Bruins QB Brehaut comfortable in leadership role

Richard Brehaut realized early in life that he simply prefers

being in charge. Even in Little League, he gravitated behind the

plate, figuring he could have the most control over the action as a

catcher.

That’s a rare bit of good news for UCLA’s football team, which

can use all the leadership it can get before another season heads

south without a strong leader in the pocket.

Brehaut will make his third start at quarterback for the Bruins

(3-4, 1-3 Pac-10) on Saturday against No. 15 Arizona. He has

started two of UCLA’s past three games, but Kevin Prince’s knee

surgery last weekend means the Bruins belong to Brehaut for the

final five games.

”All my life I’ve been a leader, in sports and even just

amongst my friends,” Brehaut said. ”When guys are messing up,

when they need help, I like to be able to give it to them. I like

being in that position where your leadership is worth

something.”

At Los Osos High School in suburban Rancho Cucamonga, Brehaut

was a three-year captain of the football team and a two-year

captain of the baseball team, winning MVP honors in both sports. He

turned those multisport skills into a football scholarship to UCLA,

but lost the starting competition last fall to fellow freshman

Prince, who picked up the nuances of the Bruins’ offense more

quickly.

Brehaut got into six games as a backup last season, but his play

didn’t exactly leave the Bruins’ coaches and fans wanting to see

more. Even last month, after going through a full training camp

while Prince sat out with another injury, UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel

didn’t sound sold on Brehaut’s long-term prospects in Westwood.

”When Richard goes into games, he still has two or three things

that happen that he doesn’t quite have an answer as to why he let

that happen,” Neuheisel said. ”That’s not uncommon for somebody

at his age or at that point in his career, especially now that

we’ve made the QB the decision-maker at every point in our offense.

Richard went in and ran plays that he’s run in practice, and a

couple of things inexplicably happened that we didn’t have an

answer for, and neither did he.”

Brehaut overcame most of those concerns with steady improvements

in practice, followed by post-practice workouts with his receivers

in one of the NCAA’s worst passing offenses. After mopping up in

the Bruins’ blowout loss to Stanford, he got his first career start

against Washington State when Prince hurt his knee during UCLA’s

upset win over Texas.

Brehaut passed for 128 yards without an interception, doing his

best work handing off to the Bruins tailbacks. Then 2 1/2 weeks

later, Brehaut drew the starting assignment at No. 1 Oregon – and

it went about as well as could be expected, with Brehaut passing

for 159 yards in another blowout loss.

”I think Richard is playing with confidence,” Neuheisel said.

”It’s important that it’s not false confidence, but he’s working

real hard to get the job done.”

UCLA faces the Wildcats ranked 117th out of 120 FBS teams in

passing offense – rocketing up from 118th last week – with just

104.6 yards per game. Brehaut knows Arizona fields the Pac-10’s top

two pass-rushing defensive ends, and the quarterback also realizes

novice left tackle Micah Kia will be protecting the right-hander’s

blind side while Sean Sheller serves a one-week suspension for an

undisclosed violation of team rules.

And as those after-practice sessions in the Pacific mist show,

Brehaut still has confidence in his receivers, even with starter

Ricky Marvray suspended for a week for the same violation. The

quarterback hasn’t changed his approach at all while moving up to

take over the first-team offense in practice.

”The only difference is Kevin isn’t here to throw around ideas

with,” Brehaut said. ”While he’s out, I’m trying to take on more

of a leadership role. I’m really excited to do that, and then get

us back on the winning track.”