UCLA: Kevin Prince
On the other hand, it’s a pretty big hurdle.
The No. 25 UCLA Bruins (4-1, 1-1 Pac-12) play at California (1-4, 0-2) Saturday at 7 p.m. in a game to be televised by the Pac-12 Networks. UCLA will be looking to end a run of mini failures that has seemingly paralleled its struggles as a program.
The Bruins haven’t won in Berkeley since 1998, a span of six consecutive losses in which the Bruins have been outscored 222-129. In the 13 seasons since that last win at Memorial Stadium, UCLA has gone 81-80, had six losing records and won more than seven games only twice.
A victory over a struggling Cal team Saturday won’t be cause for any parades in Westwood, but ending that losing streak would certainly be a significant step toward burying the recent failures of UCLA football and could be seen as a sign that things are, finally, headed in a different direction.
“It’s unfortunate that we haven’t won there in that long,” said quarterback Kevin Prince, who started a 35-7 loss to the Golden Bears in 2010. “But we feel like this team is completely different than last year’s and any past year’s so I don’t see why we would compare it to any of those teams that haven’t won there since 1998.”
One thing that is different than most of those teams is that the Bruins are ranked. The last time UCLA played at Cal as a ranked team was in 2000—the first game of the current losing streak. Then No. 13, the Bruins lost, 46-38 in triple overtime.
But an even bigger difference is that the Bruins aren’t paying attention to that ranking. They also aren’t paying attention to their record or Cal’s record. Coach Jim Mora has preached since Day 1 that the only way to sustained success is to forget about the past and not look ahead to the future. The task at hand is the only one that matters to Mora.
“We keep the demands high and try to keep the focus narrow,” Mora said. “We don’t talk about what happened last week, we just talk about what the challenges are for this week. It’s about becoming consistent and that’s the way you do that is to focus on the process.”
The Bruins have bought in. When they got off to a 3-0 start that included an impressive victory over Nebraska and rose to No. 19 in the national rankings, they weren’t patting themselves on the back. When they lost to Oregon State, they put it behind them and got busy preparing for the next game at Colorado. They won, 42-14 in one of the largest margins of victory on the road by a UCLA team over the last 10 seasons.
“You have to approach every day as a separate goal,” linebacker Damien Holmes said. “You can’t think about at a long-term goal. If you want to think that, then it’s going to be a long season. You have to have short-term goals and that’s the next practice and the next game.”
For several years now, UCLA has talked about turning around the program, returning it to the national relevance it had during much of the mid-1970’s into the late 1990’s. There has been hope over the years, win streaks and victories that seemed to be program changing, but UCLA has finished a season ranked only once since 1998 and went more than four years without sniffing the rankings until cracking the top 25 this season.
LOS ANGELES -- Case Keenum may be gone, but the aerial attack employed by the Houston Cougars remains.
The Cougars and new quarterback David Piland have picked up right where Keenum, the NCAA's all-time passing leader, left off. Piland ranks No. 2 in the nation with 791 yards passing and Houston is No. 4 in the nation in passing offense with 395.5 yards per game.
They run a high-tempo version of the spread, similar to the one UCLA is running, and got off a mind-boggling 115 plays last week in a 56-49 loss to Louisiana Tech. It's a style that is certain to keep the UCLA defense on its toes.
"They are up-tempo and do a tremendous job of protection and they get the ball out quickly so it's hard to get pressure on them," UCLA coach Jim Mora said. "That means our coverage has to be good downfield."
Last year, the UCLA secondary couldn't quite keep up. Keenum completed 30 of 40 passes for 310 yards and Houston racked up 469 yards of offense in a 38-34 victory over the Bruins. Safety Dalton Hilliard said the key this year is to be ready on every play.
"Get lined up because they are coming," Hilliard said. "We have to have the mindset that we are going to be ready every play and ready to play fast."
Because of Houston's high tempo, the UCLA secondary got caught out of position and the players had a difficult time making on-field adjustments before the snap. A few tweaks at halftime helped and Houston scored only one second-half touchdown in that game, but, by then it was too late.
"Communication is key," cornerback Aaron Hester said. "I think last year we weren't on the same page a lot in the first half and that's when they put up all their points. In the second half we slowed them down so now it's just all about starting fast and staying fast."
That hasn't been easy for the Bruins so far this season. In the first two games, UCLA has given up 48 points in the first half and only six in the second half. While it's nice to know that the halftime adjustments are paying off, the Bruins would like to play a solid defensive game from the get-go. Against an offense like Houston's, the Bruins have a chance to prove they can do just that.
