UCLA begins building new offense around Rosen in spring ball
LOS ANGELES (AP) UCLA has its quarterback in Josh Rosen. Now the Bruins must figure out what the offense around their breakout star will look like.
As the Bruins open spring practice Tuesday, they will begin their transition away from the spread offense that broke records during head coach Jim Mora's first four seasons. Kennedy Polamalu was promoted to offensive coordinator in January after Noel Mazzone left for Texas A&M, and the former Southern California fullback and respected running backs coach is expected to implement a pro-style scheme with an emphasis on power football.
Mora specifically said that tight ends and fullbacks would have an increased role when announcing Polamalu's new role, marking a dramatic shift away from the wide-open, four-receiver sets that defined Mazzone's system.
Whether UCLA has the personnel to make a smooth transition is uncertain. With only two fullbacks and one tight end on the roster last season, the Bruins' defensive linemen and linebackers were used on offense in short-yardage and goal-line situations.
UCLA has signed tight end Jordan Wilson and fullback Jalen Starks while also adding tight end Caleb Wilson as a transfer from the rival Trojans. Wilson originally committed to Old Dominion as a quarterback before walking on at USC, where his father was defensive line coach under Steve Sarkisian.
Mora also said that players already on the roster could change positions to bolster the Bruins' numbers at tight end and fullback.
''That's a position that we have not emphasized a lot here in the last couple years, the last four years, and it's going to be a little bit more of an emphasis,'' Mora said.
But Rosen is still going to be the centerpiece of the offense.
''It's not like we are going to be running the wishbone,'' Mora said. ''We've got a pretty good quarterback in Josh, so we like it when he is throwing it.''
Rosen passed for 3,668 yards and 23 touchdowns against 11 interceptions, winning the Pac-12's Offensive Freshman of the Year award and headlining numerous freshman All-America teams.
Living up to his billing as the nation's top prep quarterback, Rosen set a school record by throwing 245 straight passes without an interception. His arm strength, mechanics and mobility impressed NFL scouts and analysts to the point that Rosen is already being touted as a potential future No. 1 overall draft pick.
But Rosen's effectiveness diminished in losses to USC and Nebraska to end his bright first season. Rosen's wide receivers were unable to beat man-to-man coverage, resulting in the quarterback struggling and throwing four interceptions when pressured.
With three of UCLA's top four receivers graduating or entering the NFL draft - a trio that accounted for 155 catches, 2,236 yards receiving and 18 touchdowns last season - replacing them with wideouts who can create separation is a clear focus.
''Definitely I think I can bring a lot of speed to the offense, especially with the guys that we have coming in like Demetric Felton and Damian Alloway,'' said freshman receiver Theo Howard, who enrolled early to participate in spring practice. ''I think we can definitely go deep and bring a different game.''