This week, they’ll contend with Utah running back Zack Moss, who averages 5.1 yards per carry.
“Very tough, very elusive, he runs hard,” said defensive coordinator Tom Bradley of Moss. “I’ve watched a lot of tape on him. He’s a hard runner, he’s low to the ground, he does a great job, he’s got good balance, he’s obviously got great vision. He’s impressive to watch and he’s obviously a key figure in their offensive attack.”