After a quarterback battle that spanned all spring and fall camps, UCLA head coach Chip Kelly named Ethan Garbers the starting quarterback on Monday for the Bruins' season opener against Coastal Carolina.
Kelly said that while Garbers will start on Saturday, Kent State transfer Collin Schlee and five-star freshman Dante Moore will also play. The exact plan on rotating them, according to Kelly, is to be determined.
"All three deserve to play," Kelly said at practice Monday morning. "It's been a really good battle with those guys."
Garbers, who competed with Schlee, redshirt freshman Justyn Martin and Moore for the job, threw for 294 yards and two touchdowns last season and was arguably the safest choice for Kelly given his experience as the Bruins' backup last season.
The junior will try to fill the void left behind by Dorian Thompson-Robinson, who departed to the NFL after five years at UCLA. Thompson-Robinson started seven games as a freshman in 2018 and was the Bruins' starter through last season. He took over the starting job during Kelly's first season as UCLA head coach and went on to become the Bruins' all-time leader in passing touchdowns last season.
While Kelly never hinted at who the starting quarterback would be and split reps evenly throughout camp, according to the quarterbacks, he did emphasize how important decision-making was in selecting a quarterback and praised Thompson-Robinson for his evolution in that category throughout his time in Westwood.
In some ways, such a factor correlates with Kelly's decision to go with Garbers, who acknowledged that he had an advantage during the competition given his familiarity with Kelly's system.
"He's the most experienced in our offense," Kelly said. "He's been the longest in our system, so that's why he's the starter."
All four quarterbacks, as well as veteran quarterback Chase Griffin, who has acted as a player-mentor to the group, have raved about the way each player's different skill set as well as the competition has made them all excel both in the film room and on the field.
"There's only one person that can play that spot, but I think that brings out the best," UCLA wide receiver Kyle Ford said earlier this month. "And if that doesn't bring out the best in you, then I honestly don't want that person as my quarterback."