Mora looking at QB to take next step in development
It was only a year ago that Brett Hundley came into UCLA's San Bernardino training camp as a largely unknown redshirt freshman and left as the Bruins' starting quarterback.
He won the job over veteran competition and never looked back.
In a conference full of young, developing quarterbacks, Hundley established himself as one of the stars right from the opening snap when he scored on a 72-yard run at Rice in his first career start. Hundley immediately was deemed the savior of a program that has been known to feature a revolving door of signal callers. And he lived up to the hype, quarterbacking the Bruins to a nine-win season and a Top-25 ranking as he set UCLA records in passing yards (3,740), completions (318) and total offense (4,095).
But while nine wins were good, 10 wins are great and a bowl win is even better. A lot can change in a year for a quarterback – just ask Johnny Manziel – and Hundley plans on making significant strides this season to boost himself into the upper echelon of college quarterbacks.
"Brett was impressive and Brett has all of the tools to be a great player but he's not a great player yet," Coach Jim Mora said. "I think the next step for Brett and the step that comes with experience and maturity and having played the game and being put in those situations is to become a better decision maker, a more crisp decision maker."
Hundley's pure athleticism was obvious last season but his immaturity also showed at times. A reluctance to throw the ball away was costly at times and he often relied on his ability to run in situations where there was no route.
Mora and Hundley's left guard, Xavier Su'a-Filo, both lauded Hundley's tireless work ethic and his dedication to the film room, saying that the quarterback has been diligently working with the coaching staff to improve his pocket presence and his instincts. Both promise that the results will show.
"Sometimes the best play that a quarterback can make is to throw the ball out of bounds to get to the next play, even if that next play happens to be a punt," Mora said. "I think he's going to make great progress."
Su'a-Filo added: "Brett is great in the film room. I think Brett has seen, 'All right, I could have thrown it away there, I could have ran there.'"
Comparisons to dual-threat quarterbacks such as Russell Wilson and Robert Griffin III aren't necessarily accurate. Hundley is more of a pure passer with the added asset of speed and hasn't gotten enough credit for his passing abilities.
This season, behind a veteran offensive line and without workhorse tailback Johnathan Franklin, that speed will be essential.
"From an offensive line standpoint, I think for our offense we need Brett to run sometimes, we need him to be that dual threat," Su'a-Filo said. "That helps us out a lot too, that takes some pressure off of us, that Brett is that dual threat."
UCLA's progress this season will hinge largely on Hundley's progress. But there's no one else this team would rather have under center.
"He did pretty dang well for a freshman," Su'a-Filo said. "The thing I noticed about Brett is that even when times got hectic, he's calm. Decision-making and choices, he has so much potential.
"This year will be a great year for him."