Q: Do you expect a leap in the growth of Brett Hundley between year one and two of his playing career at UCLA?
A: Yes. He still looks like UCLA’s best draft prospect in years, and there’s no reason why he won’t improve over the next eight months. The most glaring flaw is his tendency to hold on to the ball for too long, but that’s fixable. Noel Mazzone and his son Taylor have shown success grooming quarterbacks in the past. Talent surrounding him should help a bit too, although no one back will adequately replace Johnathan Franklin. The offensive line will almost certainly improve. Joe Fauria is gone, but next year’s receiving corps should have some depth, particularly with the addition of Eldridge Massington.
Q: What round do you see Johnathan Franklin getting chosen in? Do you think his reputation of fumbling in his earlier years will hurt his status?
A: He could go as high as the third round, but is probably the safest bet for fourth or fifth. Franklin obviously excelled this season, but he doesn’t quite have the size to be a starting rusher in the NFL. His pass-catching abilities aren’t great for someone that could function best as a third-down back, though he’s become more of a receiving threat out of the backfield this year. What really does help Franklin’s stock is that he has good speed and impressive tackle-breaking ability for his size: he entered the Holiday Bowl having gained over a third of his 1,700 yards this season after contact. He also seems to have shaken his fumbling problems, so that shouldn’t be as big an issue.
Q: How badly will the Baylor loss hurt us between now and Signing Day? How about the loss of Marques Tuiasosopo?
A: Neither will be a disastrous hit to recruiting, though Tuiasosopo’s departure could hurt. Even though the Holiday Bowl was on ESPN, that it wasn’t a BCS game significantly reduced its importance. Of the schools that reeled in top-15 2012 recruiting classes (per Rivals’ rankings), five lost their bowl games while two others served postseason bans. (Most egregious was Clemson, which lost 70-33 to West Virginia in the Orange Bowl. That did cost the Tigers recruits, but UCLA’s loss wasn’t near that level of embarrassment.)
Tui has a good reputation as a recruiter, and his biggest get for the Bruins was four-star linebacker Myles Jack. Jack, who attends Bellevue High with Jim Mora’s son, told ESPN he has to think about his decision but that “you can’t really pick your school off of coaches.” Many of UCLA’s biggest targets were also primarily reeled in by offensive line coach Adrian Klemm, and it’s doubtful he jumps elsewhere.
UPDATE: Didn’t see this when I wrote the answer, but four-star offensive lineman Christian Morris told Rivals he will visit Tennessee, and perhaps Oklahoma. He had said he had shut down recruiting on Dec. 22, but I suppose teenagers change their minds. For what it’s worth, he still said “97 percent” Bruin now.
Q: What’s the deal with Tony Parker?
A: Unhappy about playing time, unhappy about being away from home. He’s not a better defender than the Wears at this point, but he’s also not being allowed to play through any mistakes. As UCLA’s only true big man, he does have a higher ceiling and the potential to be a game-changer if he blossoms — particularly in the Pac-12. Unfortunately, the twins’ 38-point eruption against Missouri won’t help Parker break into the rotation. (Which means it wouldn’t be surprising if his time in Westwood doesn’t last that long.) He at least said he won’t transfer mid-season, for what it’s worth. Ben Howland did try and ask reporters why it was that football players can usually redshirt while basketball freshmen are more often expected to contribute immediately. I’m not certain if he’s just tone-deaf to this era of college basketball or just feigning ignorance.