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Josh Rosen was always the choice at UCLA

LOS ANGELES -- It was always misleading to refer to the process UCLA used to replace quarterback Brett Hundley as a "competition."

That would imply it was Josh Rosen vs. Jerry Neuheisel, and that's not an accurate portrayal of how things played out. They may have split reps, but Neuheisel's value since January, when Rosen enrolled early, was in the example he set for the Chosen One. To have a veteran quarterback willing to bring along a young guy, possibly at the expense of his own opportunities, is a coach's dream -- and that's what Neuheisel did.

"He's honestly a big part of why I won the job because he's such a selfless guy," Rosen said.

If Rosen, a consensus five-star recruit, didn't grasp the offense or develop quickly enough for coach Jim Mora or offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone's liking, they could have played Neuheisel and felt reasonably comfortable. But Rosen was always the plan. The talent discrepancy dictated as much.

It wouldn't have sent the right message if Rosen was named the starter any earlier than he was, a little more than a week before the Sept. 5 opener against Virginia, but when the official word came Wednesday from Mora, it should have surprised no one. It certainly didn't surprise Rosen, who placed a significant amount of importance on early playing time during the recruiting process.

"It was a big factor, as it is with everyone," Rosen said of the opportunity to play early. "Everyone in general in college football now, and in athletics in general, is just better and more athletic and the trend is to want to play earlier and faster and a lot of guys are leaving for the NFL earlier because everyone is just that much better.

"It's definitely a lure to get into a program and take over from Day 1."

And the UCLA coaching staff, at least to a degree, played that up.

"They're telling me I have the job from Day 1," Rosen said. "That's called good recruiting, but you can never take that too seriously."

Whether he took it seriously or not, it played out the way he hoped and probably expected. He also cleared up any misinterpretations of Mora's public lashing in San Bernandino last week.

"I know 100 percent that Mora has my back through thick and thin, inside and outside of UCLA, inside and outside of football," Rosen said. "I have complete trust in him and complete trust in this team. Whatever he does, I'm the utmost confident that it's for the betterment of myself as an individual and the team as a whole."

For Neuheisel, Rosen's anointment was a tough reality to finally accept. He's savvy enough to have seen the writing on the wall, but that does little to make up for the confirmation of a shattered dream.

"It's been my dream my whole life to be the starting quarterback at UCLA, so to be told you're not, at least at the start, is a little heartbreaking," he said. "As a player, you're not always going to agree with the decisions of your coach, but it's your job to execute. All I want is for our team to be victorious."

Neuheisel held out hope that an opportunity will still come his way, but unless there is an injury it's hard to see how that might come. The coaching staff shut down the concept of using two quarterbacks and even mop-up duty seems unlikely with a true freshman starter who will benefit from every snap.