Six-man QB competition will take time

April, 5, 2012
4/05/12
9:19
PM PT
LOS ANGELES -- Quarterback competitions are the annual rites of spring around UCLA, so it's no surprise to find the Bruins beginning another spring football camp without a clear-cut frontrunner for the most important position on the field.

And coach Jim Mora is making it clear he won't be rushing into a decision.

Mora and new offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone are making it a true open competition, giving six quarterbacks an equal number of reps through the first two days and if there were more quarterbacks in camp, they'd be getting reps, too.

"If you had any eligibility left, I'd give you a shot," Mazzone said to a reporter.

The goal is clear: The coaches want to see every quarterback in as many situations as possible before making any kind of a decision. They are looking for leadership, command of the offense and decision-making ability as much as accuracy and arm strength and they intend to give each quarterback the opportunity to show all of those things.

"We put guys in situations where you can evaluate them and if we get down the line a couple of days and we haven’t seen a player in a certain position where we can make an evaluation then we have to create that situation for him," Mora said. "That’s what we’ll try to do with reps with the quarterback."

There is no official depth chart, but if there were it would appear Kevin Prince is No. 1 right now followed by Brett Hundley, Richard Brehaut, Jerry Neuheisel, walk-on Mike Fafaul and incoming freshman T.J. Millweard, based on performance and order of repetitions over the first two days.

But Mazzone said it would be inaccurate to read anything into the order and number of reps at this point in in the process.

"I grabbed [Prince] and threw him in there first because he was our starting quarterback, but it’s a wide-open deal," Mazzone said. "After that, I just kind of turned around. They learned real quick that I turn around and the guy I see first I put in next. So they’re all right there behind me."

The need-it-now mentality in the information age lends itself to a fanbase that wants immediate answers to the UCLA quarterback question, but Mora has no idea and he made it clear he isn't going to make his evaluations public on a regular basis. He never has seen any of these quarterbacks play live before this week and would like to build a database of information before he even starts to try and make any kind of decisions.

"The one thing I don’t think is going to be appropriate for me to do is to come off the field and evaluate the quarterbacks on a daily basis with the media," Mora said. "I think that what’s important is that we just let it happen. We need to be patient, but we need to be patient at the same time. I’m not going to come off the field every day saying oh it’s this guy, it’s that guy. I’ll just let it develop naturally."

Quarterback competitions are old hat for Prince and Brehaut, who went through the same thing two springs ago as well as last spring and last fall. Prince emerged the starter after each of those, but said that doesn't give him any advantage this spring.

"It’s football," Prince said. "There is supposed to be competition. Especially when there are new coaches, you just can’t expect to be handed a starting position so it makes it so you have to go out here and be at your best every day. It’s fine. It’s part of the game. Every week is a competition during the regular season, so why should practice be any different."

The crowd at quarterback figures to thin out as spring practice wears on. Mora has said he hopes someone rises above the others at some point during the spring and he would like to have a starter named before training camp opens in August.

Mazzone said it would behoove the team to at least narrow down the field after the first couple of weeks of spring.

"Hopefully it separates itself the first couple of weeks because it’s impossible to get six guys ready," Mazzone said. "At some point we have to start to narrow this thing down to two or three guys where they can start to get more reps, but I want this to be an open competition just like it is for every position on offense and I’m sure defense."

Prince and Brehaut are the only ones with Division I experience so they have to be the favorites, but Hundley spent last year gleaning knowledge as a redshirt and said he is ready to win the spot. He also said sitting out last season increased his appetite to win some playing time.

"There is a fire burning inside," Hundley said. "It’s just like you want the position and you’ll do anything to get it so there is a big fire."

Brehaut said the key for him will be to stay consistent throughout the spring and to focus more on himself than the other quarterbacks.

"I’m worried about competing against myself and pushing myself everyday," Brehaut said. "Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing, just worry about the reps that I get. It’s not about worrying about Kevin made this throw so I have to make an even better throw. I just have to make a great throw every time. I can’t worry about what everyone else does."

NOTES: Receiver Joe Fauria pulled his hamstring running a route and Mora said "you have to give that thing a little time and see where he is at. ... Former quarterback Darius Bell has switched to receiver and stood out with several outstanding catches Thursday.

Peter Yoon

ESPNLosAngeles.com

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