"We want to be a full 60-minute defense," Hilliard said. "We see this as a great opportunity to show what we can do against such a high-powered offense."
Helping matters this year is the fact that the Bruins have been going against their own offense for the last two months. UCLA keeps the offensive pace high during practice, which is quite a change from last year when the Bruins ran a more methodical pistol attack.
"We see speed all day, every day, in practice so I feel like we’ll be much better prepared for the game, Hester said. "Essentially, it’s kind of the same thing as far as concepts and tempo. It's pretty familiar to us now so we won't be overwhelmed by it."
He talked about the Houston offense, how quarterback Kevin Prince is adjusting to a backup role, the importance of maintaining focus no matter how things are going, running back Johnathan Franklin and playing in front of the home crowd at the Rose Bowl.
After two years of a Pistol-based offensive scheme that delivered mostly duds, UCLA will unveil a high-paced spread attack in its season opener Thursday night at Rice.
Offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone used the scheme to produce a bonanza of passing yards and points during the last two seasons at Arizona State while UCLA struggled to throw or score with any measure of consistency.
It's an offense that relies on getting to the ball and running a play as quickly as possible. It will look far different than the last two years, when the UCLA offense moved at a snail's pace, was designed to chew up chunks of clock and keep the opposing offense off the field for as long as possible.
This offense is designed only to chew up yards with dynamic playmakers and it has the team excited as the season draws near.
"It’s a more exciting, big-play offense," quarterback Brett Hundley said. "The Pistol was a great offense, too, but this spread is probably going to be more entertaining to watch. It's fast tempo, fast action, big plays and you’re just making things happen."
Mazzone used it quite effectively at Arizona State. In his first year in Tempe, the Sun Devils ranked No. 15 in the nation in passing offense at 286.42 yards per game and were No. 28 in scoring at 32.25 points per game.
Last year, Arizona State was No. 10 in passing (316.69 ypg) and No. 29 in scoring (33.15 ppg) and perhaps most important to UCLA fans, the Sun Devils racked up 392 yards in offense in a 43-22 victory over USC.
Meanwhile, UCLA frustrated their fans with a deliberate offense that produced a mediocre passing attack, ranking No. 116 in the nation in 2010 and No. 81 last season. The offense offered little scoring punch with 20.2 points per game in 2010 (No. 104 in the nation) and 23.07 in 2011. (No. 88). Because of that, the Bruins had few options when it came time to dig out of holes.
"It definitely makes sense, especially with our personnel," quarterback Kevin Prince said of the new offensive philosophy. "We have tons of guys who we just need to get them in open space and get the ball in their hands. Not having that in the past was frustrating, especially for those guys. They obviously knew what they could do and what they were capable of, so it will be a lot more fun."
SAN BERNARDINO — The change began to take place shortly after the UCLA football team arrived for training camp at Cal State San Bernardino.
It started with offensive linemen and defensive linemen making the long walk from the locker room to the practice field together. Then you'd see young freshmen and grizzled veterans stride side by side with beaming smiles. Defensive backs and receivers, who talked trash all practice the day before and would do the same that day, shared many a laugh on that path.
Those are scenes rarely seen in Westwood over the past few years, when players in certain position groups nearly always stuck close together and freshman were usually treated like freshmen. It figures to be a different scene when the Bruins return to UCLA Saturday for their first on-campus practice of camp.
Coach Jim Mora’s master plan of team bonding in San Bernardino came together almost exactly as he drew it up. In Mora's grand mission to change the culture of UCLA football, this represented a significant step.
“Before we got here, the team had certain cliques,” running back Johnathan Franklin said. “But those are all broken now. “We’re really becoming a unit, a full unit and a family. A band of brothers and it’s great. I think we needed to improve in that area and just coming out here has definitely done that.”
It started the day they arrived. Mora assigned players to dorm rooms instead of letting them choose bunk mates. He paired offensive players with defensive players, seniors with freshmen and tried to separate players he knew to be close friends. The goal, Mora said, was to build a bond and develop a sense of trust among teammates that would help the team through tough times during the season.
“Any time you are working in a team environment like this, it’s important that you know the person next to you,” Mora said. “You have to trust them on the field and if you can trust them off the field as well, if you know a little bit about them, it’s easier to trust them, I think.”
As the camp went along, the bond between players started growing stronger. They all had to endure a brutal heat wave that regularly produced temperatures north of 105. They all had to listen to Mora rant. One day, Mora verbally blasted the entire coaching staff loud enough for those back in Westwood to hear. Later, Mora became so incensed with the team that he kicked everyone out of practice.
“We had to be together and we had to suffer together,” said receiver Joseph Fauria. “We have this common experience of going through this camp in San Bernardino with only each other.”
