Few things are more predictable and amusing than a football coach yelling, though the level of amusement most often depends on whether the yelling is aimed at you or whether you might suffer later from guilt by association in the form of some punitive extra conditioning. Most players know that yelling is part of the football routine -- We're men! We're tough! Grrr! -- and they also know the most ominous thing a coach can do to a player is go silent.
So when published reporters gleefully recounted that UCLA coach Jim Mora berated true freshman quarterback Josh Rosen on Wednesday, readers were mostly being informed that reporters watched a football practice Wednesday and a football practice, indeed, happened while they watched. Except that when there's a QB competition on a national contender, every moment of intrigue is enlarged into a colorful headline.
When Mora, sensing a proverbial "lack of urgency" from his most touted recruit, barked, “You’re not at ... Bellflower St. John Bosco ... That’s why you have not been named the starter," was he sending a message to Rosen?
Did Mora want to rattle Rosen's cage when he mocked the favorite to become the Bruins starting QB as "the anointed one" in front of his teammates?
Did Mora want to make sure his theatrical moment was recorded for posterity when he then told members of the media, “Tell your readers that is why he has not been named the starter”?
Should UCLA fans begin to wring their hands over this and fret that maybe Rosen isn't getting it done?
Every indication is Rosen has met high expectations. His talent has not been overrated, at least in terms of how it reveals itself at practice. Mora's explosion, in fact, indicates that Rosen is front-and-center in his thoughts, and that the wheels of his coaching mind are churning forward. Where Mora was once focused on evaluating and teaching Rosen, he is now tempering his likely offensive leader, testing his emotional and psychological makeup.
Here's a phrase Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez uses a lot when talking about coaching and evaluating his quarterbacks: "We want him to be comfortable being uncomfortable." The idea is if the coach makes the stress of practice demanding, then the stress of a game in front of 90,000 fans won't feel any worse.
It starts with Mora wanting Rosen to be 100 percent zoned in on every practice rep. It continues with Mora wanting Rosen to not feel entitled and to handle hard coaching.
And, yes, Mora wants to remind Rosen that he's not yet The Man, and that, in fact, he's not going to be The Man on the 2015 Bruins, who are overflowing with veterans to whom Rosen needs to defer.
If there was one flaw on Rosen's sterling recruiting résumé, it was the perception of his ego. There were more than a few Pac-12 coaches who didn't particularly take to him during the recruiting process. I have not yet talked to him so I can't take a position on that, but no one has described Rosen as humble.
He'll learn humility. Mora will help him with that, as will offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone and teammates such as senior center Jake Brendel. The guess here is that Pac-12 defenses will help too.
The overall takeaway from the practice kerfuffle is that while Rosen is good Mora wants to reinforce to him that UCLA and the Pac-12 aren't St. John Bosco and that the focus, intensity and seriousness need to ramp up.
Only it's a lot more fun to witness that message's delivery when Mora is bellowing it.