Saturday, April 21, 2012
No favorite emerging in QB competition
By Peter Yoon
LOS ANGELES -- The quarterback competition continues to rage in UCLA's spring practice as none of the contenders has yet to distinguish himself as the leading candidate and that can mean one of two things.
The optimist will say it's because each of the leading contenders has played at the same high level; the cynic would argue that they have all been equally mediocre.
Coach Jim Mora and offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone have made it known that they would like to have a quarterback emerge from the pack at some point this spring, but with nine of the 15 sessions in the books Kevin Prince, Richard Brehaut and Brett Hundley are still neck-and-neck for the lead with Jerry Neuheisel still clinging to a spot in the race.
"I feel a little bit different every day," Mora said when asked if anyone has emerged through the first three weeks of camp. "So me giving you that answer is really saying no. I really still feel like over the course of the next six practices we’ll start to see some separation."
Judging by rep counts, there has been some separation over the last week. The spring began with six quarterbacks equally sharing the repetitions, but incoming freshman T.J. Millweard and walk-on Mike Fafaul have had their reps decrease over the past three or four sessions as Prince, Brehaut and Hundley have dominated the playing time.
Mazzone, asked about 14 different ways how the competition was unfolding in his mind, gave a similar non-answer about 14 different times.
"Right now, you've got a couple of old guys in Brehaut and K.P. who have been around the block a couple of times so they should be a little bit ahead of the other guys because they’ve played more," Mazzone said. "We’ve got some young talented kids that are kind of growing up."
All of the contending quarterbacks have had their shining moments of impressive play. Each has shown a good command of the offense at times, made some nice throws and good decisions. But each has struggled with poor throws, interceptions and bad decisions at times as well. It's that type of inconsistent play that leaves the coaches non-committal about the leading contenders for the job.
"They haven’t really said much," Brehaut said. "They’re keeping a good poker face, but hopefully after today we can start narrowing it down and not everyone getting equal reps, but maybe the guys who are starting to get to the top to take more reps."
Mora said earlier this week that he would funnel down the quarterback rotation for the final two weeks of spring. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that Prince, Brehaut and Hundley will be getting the lion's share of action over the final six spring sessions and Mora said he intends to put them in more difficult situations in an attempt to sort through the logjam.
"We’re going to amp up the pressure," Mora said. "We’ve created more situational football, more emphasis on third downs, more live situations. When you do that, there will be separation."
But six practices may not be enough for a clear-cut winner of the job to emerge, so figure on this competition lasting through the summer and into the fall.
"I’d love, for the sake of the team, to come out of the spring feeling like we had a guy," Mora said. "I never felt that was going to necessarily be the absolute. Hopefully we can, but if we don’t, we can’t."
But even if the competition is not settled before spring camp breaks, don't expect it to last too deep into fall camp.
"I’m not going to take it up to the first week of the season, I can tell you that," Mora said.