UCLA coach Jim Mora is pleased with quarterback Josh Rosen’s metamorphosis
Josh Rosen may have set an unofficial record for being the talk of Pac-12 Conference media days without having said a word.
Two years ago, there was buzz about UCLA’s hotshot freshman quarterback. Last year, it was his posts on social media lampooning Donald Trump and the money-grubbing nature of college athletics. On Wednesday, a different side of Rosen emerged in the words of coach Jim Mora: a more modest one.
“Certainly, being injured and having football kind of removed from his life as a player for the time that he did affected him, humbling himself to a certain degree, in accepting coaching,” Mora said inside a ballroom at the Hollywood & Highland Center, referring to the shoulder injury that ended Rosen’s season in October after only six games.
“I think it reset him a little bit emotionally and mentally as to the importance of football in his life. Things had come probably pretty easy to him and now all of a sudden he didn’t have it, so a little bit of a reset and I’ve only seen positives because of it.”
Rosen did not attend the media event for a third consecutive year. The team instead brought senior Scott Quessenberry, a first-team All-Pac-12 selection last season, and senior linebacker Kenny Young, selected to the watch list for the Butkus Award that goes to the nation’s best college linebacker.
Rosen, widely expected to become a top pick in the NFL draft after this season, has recently declined interview requests but is scheduled to meet with the media Sunday morning on campus. He has also been quiet on social media in recent months, rarely tweeting.
“It doesn’t do us any good to make predictions or be boastful or talk ourselves up when we’re coming off a 4-8 season and we have a lot to prove. So we’re just going to go to work every day and try to get better every day and that’s really the mind-set of these guys.”
Mora said Rosen transitioning to a third offensive coordinator in as many years upon the hiring of Jedd Fisch in December has been helpful because of the quarterback’s interest in learning different approaches.
“He loves to absorb information,” Mora said. “… To have a person like Jedd, with his pedigree and his background and the people he’s coached for, and the players that he’s coached, it’s all building this very strong platform for Josh that I believe he’s embraced and I see a very strong relationship there.”
Fisch also helped the Bruins land right tackle Sunny Odogwu, a graduate transfer from Miami, because he was the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach with the Hurricanes when they recruited Odogwu. Mora said Odogwu’s arrival helps provide depth along the offensive line because the fast-improving Andre James can move back to guard, where he is battling Kenny Lacy and Najee Toran for the starting spots.
UCLA was picked by the media to finish third in the Pac-12’s South Division. That’s two slots lower than last season, when the preseason-favorite Bruins tied for fourth with a 2-7 record in conference games.
Mora credited the players for developing “a culture of accountability” in the wake of last season’s disappointment. Player-run practices have helped accelerate their understanding of a new playbook before they open training camp in Westwood on Aug. 2.
“It’s very big,” Quessenberry said of the playbook, “but if you can get a grasp of the basics, then all the plays work off of each other.”
The team will hold all of its practices on campus instead of venturing to San Bernardino, as it had in previous seasons under Mora. Practices will be closed to the public and the media because of space constraints on the new artificial turf fields outside the $75-million Wasserman Football Center.
Players will occupy the new facility beginning Sunday, when the team will also hold an event for recruits. Locker rooms, equipment rooms and training rooms have been completed, Mora said, with only the audio-visual, video and technology components still to be finished. Mora said coaches would split time between offices in the team’s old and new facilities until those items are completed “and that should be done soon.”
Mora said linebacker DeChaun Holiday (shoulder) and offensive lineman Zach Bateman (foot) would be the only players sidelined at the start of camp besides offensive lineman Alex Akingbulu, who is out for the season because of a knee injury.
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