It’s an experience that Mora and his team hopes pay dividends on the field. Kevin Prince, a senior, has noticed over the last couple of seasons that the football players wouldn’t hang out much together. Certain groups of players would, but he would never see a big group of teammates together.
When he was in high school, it was the opposite. His close-knit team would always travel in large packs and those strong friendships paid off. Prince was part of two Crespi teams that advance to Southern Section title games.
“That’s something I don’t think we’ve had at UCLA and that’s something I’ve always missed about high school,” Prince said. “I think that’s what we’re starting to form now is guys who want to hang out with each other more and want to be with each other and I think that’s going to help us win some games.”
Chris Williams/Icon SMI
SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. -- Upon hearing he was named UCLA’s starting quarterback, Brett Hundley allowed himself a few moments of joy.
He shed a few tears and called his parents to tell them. He shared the news with a few friends and they hooted and hollered in celebration.
And just like that, the party ended.
Hundley had poured a year and a half of sweat into achieving this goal and the emotion of the moment overtook him. But he was quickly brought back to reality.
“This means you have to work even harder now,” Hundley said his friends and family told him.
Hundley is now the face of the UCLA program and the player looked upon to guide the team out of mediocrity. He’s about to face the pressures and scrutiny of playing football at the Division I level for the first time and, fair or not, there is an expectation that Hundley will cure what ails UCLA football.
UCLA quarterbacks have struggled for quite some time and, no surprise, so has the program. The last UCLA quarterback drafted by an NFL team was Cade McNown in 1999. In the 12 years since McNown left, UCLA’s record is 77-81 and the Bruins have won more than seven games only twice during that stretch.
Hundley, young and talented, is the next hope for ending the UCLA football doldrums. At 6-foot-3, he's a dual threat who is among the most exciting quarterback prospects the Bruins have had in quite some time.
Yet he's also living proof of how difficult the transition from high school to college can be. He arrived at UCLA in January 2011 as a highly touted recruit but couldn’t win the job despite enrolling early to participate in spring practice.
He worked even harder at making the transition, learning the playbook and figuring out how to read college defenses, and when he showed up at spring practice he began to show the potential that had followed him from Chandler High School in Arizona.
Then as he began to outperform Kevin Prince and Richard Brehaut, it became clear who would start for UCLA as new coach Jim Mora steered the program in a new direction. Prince and Brehaut had the experience, but putting a new face on the most visible position had to happen for a team looking to change its identity.
“It’s cool to have a new quarterback,” Hundley said. “It is a fresh start. We have new coaches, it’s a new beginning, we’re turning a new leaf on to the season.”
It was an off day at UCLA training camp Friday, but Jim Mora made the biggest announcement of the preseason when he named Brett Hundley the starting quarterback.
The redshirt freshman beat out Kevin Prince and Richard Brehaut, who split the starting job the last two seasons, and freshman Jerry Neuheisel.
See the complete story here.
SAN BERNARDINO -- UCLA doesn't officially have a starting quarterback, but it sure is starting to sound as if the Bruins do.
Coach Jim Mora said Tuesday he still has an inkling on who will start at quarterback but that he hasn't yet made a decision. He reiterated that he would do so on or before his self-imposed Aug. 16 deadline, but if any name other than Brett Hundley comes out of his mouth when the announcement is made, it would be a shocker.
Though there is no offical quarterback depth chart, Hundley seemed to take the lead over Kevin Prince and Richard Brehaut toward the end of spring practice and continues to separate himself from the pack with impressive performances so far in training camp. It's difficult not to notice, even for a coach who is trying to keep the decision under wraps.
"He throws the ball well, he throws it with accuracy, he’s making good decisions and he’s got the X-factor which is his legs," Mora said after watching Hundley lead the offense to two touchdowns in the two-minute drill. "So often in those two-minute drills, things kind of break down. If you’ve got a quarterback that has some mobility and can keep his eyes downfield and remain a threat as a passer and hold the defense off, then that’s a real advantage."
The two-minute drill performance included a 51-yard touchdown pass to Darius Bell and a short touchdown toss to Johnathan Franklin. He also threw the ball out of bounds once when there was no play and seemed to be in control the entire time.
"Brett is just kind of unflappable," Mora said. "In that drill, I was trying to cause problems that he had to solve. If he makes a mistake, by the time he gets to the sideline he knows exactly how he should have handled the situation and he responds really well."
Jason O. Watson/US Preswire
Brett Hundley was one of the top quarterback recruits in the nation two years ago.
