Josh Rosen enters his junior season at UCLA under a microscope. Yes, people want to see how he fares after undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery last November, but there are also question marks about his off-field demeanor and commitment to football.
Are those legitimate concerns about the star quarterback?
“Not a chance,” Pac-12 Network analyst Yogi Roth said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “Where do those (accusations) come from? One hot-tub tweet as a freshman, the Trump hat probably – I understand that. I think when you look at Josh’s mind – and he was this way coming out of high school – he is a guy that’s going to question everything. That’s just the way his mental makeup is. The is a young man who grew up in a house with some really educated parents. He grew up in a house where he was asked and challenged to question and be curious about everything.”
An inquisitive mind, though, can lead to unfair speculation about a player’s personality: Is this kid coachable? What’s he like off the field? Will he divide the locker room?
Sometimes those questions are justified. Oftentimes, they’re not.
“To me, the silver lining for Josh was last year when he got hurt,” Roth said. “He was the No. 1 or No. 2 recruit as a sophomore in high school at the quarterback position in the entire country – meaning spotlight, you got to go win, you’re the starter. He shows up on campus against UVA in Week 1 and blows up.”
Indeed, Rosen was 28-of-35 for 351 yards and three touchdowns in his first college start, a 34-16 win over Virginia in September 2015. Heisman Trophy and national-title talk ensued almost immediately.
“He never got a minute to breathe,” Roth said. “Last year, he gets injured and misses the back half of the season. Finally he got a chance to just relax – kind of that redshirt year, per se. I think for him, talking to him just a couple days ago, it was the best thing that could have happened to him, to just to be able to take a breath. In this world of quarterbacking, I believe we set expectations that are fair to set on the field, but we forget that they’re 19, that they’re 20, and they’re still developing as young men.
“I think for Josh, he’s gone through rough patches and now kind of the mantra for him is ‘Every day, one percent better’ – versus ‘Let me try to do so much at one time. Let me try to change every perception right now.’ That’s kind of unrealistic. So I think what you’re going to see this year is a really grounded kid who has evolved a lot because of the experience that he’s had at such a young age. I think he’s going to thrive. (He’s), in my opinion, a top-10 draft pick at quarterback if (he chooses) to come out after this next season.”
But first things first: 2017. UCLA opens the season at home against Texas A&M on Sunday, Sept. 3. Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m. ET.