UCLA post-spring position outlook: Quarterbacks

Spring football is done, and over three months still stand between us and the start of UCLA’s third season under Jim Mora — one that comes with national title aspirations and accompanying media glare. Over the next week, this blog will cover each of the Bruins’ position groups. First up …

Quarterbacks

If Brett Hundley stays healthy, UCLA’s Rose Bow/national title aspirations should stay afloat. The rising redshirt junior had a chance to be one of the top quarterbacks taken in this month’s NFL draft had he declared, but chose instead to spend one last year in college.

As a sophomore, Hundley led UCLA by rushing for 748 yards and 11 touchdowns — eight of which came in the last seven games. He also only threw one of his nine interceptions in his last six games. If the offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone can tap into that version of his star quarterback throughout the entire season, the Bruins offense should rank among the top 25.

But there’s a lurking chance that Hundley doesn’t make the next step, even as Jim Mora continues pumping the Heisman hype machine. The quarterback struggled at times last season against zone coverages, and threw at least one pick against five of his first seven opponents. He’ll likely emerge as a better quarterback by late August, but even Mora said early in spring that if Hundley looked off, it might be because he’s “experimenting” with his limits.

More worrisome, though, is the fact that UCLA doesn’t have a suitable backup should Hundley get injured — at least, not one that could keep the team on course for what should be its best season in at least a decade. Jerry Neuheisel — a rising redshirt sophomore at 22 years old — has improved significantly since last season, but is still an efficient game manager at best. Heir apparent Asiantii Woulard, who looked like Hundley-lite when he debuted in San Bernardino last fall, hit a wall in spring.

Walk-on Mike Fafaul didn’t look bad in spring either, but UCLA’s quarterback depth is in dire straits if it relies on him for any extended period of time. Three-star signee Aaron Sharp will likely command the scout team.

Level of concern: 3/10

*With 10 being the highest cause for concern this upcoming season, the scale is based mainly on the unit’s top talent as well as its depth. The latter might be weighed more or less depending on the position group; it would be more important to have multiple running backs than multiple quarterbacks, for example.

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  • Bruin0805

    Good job with the coverage lately, Jack. One bone to pick with you though. Could you come up with another adjective to use when describing any of our player other than “rising” freshmen/soph/jr/sr? I’ve noticed it for the past several months and it’s becoming more apparent that “rising” is the only adjective you’re using with any and all player.

    • BruinBrock

      “Rising” in this context means “soon-to-be” — it’s not meant as a description of his abilities. Jerry Neuheisel is a “rising redshirt sophomore” because the school year hasn’t started yet, and so he is not yet a redshirt sophomore — he’s between his redshirt freshman year and his redshirt sophomore year.

    • Jack Wang

      BruinBrock had it right, and I’m sorry if that created confusion. Rising just means they are entering the said year. I’ll drop it from now on.

      • NOBSisdaMAN

        Don’t listen to them Jack. Next to me, you’re da man!

  • SonOfWestwood

    Nice review Jack, can’t wait to read the rest.

    Out of curiosity, I was wondering if you would explain the metric “level of concern”. I know what it means to me, but what does 3/10 actually mean versus 9/10.

    • Jack Wang

      10/10 means time to panic: serious issues with both depth and top-level talent. 1/10 means a unit with elite starters that can survive an injury or two. I also thought of it on a conference-wide scale, so even UCLA’s worst position group may not necessarily be at a 10 (nor its best at a 1).