With UCLA training camp set to begin Aug. 4 at Cal State San Bernardino, it's time to take a preseason look at the roster and break down the Bruins position by position.
We start with the position of greatest interest: Quarterbacks.
DEPTH CHART AT THE END OF SPRING PRACTICE:
None. The post-spring depth chart was listed in alphabetical order because the coaching staff had not decided on a quarterback.
PROJECTED DEPTH CHART ON OPENING DAY:
Brett Hundley (Fr., 6-3, 223)
Richard Brehaut (Sr., 6-2, 230) OR
Kevin Prince (Sr., 6-2, 225)
Jerry Neuheisel (Fr., 6-1, 195)
Devin Fuller (Fr., 6-0, 195)
Mike Fafaul (Fr., 6-2, 200)
T.J. Millweard (Fr., 6-3, 220)
Prince (10 games) 126-224 (56.2 percent), 1,828 yards, 12 TDs, 8 INTs
Brehaut (4 games) 67-121 (55.4 percent), 948 yards, 6 TDs, 1 INT
The UCLA quarterback situation has been unsettled for the better part of the last decade, and this year is no different.
UCLA quarterbacks combined to complete a mere 55.78 percent of their passes last season and a paltry 50.9 the year before. Those figures ranked No. 93 and No. 115 in the nation and will have to improve to make UCLA a more potent offense.
Prince is the incumbent who can't seem to stay healthy. Brehaut is the backup whose light finally seemed to turn on last season. Hundley is the redshirt freshman who was one of the top quarterback recruits in the nation two years ago. Those three battled throughout the spring, but none emerged with the job.
Coach Jim Mora and offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone have set a deadline of Aug. 16 to name a starter, though the announcement could come earlier, Mora said, if it becomes clear who the guy would be. They are putting in a new, uptempo spread offense that will look far different than the Pistol of the past two seasons and want to be sure they pick the right guy to run it.
Mora, asked this week where he stood in the decision-making process said "I have a feeling, but still need to be convinced." He also talked about trying to project players and how a guy with upside will eventually pass a guy who is playing at a steady level. Put two and two together and it was a thinly veiled suggestion that Hundley is the leader and as long as he doesn't fall on his face the first two weeks of camp, the freshman will win the job.
PASADENA -- UCLA's spring practice ended Saturday with the playing of the annual spring scrimmage at the Rose Bowl and the Bruins found themselves with pretty much the same quarterback situation they had when spring football started: There is no starter.
Coach Jim Mora said none of the contending quarterbacks had separated himself enough to win the job, so the competition will last into fall camp. He set an Aug. 16 deadline for announcing a starter, which is two weeks before UCLA opens at Rice.
Until then, quarterbacks Richard Brehaut, Brett Hundley and Kevin Prince will have to continue to try and show they deserve the job.
"I think what we gain by waiting is I want to keep a competitive environment and quite frankly I don’t think that anyone has really reached out and grabbed it enough for me to make that decision yet," Mora said after the scrimmage, the last on-field session he will have with the players until training camp begins in August.
Mora acknowledged that it was down to a three-man race with Jerry Neuheisel, T.J. Millweard and Mike Fafaul dropping out of contention after beginning the spring on equal footing.
The spring game wasn't going to make or break any of the quarterback candidates, but each played fairly well. Brehaut made the big plays that are part of his modus operandi and finished with 249 yards and four touchdowns on 12 of 16 passing. He did not have a pass intercepted.
Hundley completed 12 of 20 passes for 185 yards with a touchdown and an interception. He also made several dazzling plays with his legs, including a touchdown run of about 15 yards. Prince, still nursing a sore shoulder, played steady and completed eight of 11 passes for 109 yards and two touchdowns without an interception.
But those statistics must be taken with a grain of salt. The UCLA defense is playing quite short-handed because of injuries, especially in the secondary and linebacker corps. Three long touchdown passes went in the direction of walk-on cornerback Erick Zumwalt, a freshman generously listed at 5 feet 10, who was forced into duty because of the lack of depth in the secondary.
Also, the defense was playing a vanilla coverage to not give away much in the line of schemes and strategy on such a public stage.
"It was fun to see our quarterbacks have success early," Mora said. "I think we have to temper that with the fact that defensively we were playing bland defenses. We were playing single safety middle and leaving our corners in a clutch a lot of the time. We weren’t really pressuring."
LOS ANGELES -- UCLA's spring football practice session will end Saturday with the annual spring scrimmage game at the Rose Bowl. The action begins at 5 p.m.
With a new coaching staff and positional battles across the board, there will be plenty of newness on the field, so here are a few pointers on what to look for during the game:
1. THE QUARTERBACKS
They have been the most-watched players since the beginning of spring practice, so why should the spring finale be any different?
