Devon Modster progresses as UCLA’s backup quarterback
LOS ANGELES — Devon Modster has the arm. He has the legs. Now UCLA wants its backup quarterback to develop his voice too.
Modster is firmly entrenched as starting quarterback Josh Rosen’s understudy with three days of practice left in training camp. Offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch is impressed with the way the redshirt freshman has taken to the playbook. His decision making is faster and his throws are more accurate. As his confidence grows, the naturally quiet Modster is slowly coming out of his shell.
“We’re asking him to really push himself out of his comfort zone,” Fisch said. “Be louder, be more demonstrative, be more animated, but that comes with confidence and you have to kind of have that feel like, ‘I really know this.’”
Modster traded in his scout team jersey for a yellow quarterback practice jersey halfway through last season. Rosen’s season-ending injury elevated the Tesoro High alum to the backup quarterback position while Mike Fafaul took the reins for the final six games.
During spring, Modster competed with fellow redshirt freshman Matt Lynch for the backup position, but edged his way in front by the end and is only continuing to improve.
“I just try to come out here every day, get better, perfect the offense, learn the offense as much as I can,” Modster said.
Lynch and true freshman Austin Burton are sharing reps with the third and fourth teams. It’s been a swift rise for Burton, a Boston-area transplant by way of a Florida high school. The former three-star prospect joined the Bruins two days before spring quarter started. It took him six days of spring practice to earn even two snaps during a team period.
This fall, it took him less than one practice to turn in a highlight play: a 25-yard touchdown pass off his back foot to Jordan Lasley. Burton dropped the snap, picked it up and calmly lofted a pass to the end zone while defenders were bearing down on him.
He continues to mix attention-grabbing touchdown passes with rookie mistakes, such as not getting the offense lined up fast enough, but coaches are encouraged by his quick progress.
“He’s more confident trying to stick the ball in there when he knows where to go,” Fisch said. “The more plays that he knows where to go, the more you could see the velocity come out, you could see the ball jump off his hand, so that’s the exciting part with someone like Austin.”
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