Loss of Rosen leads to vacuum for UCLA starting quarterback position
UCLA’s quarterback race is more wide open than it has been in several years, and Devon Modster is the most battle-tested option. The quarterback started UCLA’s bowl game in December as a redshirt freshman when former quarterback Josh Rosen was unable to play. (Kathy Chen/Daily Bruin)
By Hanson Wang
March 8, 2018 10:51 pm
Josh Rosen tweeted that he had moved out of his apartment earlier this week, more than a month before the former UCLA quarterback expects to hear his name called during the first round of the NFL draft.
His replacement might not even be in Westwood yet.
Redshirt freshmen Devon Modster and Matt Lynch are the leading candidates for the starting quarterback position in coach Chip Kelly’s offense. Graduate transfer K.J. Carta-Samuels and incoming freshman Dorian Thompson-Robinson are also possibilities, although they haven’t enrolled at UCLA or practiced with the team yet.
“Being here and learning the offense with the coaches is definitely an advantage,” Modster said. “But at the end of the day, we’re all going to compete, and whoever has the starting job, we’re just gonna back him up.”
Modster, a Mission Viejo native, ended last season with a 295-yard, two-touchdown performance in a loss to Kansas State in the Cactus Bowl, and he returns as the most experienced signal caller despite only attempting 79 career passes.
Kelly’s offense is also the third system in three years that Modster and Lynch have had to learn. In 2016, it was Kennedy Polamalu’s failed power-running scheme. In 2017, it was Jedd Fisch’s mix of outside zones and pro-style play-action wizardry.
“I think (Kelly’s offense) is a lot faster than (UCLA’s offense) was last year,” Modster said. “I wouldn’t say it’s a whole different terminology and concepts. I just try to figure out what we did last year and try to find out how it’s similar to how it is this year to help remember the plays and everything.”
The only other returning quarterback with experience is Lynch, who led a touchdown drive at Utah after Modster left with an injury in November. The Colorado native also shares an additional bond with Rosen – the two used to be roommates and keep in touch almost daily.
Lynch said learning a new offense was pretty easy after doing the same during the past two years. Lynch also made personal changes over the offseason, working on his poise in the pocket and compacting his throwing motion.
“The coaches last year, they gave me a few couple of points before they left,” Lynch said. “I made sure when I was throwing out here in the offseason, I would focus on those and would always be throwing in a mirror, trying to fix that.”
Carta-Samuels and Thompson-Robinson remain dark horses in the quarterback competition. Carta-Samuels graduates in March from Washington and will enroll at UCLA for spring quarter, while Thompson-Robinson graduates from high school in June and will enroll in the fall.
Both were four-star recruits coming out of high school, but Carta-Samuels has been stuck behind Jake Browningon the Huskies’ depth chart the past few years. While the incoming quarterbacks may be more highly touted than their incumbent counterparts, Modster and Lynch have the upper hand when it comes to building camaraderie with the wide receivers.
“Demetric Felton, … Christian Pabico, Damian Alloway. And Theo Howard,” Lynch said, listing the wideouts he and Modster worked with over the offseason. “We were a little group out here on the practice field.”
In 11-on-11 drills, the defense threw a seemingly endless amount of blitzes at the offensive line. It was trial by fire for a position group that might have new starters at all five positions.
Because of the blitzes, the quarterbacks mostly threw check-down passes to a running back or a wide receiver within a few yards of the line of scrimmage.
Personnelwise, sophomore defensive tackle Boss Tagaloa saw increased time at center with the first-team offensive line. Junior running back Soso Jamabo, who has been mired in a running-back-by-committee approach the past three seasons, had fewer first-team reps Thursday than Tuesday.