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UCLA Football Position-By-Position Breakdown: Quarterback

With the competition essentially wide open, who will start for the Bruins at QB?
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There's plenty of optimism ahead of the 2023-24 season for Chip Kelly and the UCLA Bruins. This veteran-heavy squad is looking to improve upon last year's 9-4 record. Among the more pertinent storylines surrounding this team, the starting quarterback spot has yet to be determined. 

Dorian Thompson-Robinson started parts of five different seasons in Westwood before moving on to the NFL with the Cleveland Browns. During this time, he accrued a whopping 116 total touchdowns to go along with 10,701 passing yards and 1,826 rushing yards. Suffice to say, but the eventual starter has some big shoes to fill from a statistical standpoint. 

This piece is the first of a series in which we'll be breaking down UCLA by position group. We'll look at the top contenders for the job -- as well as making a prediction as to what we can expect by the time the Bruins kick off their 2023-24 season on Sept. 2 in the Rose Bowl versus Coastal Carolina. 

Top Contenders: Ethan Garbers (RS Jr.); Dante Moore (Fr.)

In The Hunt: Justyn Martin (RS Fr.); Collin Schlee (RS Jr.); Chase Griffin (Sr.); Luke Duncan (Fr.)

Martin is a player with tremendous upside -- and one who has the look of a future starter down the line. The physical tools are apparent, though it'll be about a continuance in refining his delivery of the football. 

Schlee was a sneaky-good pickup for the Bruins in the offseason. The former Kent State signal-caller is a perfect security blanket in the event of an emergency. He's got a lot of experience and can be inserted in a pinch. Plus, don't be shocked if Kelly utilizes Schlee's athleticism in some type of Wildcat package. 

Duncan is a near certainty to redshirt. Griffin is one of the team's most respected leaders. He's been a champion for all athletes in regards to the NIL landscape. While he's unlikely to see the field, "President Chase" -- as his teammates refer to him -- certainly has a bright future once his playing days end. 

At this point, it looks like a two-horse race between Moore and Garbers. 

Garbers is likely the slight favorite as of Aug. 11. A transfer from Washington, the former 4-star QB came back home to Southern California after one year in Seattle. He benefits from the fact he's been in Kelly's system for multiple seasons (unlike Moore). This includes participating in a college strength and conditioning program during this period. The general experience Garbers has in terms of actual game experience is also a plus for his candidacy. 


Ethan Garbers: 11 total games ; 57-of-88 (64.8-percent) for 599 yards passing ; 4 TDs : 4 INTs ; 2 rushing TDs on 25 carries for 31 yards (1.2 YPC)

Dante Moore: N/A

Moore's journey to Westwood was a bit less conventional. Regarded as one of the best prep prospects in the entire country for the class of 2023, the Detroit native flipped very late in his recruitment from Oregon to UCLA. He immediately became one of the most touted players UCLA has signed over the last 20 years. 

Lauded for his maturity, Moore's even-keeled temperament on the field is further buoyed by terrific touch-on throws to all parts of the field. He won't 'wow' you with plus-arm strength. However, the ball seemingly gets where it needs to be each and every time. It's a testament to Moore's acuity in reading defenses and reacting accordingly. 

"[Moore] will make a throw, and he'll do that Steph Curry turn away before the guy catches it. I love that stuff, man. Just the confidence, that's what turns me up." - UCLA WR Kyle Ford

(Quote courtesy of Ben Bolch)

How The Competition Will Shake Out

It's an interesting conundrum for Kelly. On one hand, you have a capable QB (Garbers) with more experience and slightly better athleticism. On the other hand, there could be the pressure to start Moore right away -- if for nothing else not to alienate him in any way. This is the reality with the sport in general since the transfer portal has turned into a virtual feeding frenzy for D1 programs. 

Moore likely has the advantage from an arm talent standpoint on deep throw touch and throws beyond 10 yards. He's also not your 'average freshman' from a maturity standpoint. Teammates have praised his work ethic all offseason long. 

The non-conference slate (Coastal Carolina, at SDSU, North Carolina Central) isn't overly harsh. SDSU could be a frisky opponent on the road -- though it's only a two-ish hour drive down the freeway (barring traffic). I could see a scenario in which Kelly names Garbers as the starter -- yet also plays Moore in all three games. 

From there, the team can gain some empirical data in picking an ultimate starter for the highly-anticipated Week 4 showdown in Salt Lake City versus the Utah Utes.