Coach Jim Mora and offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone have yet to pick a starter for next season, and you have to figure performance in this scrimmage will be a large portion of each quarterback's grade when it comes to making a call.
Mora would not divulge how the reps would be divided among the quarterbacks, but you have to guess Brett Hundley, Richard Brehaut and Kevin Prince will get the bulk. Prince has been hampered by a sore shoulder over the last two weeks, so he could be limited.
The keys to determining who plays best go beyond who is able to complete passes. The coaches are looking for command of the offense and good decision making as well as play-making ability.
"There are a lot of decisions that need to be made by the quarterback in this offense," Mazzone said. "Before the snap, at the snap, after the snap. You’re looking for how guys make those decisions under fire. And you are looking for a guy who can make those decisions then make the throws that need to be made. And you want a guy who can create plays when there’s no plays there to be made."
2. THE TEMPO
The high-paced offense has been one of the hot topics all spring and the Bruins will put it on full display Saturday. They are running a no-huddle offense with the plays coming in from the sideline and the quarterbacks calling them from behind center.
After each play the offense scrambles to the line and resets to do it all over. This is a far cry from the methodical, clock grinding Pistol offense UCLA ran the last two seasons, so it will be a change for the players to play at this accelerated pace for the first time in game-like conditions.
Also worth noting is whether or not the defense can keep pace. The Bruis struggled mightily last season against high-paced teams such as Houston, Arizona and Oregon. The Bruins defense seemed lost early in the spring,but has come on strong over the last couple of weeks so it will be interesting to see which unit deals best with the high pace.
LOS ANGELES -- Quarterback Kevin Prince is dealing with a sore right shoulder that has hampered his performance over the past few practices, quarterbacks coach Noel Mazzone confirmed Saturday.
The injury is not thought to be serious, but Prince was severely limited Saturday, taking only about a half-dozen reps in live team drills while Brett Hundley and Richard Brehaut each got about two dozen.
"His shoulder is a little bit dinged up, but he’s fine," Mazzone said. "That’s why I backed off on him a little bit."
The sore shoulder has clearly hampered his performance. Over the last week, Prince appears to have fallen behind in the quarterback competition because of a series of bad throws and interceptions. He has lost velocity and accuracy on his throws and has been throwing with an awkward shotput type of motion.
Hundley and Brehaut both looked good Saturday, with Hundley consistently moving the chains during the team scrimmage sessions while Brehaut connected on several long touchdown passes. Mazzone said it's still too early to tell who's leading the race, but that the next week--including the spring game--will reveal a lot.
"It’s getting to the point now where they have run this offense enough and have done this enough that there’s no more excuses," he said. "Now I feel that they should have enough of this offense under their belt that they can go out on the field and compete against each other and perform."
He added that results are the only things that matter in the quarterback race. Prince and Brehaut have the experience, but Hundley has a wealth of untapped potential, but the winner of the quarterback position will be the guy who plays the best under the gun.
LOS ANGELES -- It's time to name Brett Hundley the starting quarterback for UCLA.
Hundley is locked in a battle with incumbents Kevin Prince and Richard Brehaut for the starting job and the competition is heating up as spring practice enters the home stretch. None of the three are blowing away the competition and taking the job, but Hundley appears to have edged a step ahead over the last week, so that makes it a no-brainer to give him the job.
The coaches in charge of picking a signal caller are not letting on about which way they are leaning and the less-than-stellar quarterback play is making the decision even tougher, but the guess here is that were the season to start this week, Hundley would get the job.
Hundley, a freshman who redshirted last season, has shown the most improvement from the start of camp and he has elevated his play significantly over the past few practices.
The book on Hundley is that he is a dual-threat, athletic quarterback, but until recently he has shown only glimpses of his running ability. On Thursday he had a pair of eye-catching runs that showed off the speed and open-field ability that made him a high-level recruit out of high school and had him tabbed as "The Savior" for UCLA football.
But after struggling with his throws for much of the last year, he never got off the bench and sat out the season as a redshirt. Now, under the tutelage of quarterbacks coach Noel Mazzone, he's beginning to show some promise with nice touch as well as arm strength and accuracy.
All is not perfect, however. He had passes intercepted on consecutive plays during a red zone drill, though safety Anthony Thompson made a tremendous play to get one and Tevin McDonald also had to make a nice play to get the other. Still, the flashes of extraordinary ability he's starting to show make you hungry to see if he can, indeed, reach the tremendous potential expected since his arrival. That alone makes him the most intriguing pick.
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."