LOS ANGELES — Everything is new at UCLA.
The Bruins have new uniforms as part of a massive apparel deal. The practice field has a new artificial playing surface. And there’s the new Wasserman Football Center that will house all aspects of the program from meetings to workouts.
But the biggest and boldest change at UCLA is the decidedly low-key persona quarterback Josh Rosen has taken on, a dramatic shift from the brashness that has been associated with him.
“I’m just kind of living my life,” Rosen said Sunday. “I didn’t play as well last year so I guess less people kind of covering me, but I’m just working as hard as I can every day.”
Rosen’s first two seasons in Westwood were defined as much by his proclivity for creating headlines away from the field as what he did throwing for 5,583 yards and 33 touchdowns. There was the viral photo showing a hot tub he brought into his dorm room, another disparaging then-presidential candidate Donald Trump while playing golf. When UCLA announced its 15-year, $280-million deal with Under Armour, Rosen used the big contract to mock the NCAA’s nonprofit status on social media.
Ask Rosen about any topic, he would gladly share his thoughts.
After missing the final six games of last season with a shoulder injury and UCLA sinking to its first losing record under coach Jim Mora, however, that outspoken Rosen has seemingly been replaced with a more cautious and subdued version.
Rosen said it isn’t a conscious change.
“You grow every day,” Rosen said. “Get older, you get bigger, get better, get smarter, and UCLA has treated me very well the last few years. And I definitely look forward to continuing that process.”
Referencing his lower profile on social media, Rosen said: “It wasn’t like a definitive ‘I’m going to do X, Y, Z.’ I just kind of tuned out a little bit.”
Mora welcomed the new attitude, as the sixth-year coach had previously critiqued Rosen’s unfiltered approach.
“I think that young men progress and mature throughout their time here,” Mora said. “Everybody comes here at a different stage of maturity mentally, emotionally, physically certainly, and I think we are all really happy with where Josh is right now and the offseason he has had and the attitude that he has taken, the approach that he has adopted. And I think that’s a real credit to him. He has done a tremendous job of just self-reflecting and figuring out ways that he can become better.”
A season free of controversy could also be beneficial in solidifying Rosen’s status as one of the top quarterbacks eligible for the 2018 NFL draft, alongside Sam Darnold of rival Southern California and Wyoming’s Josh Allen, as some NFL scouts and executives have echoed Mora’s past criticism.
Mora and Rosen both seem more interested in how the junior will perform on the field when UCLA opens training camp Wednesday. Rosen will be working with new offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch, preparing to execute his third different scheme in as many years.
Wide receiver Darren Andrews said Rosen led more player-run practices during the summer than ever before to make the transition as smooth as possible. That process seems to have been successful. Traces of the more-boisterous Rosen finally emerged when he was talking football.
“I think everyone is really excited to attack the year,” Rosen said. “We’re supremely confident in our coaching staff. I can’t speak as much to the defense, but offensively I would go to war with anyone of them. We have a really good crop of core leadership in the locker room. We have the same goals and process and ideas in mind. There is no miscommunication. We all know where we are going. We all know how we want to get there.”
Andrews and defensive back Jaleel Wadood believe Rosen’s new attitude is a manifestation of how badly he wants to erase last season’s 4-8 record. The old Rosen is still there, they believe, though perhaps not for public consumption.
“He seems the same to me. I mean, Josh is going to be Josh. He’s our quarterback. We believe in him, he’s our leader and we know he is going to make the plays,” Andrews said.
“I think he is just ready to get back on the football field,” said Wadood, a high school teammate of Rosen. “He doesn’t really have too much to say but just wants to play.”