The moment Josh Rosen reached for one of several UCLA caps during his Thursday afternoon announcement ceremony, a future rivalry was officially forged. The coveted quarterback recruit from reigning California state champ St. John Bosco High School tied his allegiance to the Bruins and set the stage for a compelling series of showdowns with fellow 5-star passer Ricky Town, a USC commit.
Josh Rosen after his announcement to UCLA pic.twitter.com/Lx2cMhmPfI— Erik McKinney (@EMcKinneyESPN) March 20, 2014
The sensational pair of Southern California prospects tops a 2015 quarterback class that may be the deepest of this decade. For months, a debate has persisted regarding whether Rosen or Town deserves the title of top-ranked recruit.
Rosen is rated the nation's No. 1 quarterback and No. 4 overall prospect in 247Sports' composite rankings. Town is right behind, listed No. 2 among quarterbacks and No. 6 overall in the grading system.
Stars and ratings aside, the immense talent becomes immediately apparent when you turn on game film. Through three seasons of high school football, everything about Rosen and Town's respective attributes tells you they're ready for prime time.
Arm strength? Check.
Poise? You'd better believe it.
These are young athletes whose arrows point straight up when you project how they'll progress at the position. We've seen similarly prodigious prospects fizzle upon encountering elevated competition at the next level, but this game is built around quarterbacks. Any coach in the country should feel comfortable attaching his wagon to one of these polished playmakers.
Rosen and Town have spent much of their time in the spotlight competing for adoration rather than victories.
Who's the best quarterback prospect in Southern California? In the state? In America?
Comparisons are inevitable when two talents excel and astound while competing in close proximity. St. John Bosco (Bellflower) is about a 75-minute drive southeast from St. Bonaventure High School (Ventura), where Town stars.
Their respective career paths will bring the pair even closer in college. The Rose Bowl and the Los Angeles Coliseum are less than 20 miles apart.
Still more than 16 months away from his first summer training camp at USC, Rosen understands he and Town will be compared to one another throughout their collegiate careers.
"It's just competition," Rosen told Rivals.com reporter Adam Gorney. "It's fun for media to have fun with that storyline. I'm on my team and anyone I play against is on theirs. We have to put our pads on, go at it and see who comes out on top."
Following his commitment, Rosen said he plans to graduate high school early and enroll at UCLA for the 2015 spring semester. Bruins head coach Jim Mora may turn to him as an immediate starter if redshirt junior Brett Hundley declares for next year's NFL draft, as many expect.
Rosen pledged to a program that has enjoyed a steady rise under Mora's direction. He would inherit a talented offensive attack that is already set to welcome in top-ranked 2015 tight end Aliz'e Jones (Las Vegas) and 4-star wide receiver Jaason Lewis (Virginia Beach, Va.) next year.
You can bet he'll be busy encouraging other top offensive recruits to join him in Pasadena. There's no better recruiting tool for a class than a star quarterback to build around.
"Coach (Mora) is a great guy, he's an awesome coach and he's had plenty of success," Rosen told 247Sports writer Ryan Bartow earlier this month. "The offense they run is very similar (to my high school offense)...and the school is fantastic."
Rosen threw for 3,200 yards and 39 touchdowns as a junior. He led the Braves to an unbeaten season and the No. 1 spot in MaxPreps' final high school football rankings.
UCLA has reclaimed its place among elite Pac-12 contenders after a series of relatively lean years. USC aims to do the same with first-year head coach Steve Sarkisian at the helm.
The Trojans rebounded from a disastrous start last fall and looked increasingly consistent in the aftermath of Lane Kiffin's departure. Sanctions and uncharacteristic struggles throughout Kiffin's ill-fated tenure have defined USC during the post-Pete Carroll era.
Sarkisian finished the 2014 recruiting cycle with a flurry. He landed three coveted Southern California prospects on signing day, including Rosen's top offensive tackle at St. John Bosco (Damien Mama).
The signings signaled a strong start for Sarkisian, but none of them made more of an impact than a January commitment from Town. The 6'4", 205-pound prospect initially picked Alabama last summer, pledging to Nick Saban and the reigning national champions weeks before the start of his junior season.
Nearly six months later, Town switched the commitment to USC.
"I chose USC because of the tradition, the academics and the incredible coaching staff," Town told ESPN.com reporter Blair Angulo. "This is an amazing opportunity to be a part of something really special. Fight On!"
USC may be a step behind UCLA in the hunt for a Pac-12 title, but uncertainty swirling around its quarterback position is really the difference. UCLA has a potential Heisman Trophy finalist behind center right now; USC has questions to answer there before opening day.
Those concerns may evaporate from the moment Town arrives on campus. He is Sarkisian's first big fish at USC and will be the face of this 2015 recruiting class no matter how many 5-stars the Trojans reel in.
If all goes according to plan, he'll also become the face of a program resurgence at USC. Town managed to pass for nearly 2,000 yards and 25 touchdowns last fall, despite missing three games with a knee injury, according to the Ventura County Star.
“I’ve seen many of the top programs and what they have to offer," Town told ESPN. "However, when I had the chance to get on the USC campus...with Coach Sarkisian and his staff, I knew after those meetings that USC is where I want to be. The coaches are upbeat, focused and committed to winning and I completely believe in them."
Next summer, expect Town and Rosen to receive significant snaps during their first college camps while sharing the Hollywood stage. The media will be circling Los Angeles throughout the season, looking for strengths and weaknesses that could separate the lauded duo of SoCal standouts.
Which 5-star quarterback prospect will have the more successful college career?
If Town stuck with Alabama, this hoopla would never happen. If Michigan coach Brady Hoke won over Rosen during a recent visit to Ann Arbor, perhaps we'd someday see them match up in a bowl game.
Instead, two of the top high school passers to emerge in recent years decided to stay close to home and sustain an increasingly familiar conversation.
Who's better? Town or Rosen?
That narrative will define a crosstown rivalry for the next half decade and may ultimately determine the outcome of future conference championships, national titles and Heisman Trophy races. Town and Rosen are eternally bunched together as quarterback prospects, and we can't wait to see what happens next.
Recruit rankings and information courtesy of 247Sports unless otherwise noted.