Thursday, August 21, 2014
Better know a Pac-12 QB: Brett Hundley
By Kevin Gemmell
The Pac-12 is blessed with an abundance of returning starting quarterbacks in 2014. With 10 starters coming back, many are wondering if the league is on pace for its best quarterback year ever. This week the Pac-12 blog will give you a snapshot of all 10.
What you need to know about Hundley: Former UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel hasn’t been shy about talking up what kind of talent Hundley had when he recruited him. Nor is he shy about his decision to redshirt Hundley in what turned out to be his final season as head coach. As a result, incoming coach Jim Mora benefited greatly and watched Hundley easily separate himself from Kevin Prince, Richard Brehaut and Jerry Neuheisel. Hundley has since gone on to start 27 straight games, is an early Heisman candidate and widely regarded as one of the most athletic and explosive players in college football.
Career high point: Should we go with USC in 2012? Or USC in 2013? In either case, Hundley was sensational in both. He has five combined touchdowns (one passing, four rushing) in two games against the Trojans and has completed 70 percent of his throws against the cross-town rivals. And while he’s struggled against Stanford and Oregon (games he and the Bruins need to win to prove they are worthy of their top-10 ranking) he’s brought his A-game both times around against USC.
Career low point: Hundley wasn’t terrible in last season's loss to Arizona State. He threw a couple of touchdowns and completed 60 percent of his passes. But a furious ASU front sacked Hundley nine times and corralled him to a season-low five yards rushing. On top of it, the loss gave the South Division title (which the Bruins had held the previous two seasons) to the Sun Devils.
When he was a recruit: Hundley was the No. 6 overall quarterback in 2011 and the gem of UCLA's recruiting class. The No. 107 prospect in the country, Hundley held offers from programs such as Michigan, Oregon, Stanford, Texas A&M and Washington, among others. He eventually selected the Bruins over the Huskies. There were very few questions as to whether Hundley would become a star at the next level and when his redshirt freshman season coincided with the arrival of head coach Jim Mora and offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone, Hundley’s career predictably took off. "He is a spread offense signal-caller that is a huge part of this offense both with his legs and his arm," his ESPN Recruiting Nation profile reads. "Overall, Hundley is a physically imposing athlete that can do it all. He has great upside to become more crisp and fluid in his mechanics, as he is just entering into his second year as a full-time starter. He will become a hot commodity quite quickly."
Opposing head coach’s take: “Similar to Mannion when you look at him. He’s a prototypical NFL quarterback, but with that mobility; with that ability to move in the pocket and out of the pocket. He’s going to be a high-round draft pick because of his size and his athletic ability. He’s a smart kid. He’s an accurate passer. The sky is the limit for him.”
Scouts' take: Even-keeled and mature individual. Dedicated student who is currently pursuing a double major. Loves football and is passionate about it. Strong work ethic and willing to make the sacrifices necessary. First guy in and last guy out of the building. ... Highly competitive. Adequate-to-above-average decision-maker. Still will make some questionable reads at times and force throws into coverage he shouldn’t attempt but in general is not careless with ball security. ... On one hand he is a deceiving athlete with very good size and strength to escape pressure and buy time. Not overly quick and gradually builds to top-end speed as runner. He has better mobility than anticipated on tape and poses enough of a threat to pick up chunk yards if not accounted for as a runner. On the flip side, he still has a lot of room for improvement working the pocket, which is the biggest concern from an evaluation standpoint heading into the 2014 season. Will get finicky when feeling pressure and must show better patience within the pocket. Often vacates pocket too early instead of sliding to open area and getting through progressions. Also has a bad habit of dropping his eyes and looking at the rush when evading pressure and will miss reads as a result.
What to expect in 2014: At this point, it’s about the little details. Hundley spent a couple of weeks during the offseason working out with current and former NFL quarterbacks for the sole purpose of learning what it’s like to play in the league. The hope is that the knowledge gained will transfer to his college game. He’s one of the most dynamic and exciting players in the country. Yet all too often he gets labeled as a running quarterback when he threw for more than 3,000 yards and led all quarterbacks in the Pac-12 in completion percentage. That’s right, Mr. Scramble was the most accurate passer in the league last season. We expect his already stellar touchdown-to-interception ratio to improve while still maintaining his outstanding rushing numbers. The belief is that with some health and experience on the offensive line, Hundley’s sack numbers will also go down (no Pac-12 quarterback has been sacked more than Hundley's 87 times in the past two seasons). Look for Hundley to be in the running for all sorts of postseason awards -- Heisman included -- before hearing his name called in the first round of the 2015 draft.
Erik McKinney and Kevin Weidl contributed to this report.