Posted on September 28, 2020
With better supporting talent, UCLA might have claimed the distinction of QBU for the 2010s.
It would be a reach to compare the accomplishments of recent Bruin quarterbacks to those of Teddy Bridgewater and Lamar Jackson of Louisville, Cardale Jones, JT Barrett and Dwayne Haskins of Ohio State, or Tajh Boyd, Deshaun Watson and Trevor Lawrence of Clemson.
We’ll never know how the quarterbacks who called Westwood home this past decade—Brett Hundley, Josh Rosen and Dorian Thompson-Robinson—might have fared had they played for those schools. But their recruiting credentials and talent suggest they would have performed better than they did as Bruins.
The big difference between those other quarterbacks and UCLA’s is the talent gap among the rest of the offense. While there have been 17 Bruins drafted in the first three rounds of the NFL Draft since 2010, only four came from the offensive side. The Bruin signal-callers showed signs of greatness, but lacked adequate support from their teammates and coaches.
Each one of UCLA’s three main starters of the decade brought unique skills and created their own special impact on the Bruin program, while helping to make up for a talent gap on their side of the ball.
Hundley showed the Bruin faithful that they did not have to play second fiddle to crosstown rival USC, and that winning should be an expectation for UCLA, not an exception.
Hundley began his redshirt freshman year with a new head coach in Jim Mora, and rattled off three straight nonconference wins.
Following a five-game winning streak over conference opponents, Hundley took his team to a Pac-12 Championship Game. Although the Bruins would lose, they finished with nine wins for the first time since 2005, and for only the second time in the millennium.
But he did not stop there.
Hundley would go on to win 10 games in each of the two seasons after, claiming two bowl victories and going a perfect 8-0 against non-Pac-12 schools. But he always seemed to save his best for the biggest opponent.
UCLA went 3-0 against USC with Hundley under center. The quarterback went 62-of-88 with nine total touchdowns against the Trojans as the Bruins took three consecutive Victory Bell wins for the first time since they won eight in a row from 1991-98.
When Hundley declared for the draft following his redshirt junior season, he left behind a Bruin team in search of the next big thing.
Rosen was just that.
Nicknamed “Chosen Rosen,” the future 10th overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft was a gunslinger in the mold of Aaron Rodgers. On his worst days, he could throw three picks and just one touchdown, like his games against BYU in 2015 and Texas A&M in 2016.
On his best days, the man was near unstoppable. You don’t have to look any further than his comeback win over the Aggies in 2017.
Staring down a 34-point deficit with a little over two minutes left in the third quarter, Rosen put on a performance for the ages, rallying his team to a remarkable comeback victory. Rosen finished the night with 491 yards through the air and four touchdowns, while simultaneously cementing his spot in college football lore.
Unfortunately for Rosen, he could not live up to the winning pattern established by his predecessor, joining a team coming off three straight seasons of nine or more wins is tough for any quarterback. And the Bruins had 16 players drafted between 2015-17, leaving lots of spots to be filled.
Rosen left with a 17-13 record, as injuries cut his sophomore season short. While he has not lived up to his potential in the NFL, his time at UCLA puts him near the top for collegiate West Coast quarterbacks in the 2010s.
Rosen and Hundley both had one boogeyman neither could beat: Stanford. The two combined for an 0-6 record against the Cardinal, the only school neither was able to take down.
In came Dorian Thompson-Robinson.
The No. 2-rated dual-threat quarterback in his class, Thompson-Robinson brought in a lot of hype but not much experience, having only started during his senior year in high school. Coach Chip Kelly used him as a backup to begin his career, but he was soon rushed in, due to injuries.
His big-play ability and movement outside the pocket led to outstanding individual performances. His 2019 game against Washington State, where he totaled over 550 yards of offense, and his efficient 13-of-15 winning effort against Cal in 2018, showed how good Thompson-Robinson can be when at the top of his game.
The main event came Oct. 17 during the 2019 season at Stanford. Shaking off a 11-year old curse, Thompson-Robinson threw for two scores and ran for one more as the Bruins finally won against their Northern California rival for the first time since 2008, in a 34-16 romp.
The main impediments to success in Thompson-Robinson’s career, netting him a losing record, have been injuries and turnovers. If he is able to cut down on both, he could usher in a winning start to the Bruins’ new decade.
Each of the three UCLA quarterbacks brought something new to the Bruins. Hundley returned a winning culture to a team in desperate search of one; Rosen came with a swagger and a determination to never quit; and Thompson-Robinson transformed his explosive abilities into magic moments.
These three quarterbacks defined the decade for the Bruins, and might have done much more, had they been afforded the benefits of better surrounding talent and coaching.
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