Redshirt sophomore quarterback Asiantii Woulard shared his decision to transfer from UCLA Wednesday afternoon, a move that if finalized puts ballyhooed true freshman Josh Rosen one step closer to starting the Bruins opener Sept. 5 against Virginia.
After much thought, I’ll be transferring from UCLA. Thankful for the opportunity & great experience, now looking forward to a new beginning.
— Asiantii Woulard (@Asiantii2_) June 3, 2015
UCLA sports information said the above tweet is “the first [it] had heard” of Woulard transferring. While Woulard’s tweet is unlikely a replay of Cardale Jones’ “May Fools'” gag last month, I am still awaiting confirmation.
Woulard is one of the “four quarterbacks” UCLA head coach Jim Mora said on April 30 he felt confident turning the Bruin offense over to, but realistically, one of three legitimate contenders to replace NFL-bound Brett Hundley. The race entering spring was Woulard, Josh Rosen and Jerry Neuheisel, UCLA’s only scholarship quarterbacks on the roster.
Some new team could be getting a gifted quarterback, no matter where Woulard may opt to transfer. In 2013, Mora compared Woulard to Oregon’s Marcus Mariota, and the physical and style comparisons are indeed there.
UCLABruins.com lists Woulard at a conservative 6-foot-3, and he uses that long, lean frame to explode out of the pocket. Continued refinement of his passing is essential, but Asiantii Woulard could develop into an explosive playmaker elsewhere.
He’s a product of Florida, so a transfer somewhere in the Southeast is a distinct possibility. His suitors included Florida, Florida State, Ole Miss and Mississippi State. Any of those could use another quarterback for 2016.
While Woulard’s immediate future could be wide open, Josh Rosen’s is coming a bit more into focus. It’s certainly much too early to discount Jerry Neuheisel, a veteran with game-experience running offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone’s playbook.
Nevertheless, all eyes will turn to Josh Rosen if Woulard is indeed on the way out. With the Pac-12’s most veteran returning lineup, thus a very real shot at a conference title, the freshman could carry some serious weight on his unproven shoulders.
The dynamic of a roster laden with upperclassmen having a true freshman quarterbacking the offense is unusual. Though redshirt freshmen won the Heisman Trophy in 2012 and 2013, and other first-year starters like Arizona’s Anu Solomon have thrived, all had a year as redshirts to learn the playbook, develop bonds with teammates and acclimate to college life.
UCLA similarly benefited from redshirting Hundley. In fact, the last team in the Pac-12 with legitimate conference title aspirations to start a true freshman at quarterback was USC, when Pete Carroll chose Matt Barkley over Aaron Corp in 2009.
Barkley finished that season with 15 touchdown passes to 14 interceptions, a sub-60 percent completion rating, and the Trojans’ run of seven consecutive conference championships came to an end.
Josh Rosen is renowned as a truly special prospect. If the UCLA quarterback job is in fact his, he’ll have to be exceedingly special to elevate the Bruins in a crowded Pac-12 South.