Unlike last season in southern California, as we approach the kickoff to the 2017 college football season, most of the local and national preseason hype is surrounding the USC Trojans, rather than the UCLA Bruins. In particular, the Heisman buzz surrounding Trojans quarterback Sam Darnold instead of unlike last year’s preseason when UCLA signal caller Josh Rosen was being thought of as a contender for the sport’s biggest individual prize.
Bruins head coach Jim Mora joined The Jim Rome Show Thursday on CBS Sports Radio and said he had no problem with where most of the media is focused in Los Angeles. He believes the Heisman hype surrounding the Trojans star is warranted.
“I think Sam Darnold deserves the spotlight. I mean, he’s a great player, he’s a great competitor,” Mora said. “You know we all saw what he did last year, he certainly should be the leader for the Heisman this year, and they’ve got a great team.
“Josh is coming off an injury, so you know people didn’t get to see the best Josh Rosen as a sophomore. And you know what, we kind of like staying out of the limelight. I know it doesn’t help sell tickets, but I think winning sells tickets. And we don’t need the hype. We want to create the hype through our performance, not through people’s predictions of what we can be.”
Rosen’s 2016 ended prematurely due to a shoulder injury, but Mora says it has helped him become an ever better player and leader.
“Josh has had a tremendous off-season. I think that was a real difficult emotional situation that he had to go through with the injury. He’d never really been hurt like that,” Mora said. “He’d never stood on the sideline and watched his team struggling and not being able to help. I think it changed him, I really do. I see a really different kid. I see a more mature person. I see a guy that has really stepped into a leadership role that is not resisting that at all. His teammates have great respect for him, admiration for the way they work, and really trust and who he has become.”
Of course, Rosen has made several headlines off-field, most recently for his comments on school and football not mixing and challenging the University of Alabama on their SAT standards.
Mora was asked if he had a problem with his quarterback expressing his opinions. “I don’t encourage it, I try to educate him about it,” he answered. “I don’t think I want to stifle opinions, I want to promote discussion as long as it’s healthy. I think what’s important, and let me just say this before I go any further, I don’t believe Josh was intentionally trying to throw any shade at Alabama. I think he, like everybody else, has major respect for them. I think he, just maybe, rather than saying a team he should have just kind of been a little bit more general in his comments there.
“I encourage these young men to think, to create opinions, to have the courage to state them, but also understand that every time you open your mouth in this time in our history, with social media being what it is, an instant reaction to everything that’s said, that you are going to create perceptions about yourself, whether they’re negative or positive that you have to deal with. That people are going to form opinions about you, positive or negative, that you have to deal with. So no, I’m not going to try to stifle him. I’m not going to encourage him, I’m just going to try to educate him, and you know I don’t have to agree with everything that is said, but I have to respect their opinion, and I do that. But at the same time, I think what’s most important, as adults, as educators, we make it clear to them what the ramifications are of speaking out publicly, and then they’re learning that’s how they learn.”