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2022 UCLA Football Position Preview: Quarterbacks

UCLA football redshirt senior quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson scrambles during a game against Stanford in 2021. (Jeremy Chen/Assistant Photo editor)

By Sam Settleman

Aug. 17, 2022 12:55 p.m.

This post was updated Aug. 28 at 9:18 p.m.

With the 2022 UCLA football season on the horizon, Daily Bruin Sports will preview the Bruins’ outlook at each position group as the countdown to football begins. Sports editor Sam Settleman breaks down the first group on the list – the signal callers.

Personnel

When Dorian Thompson-Robinson took the field at the Rose Bowl for the first time, the only thing he lacked was experience.

The now-redshirt senior quarterback for the Bruins had all the talent to be a top dual-threat signal caller, but he only started as quarterback for one season in high school.

Flash forward four years, and there are few quarterbacks in the country that can say they have as much experience as Thompson-Robinson does. While there may be some ambiguity across the rest of the team in terms of who will start and who will sit, it’s no secret who will be at the helm for the Bruins.

Thompson-Robinson had the best season of his career in 2021, primarily because he turned the ball over less and showed up in big games. He doesn’t have the arm ability to consistently take the top off the defense or squeeze the ball into tight holes, but he showcased his ability to be an efficient passer and avoid big mistakes last season.

Where Thompson-Robinson separates himself from a typical game manager is with his legs. His ability to take off out of the pocket and pick up chunks of yardage makes him into exactly the dual-threat quarterback he was advertised as coming out of high school.

But behind Thompson-Robinson, this is an experienced quarterback room with considerable potential. Multiple players can slot right in and start for the blue and gold if Thompson-Robinson misses a game or two with injury.

(Jon Christon/Daily Bruin senior staff)
Senior quarterback Chase Griffin (left), Thompson-Robinson (middle) and freshman quarterback Justyn Martin stand together at practice. (Jon Christon/Daily Bruin senior staff)

That list of quarterbacks begins with the presumed No. 2 option, redshirt sophomore Ethan Garbers.

In his first season with the program in 2021, Garbers was thrown into a start on the road against the ultimate Pac-12 champions in Utah, and wound up completing 27 of his 44 passes with a pair of touchdowns. Now with a year of experience in UCLA’s offense under his belt, Garbers could be a serviceable backup when called upon.

Senior Chase Griffin – surpassed by Garbers on the depth chart a season ago – also has starting experience to his name after making two starts in 2020. Griffin might not see the field much in 2022, but his voice in the quarterback room will surely carry weight.

Perhaps the most intriguing prospect among the quarterbacks in Westwood is freshman Justyn Martin, who made headlines last year for notching 13 touchdown passes in a 106-0 win. At 6-foot-4 and 222 pounds, the four-star recruit certainly looks the part of a potential offensive cornerstone for UCLA in a few years.

While Martin may be the future, make no mistake – Thompson-Robinson is UCLA’s quarterback in 2022.

Predictions

It’s hard to bet against Thompson-Robinson in 2022.

While he won’t be throwing to former wide receiver Kyle Philips or former tight end Greg Dulcich anymore, Thompson-Robinson has started in this offense for four seasons, and you can’t replace experience.

Redshirt senior wide receiver Jake Bobo should slot in as a new security blanket for Thompson-Robinson with Philips out of the picture, while the Bruins have plenty of depth at tight end to make up for the departure of Dulcich.

With a newfound comfort in coach Chip Kelly’s system, Thompson-Robinson, as a senior in 2021, led UCLA to the highest-scoring offense in the Pac-12 as the Bruins put up 36.5 points per game.

But he didn’t do it with electric deep bombs, sidearm darts or 90-yard scrambles. He did it by being consistent, trusting the pieces around him and making good decisions with the ball. Nevertheless, you can count on Thompson-Robinson to show up with some flash in big-game scenarios, just like he did when he torched USC for six total touchdowns in a 62-point outburst last fall.

Even if he doesn’t take a significant leap this year as he works to improve his NFL Draft stock, the Bruins will be in a good place with Thompson-Robinson leading the pack.

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Sam Settleman | Sports editor
Settleman was the 2022-2023 Sports editor on the football, men's basketball and gymnastics beats. He was previously an assistant editor on the gymnastics, women's soccer, women's golf, men's water polo and women's water polo beats and a contributor on the gymnastics and women's water polo beats.
Settleman was the 2022-2023 Sports editor on the football, men's basketball and gymnastics beats. He was previously an assistant editor on the gymnastics, women's soccer, women's golf, men's water polo and women's water polo beats and a contributor on the gymnastics and women's water polo beats.
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