Dante Moore works to become UCLA’s top quarterback as preseason camp kicks off

UCLA quarterback Dante Moore warms up by passing the ball during practice
UCLA quarterback Dante Moore (3) warms up during a preseason practice session at Spaulding Field at UCLA on Wednesday.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
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The first quarterback on the practice field Wednesday morning also happened to be one heavily bidding to take the season’s opening snap.

Wearing black shorts, a blue undershirt and a black harness over his chest that tracked biorhythms, Dante Moore moved his arms rhythmically while standing alone on one corner of the field about 15 minutes before the start of UCLA’s training camp. He pantomimed his throwing motion, taking several purposeful steps forward before flapping a towel with his right hand.

As the intense sun cast shadows into a nearby end zone, Moore sat to stretch his legs. He was soon joined by Ethan Garbers and others who will try to keep Moore from becoming the Bruins’ first true freshman quarterback to start a season opener since Josh Rosen in 2015.


It’s widely considered a two-man race between Moore and Garbers, the redshirt junior who spent the last two seasons as Dorian Thompson-Robinson’s backup. Other candidates include Collin Schlee, a transfer from Kent State, redshirt freshman Justyn Martin and fifth-year senior Chase Griffin.

After Moore slipped on his jersey top, he zipped a few passes while standing alongside Garbers, both quarterbacks connecting with their targets. Eventually, others joined them in forming a line of five quarterbacks, all throwing simultaneously to different receivers during the brief portion of practice that reporters were allowed to observe.

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Coach Chip Kelly watched nearby, twirling a whistle over one hand. Kelly recently said he would not name Moore the starter just because he feared the highest-rated quarterback prospect UCLA has landed in at least two decades might get antsy and transfer if he’s not playing right away.

Since he arrived on campus in January, Moore has struck his new teammates as someone who expects to win the job solely because he deserves it.

“He’s one of those guys who’s just crazy naturally talented but also puts in the work — like, he’s a grinder,” said Kam Brown, a fifth-year senior wide receiver. “That’s one of the first things I noticed about him when he first came in, like, he was just different mentally, and as an older guy you can really look and be like, ‘Wow, there’s not many young guys who come in with their head on like that.’”

Garbers and Moore split first-team repetitions in the spring, each making a compelling case to emerge as the front-runner. Moore showed tremendous upside with his arm strength and precision. Garbers demonstrated a more nuanced command of the offense while making fewer mistakes.


Since the end of last season, Garbers also increasingly sounds like a top-flight quarterback.

“He’s a lot more vocal,” Brown said. “He’s always been a leader, but he just stepped up that aspect running stuff, just taking control.”

The Bruins’ most highly contested quarterback battle since Wilton Speight edged Thompson-Robinson in 2018 could go down to the final days before UCLA’s opener against Coastal Carolina on Sept. 2 at the Rose Bowl.

UCLA quarterback Dante Moore warms up during a preseason practice session.
UCLA quarterback Dante Moore (3) warms up during a preseason practice session at Spaulding Field at UCLA on Wednesday.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Moore versus Garbers wasn’t the only storyline as the Bruins commenced their final training camp as members of the Pac-12 before moving to the Big Ten in August 2024. There were the usual first-practice sights and sounds, whistles constantly blowing as players completed drills before shuttling from one part of the field to another.

Early in the practice, sweat dripped off several linebackers’ bodies as they thrust their hands into foam cushions atop a blocking sled.


“First day, take it easy,” inside linebackers coach Ken Norton Jr. instructed his players before they high-stepped through a latticework obstacle course.

Linebacker Darius Muasau said after practice that he stayed fresh throughout the roughly 90-minute session thanks to an offseason running regimen that could make UCLA the best-conditioned team in the Pac-12.

“Flying around today, I wasn’t tired at all,” Muasau said. “I wasn’t huffing and puffing, you know, and I’m pretty sure all the boys were feeling the same. We were ready to do a whole ‘nother practice if we could.”

The credit belonged to Keith Belton, the Bruins’ director of football performance who designed a series of six 50-yard sprints that players had to complete in a given time based on position. For the linebackers, it meant running 300 yards in 62 seconds or less.

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“The guys hated it,” Muasau said, “but it’s something we had to get done for the greater good of our team.”

All that running also revealed the fastest players on the team. Top speedsters included defensive back Croix Stewart and receiver J. Michael Sturdivant, though there remained some debate about who else belonged in their class.


“Oh, I put myself top four,” Brown said with a smile. “You know, everybody thinks that they’re the fastest guy.”