Who will replace Brett Hundley as signal-caller of the UCLA football team in 2015?
It's easily the most pressing question facing Jim Mora and his staff in the upcoming year. Hundley was the true face of the program for the past three seasons. During his time in Westwood, Hundley shattered multiple school records—which includes career touchdown passes (75) and total offense (11,713 yards).
Not only was Hundley a dynamic playmaker with both his arm and his legs, but he also demonstrated considerable leadership qualities. There was no question as to whom the leader of the offense was throughout the past three years.
With Hundley off to the NFL, it's anyone's guess as to which quarterback will take his place. At this point, the competition for the job will likely center around a troika of candidates: Jerry Neuheisel, Asiantii Woulard and Josh Rosen.
This piece will take a look at each potential candidate for the job. Strengths and weaknesses of the players will be analyzed—in addition to a handicapping of each player's chance at becoming the starting quarterback.
Neuheisel is the most experienced option of the three quarterbacks in contention for the starting job.
That's not necessarily much—considering he had extended time in only one game last year (versus Texas). Much of his involvement came in garbage time, and as the holder on field goals.
In the contest versus Texas, Neuheisel led the Bruins to a come-from-behind victory. The Loyola High School product demonstrated immense moxie, determination and above all else—leadership.
It could've been easy for UCLA to fold in what turned out to be a de facto road game. However, the son of former UCLA head coach Rick Neuheisel subbed in for an injured Hundley and led the Bruins to victory.
The characteristics above are truly emblematic of Neuheisel as a player. He's a coach's son in every sense of the term. Not only is he highly intelligent, but he understands what it takes to play the position. Neuheisel is a steady, likable player with a big personality. As shown in the Texas game, he can perform with poise.
His physical tools won't wow anyone, and this could ultimately prevent him from garnering the starting bid. He isn't exceptionally athletic, nor does he possess even an average arm. His somewhat slight frame could also be worrisome from a durability standpoint.
Neuheisel is eerily similar to his father as a player. The elder Neuheisel was a walk-on during his UCLA career. He didn't have stellar ability, nor was he expected to become an impact player. Regardless, he ultimately led the Bruins to a Rose Bowl in 1984.
The Neuheisel family hopes lightning can strike twice. If anything, it would be foolish to completely discount Neuheisel in this quarterback derby.
Worst-case scenario has Neuheisel functioning as a very solid backup quarterback.
Woulard is the big mystery in this race. No one really knows up to this point how good the Florida native is.
He's a very impressive-looking prospect physically. Compared to Neuheisel, there's no question as to which player has the stronger arm. Woulard also has very good mobility—largely stemming from the fact he was a wide receiver in high school up until his junior year in high school.
Woulard's biggest issue up to this point is his development—or lack thereof. While Woulard has an edge in the physical tools department, Neuheisel has a leg up from a mental standpoint. Being able to digest Noel Mazzone's offense and make the requisite reads is something Woulard has struggled with.
In fairness to Woulard, he's also a raw prospect at the position. Compared to Neuheisel—whom was groomed to be a quarterback since he was a youngster—Woulard has limited experience.
With his physical ability, there should be no question as to which player has more upside. Regardless, Neuheisel was Hundley's main reserve a year ago for good reason.
This offseason will be very significant for Woulard. If he can show some strides from a developmental standpoint, he has as good a chance as anyone at winning the starting job.
The gigantic elephant walking onto the UCLA practice field this spring is undoubtedly Rosen.
Perhaps the best quarterback prospect to come out of California in years, he's expected to compete for the job right away.
As detailed by Jeff Fedotin of Yahoo Sports, Rosen is an extremely unique individual. The Rivals.com No. 2 player in the country has immense ability—both mentally and physically. His academic prowess enabled Rosen to enroll at UCLA this past January. He'll benefit from being able to participate in a college conditioning program. Additionally, he'll compete in spring practice with the rest of the roster.
Rosen's availability in the spring is significant. Not only will he be able to work side-by-side with Mazzone learning the offense, but he'll also theoretically be able to build a rapport with his teammates—specifically the wide receivers.
As a true freshman, surely he'll experience the normal ebbs and flows of the initial year on the Division I level. Rosen will have to prove he belongs on the next level.
What This All Means
It will be a fascinating battle starting in the spring. I'd imagine UCLA will not name a starter until fall camp. If this scenario does come to fruition, it'll give the staff ample time to decide which player is deserving of the starting nod.
If I'm to play the role of Nostradamus, Rosen will be the starting quarterback on Sep. 5 versus Virginia in the Rose Bowl.
Of the three, he's clearly the most gifted. Obviously both Woulard and Neuheisel have an experience advantage. With that said, quarterbacks are coming into college more and more polished seemingly every year.
With Rosen's combination of acumen and physical ability, he'll be able to become the starter—which is enhanced greatly by his decision to graduate high school early and enter UCLA last month.