Last season, a redshirt freshman named Brett Hundley won the quarterback battle at UCLA’s San Bernardino camp, an unexpected victory as the race was initially thought to be largely between then-seniors Richard Brehaut and Kevin Prince.
But the win soon became a convincing one after Hundley ran for a 72-yard touchdown on his first collegiate snap.
From that point on, Hundley made a believer out of everyone in Los Angeles. He set single-season records for completions, passing and total offense. His 404 yards against Oregon State was the second-highest ever for a Bruin quarterback.
Westwood finally had its celebrity quarterback that they always seemed to lack. Hundley is being touted as the greatest UCLA signal caller since Cade McNown.
Head coach Jim Mora and his staff — one that wasn’t even responsible for bringing in Hundley — was absolutely responsible for the UCLA turnaround but Hundley was arguably the x-factor the Bruins needed to put all of the pieces together for a successful and winning season.
It isn’t just what Hundley did on the field, but the role he played in the locker room as well.
It says a lot about the character of a kid that was voted as a captain before ever having played in a collegiate game.
“He’s a natural leader, he’s got natural charisma,” Mora said. “He doesn’t have to say a lot. Just the way he carries himself is what people respect most about Brett. He’s gracious, he’s tough, he’s hard-working, he’s committed, he’s smart — all of those cliché words, that’s what he is.”
Predictions are already rolling in for where Hundley will go in the draft next year and it’s likely that he will be a top-10 pick in next year’s NFL Draft.
But Mora warns that not only is he not quite a finished product, Hundley’s committed to his team and the 2013 season.
Importance of Hundley
The dual-threat quarterback will need to use his legs more this season without workhorse tailback Johnathan Franklin and his ability to move around the pocket and stay poised will also be key. Hundley not only has a wide and devastating array of receivers to throw to but he also has a veteran offensive line in front of him.
With all of the tools to an exciting offense at his disposal, the next step will be for Hundley to mature as a true signal caller. His resistance to get rid of the ball was at times a downfall last season and lumbering designated hitters have sometimes had prettier slides than Hundley, which is something he worked hard in the offseason and at camp to improve.
Number of note: 4,095
Hundley’s 4,095 total yards last season not only broke the single-season record but it was good enough to land him at No. 12 on UCLA’s all-time career records list. Should he expend his full eligibility at UCLA, he would more than likely break McNown’s all-time record of 11,285 yards.
Devin Fuller: “He’s matured greatly. From being the offensive last year in his first year to now where he is, he’s a tremendous quarterback. It all plays in, him getting us right into alignments, knowing the defenses, getting the ball out on time. We’ve all been able to mature.”
Mora: “This thing about Brett is that he’s shown an ability to handle pressure. When you look back at Brett statistically last year, one of the things that jumps out at you is the fact that on third down in the two-minute warning, he was at his best. Those are high-pressure situations in a game and he performed very well in those situations.
Mora: “We’ve heard him compared to Colin Kaepernick and I watched some film this morning and said, ‘Yeah, I can see that.’ I can see a guy whose physical and he’s strong and he can run and he can make all of the throws …I think he’s a really, really good player and I think he’s fearless as well. He’s not afraid to take a hit, he’s not afraid to run it up in there and he takes care of the football.
Hundley dropped his body fat and added bulk, making him even tougher to bringdown. The Bruins are confident that the sack totals from last season will be minimized as roles on the offensive line have been shuffled. Look for small tweaks in his decision-making to yield big results. Going into the 2013 season, Hundley is leaner, smarter and more ready to lead than ever before.