UCLA QB questions will linger into the fall


After four weeks of spring football practice, including several scrimmage sessions and a spring game, here is all we know about UCLA's starting quarterback for next season: The Bruins will have one.

Just exactly who that will be probably won't be decided until the final week of fall camp.

Kevin Prince, last year's starter, didn't fully participate in spring practice because he is recovering from October knee surgery. Richard Brehaut, his replacement, showed signs of improvement after a nondescript performance in relief of Prince last season, but did not seize the job with a standout spring.

True freshman Brett Hundley showed flashes of the ability that made him a highly-sought recruit, but his performance this spring also served as a reminder of just how difficult quarterback can be for true freshmen.

By the end of spring practice, Nick Crissman had worked his way into the mix and seems on his way back to full health after an injury-riddled career, but he didn't get enough of an opportunity to stake claim to the starting role.

And that means UCLA will enter fall camp without a clear-cut choice to start the opening game Sept. 3 at Houston. In fact, coach Rick Neuheisel said, the Bruins broke spring camp without so much as a depth chart for the position.

"I don’t have a depth chart yet at quarterback because Kevin is not in the race," Neuheisel said. "So we’ll see."

Prince did some throwing drills this spring, but didn't participate in contact drills and Neuheisel seems intent on seeing if Prince has lost anything and if the injury-prone two-year starter can stay healthy.

But most of all, what Neuheiesel wants is to find someone who can routinely make the plays that is required of the one player on the field who touches the ball on every play.

"You have to have guys that can execute," Neuheisel said. "You have to run the route correctly and put it on the money when the guy is open and we don’t have a quarterback yet consistent that can do that. We’ve got to find one."

Brehaut showed this spring that he has better command of the offense, but still lags in his ability to execute. He's still missing throws--overthrowing and underthrowing more often than the Bruins offensive braintrust would like. And the ball comes out of his hand wobbly far more than it should.

Hundley, the highly-touted recruit who is the quarterback of the future, has too many thoughts swimming around in his head at the line of scrimmage and can't quite read a defense well enough to be considered a realistic opening day starter at this point. Crissman is a surprise entry into the competition, but he has missed two full seasons because of shoulder injuries.

That probably leaves Prince as the frontrunner even though he missed most of spring practice, but he'll have to prove he hasn't lost a step after missing more than six months after surgery.

"We’re going to have four healthy guys once Kevin gets back fighting for that starting spot and that’s the way it should be," Brehaut said. "We should have plenty of guys competing for that spot all the time."

Realistically, the competition will be between Prince and Brehaut--the only two who are game tested. Crissman is a wild card because nobody has seen him play much and Hundley could emerge as the season progresses, but it's doubtful he'll have enough of a command of the college game by opening day and he even acknowledged that he's a longshot at this point.

"Those quarterbacks we have right now are juniors and seniors, so I can’t really measure myself against them because they know the offense," he said.

That brings up an interesting dilemma: should UCLA redshirt Hundley if, as it appears he will, he ends up No. 3 or 4 on the depth chart when the season begins.

"Redshirting is not a problem to me," Hundley said. "If I have to, I have to."

The other option, f he does not win the starting job, would be to try to gradually get him game experience by giving him a drive here and a drive there throughout the season. Asked if he'd prefer that over redshirting, Hundley said he would have have more information.

"We’d have to talk with the coaches and see what the role would be and stuff like that," he said.