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UCLA's Brett Hundley and receivers work on their rapport

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Bruins QB Brett Hundley and receivers seek to complete their rapport, and thus more UCLA passes

Muffins in the morning would be nice. UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley swears such a gesture would be a good starting point for his receivers.

"It might help them out on the field," Hundley said, laughing.

Receiver Jordan Payton believed Hundley had the roles reversed.

"I think Brett needs to make breakfast," Payton said.

Receiver Eldridge Massington, standing next to Payton, agreed.

"Some eggs would be nice," Massington said.

This was more than just thought for food. There was a relationship in that needling.

The Bruins have an eclectic group of receivers who offer Hundley size, speed and elusiveness. UCLA will probably rotate eight through four spots. What they all are seeking is a connection with their quarterback, which can lead to what they really want: the ball.

"We call it that me-to-you factor," offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone said. "It's about Brett getting a good feel for you."

Hundley and Shaquelle Evans had that. In two seasons together, Evans had 107 receptions for 1,586 yards and caught 12 touchdown passes.

Evans went off to the NFL, and Hundley is looking for someone else to play catch with.

Massington has been joined at the hip with Hundley since spring. Payton hangs out with the junior quarterback. Devin Lucien was his roommate as a freshman. Kenneth Walker, Thomas Duarte and Devin Fuller have history and offer unique skills. Freshmen Mossi Johnson and Alex Van Dyke are coming on fast.

Hundley wants more than muffins from them.

"They have to trust that I'm going to do my job and I have to trust that they're going to execute their job," Hundley said. "They have to be where they're supposed to be."

It's something, he said, that "can make a huge difference on the field."

UCLA's Kevin Jordan caught 73 passes as quarterback Wayne Cook's favorite receiver in 1994. Only two Bruins have caught more in a single season: J.J. Stokes (82 in 1993) and Freddie Mitchell (77 in 2000).

Cook and Jordan, who attended practice last week, still finish each other thoughts.

Said Jordan: "We were entwined."

Said Cook: "I knew what he was thinking."

Said Jordan: "He'd tap his helmet and I would know exactly what he wanted me to do."

Said Cook: "I always knew where he would be."

That type of relationship is cultivated.

"A lot of it is chemistry," UCLA quarterbacks coach Taylor Mazzone said. "It's like when you meet your college roommate for the first time. It's either 'All right, we're going to have some fun,' or it's 'You stay on your side of the room and I'll stay on mine.'"

Noel Mazzone, Taylor's father, has nurtured Hundley through two seasons and has taken a step back this summer. Hundley, he said, has to take it from here.

Said Mazzone, using marriage a metaphor: "After three years in a relationship, she should know how I like my coffee and I should know what side of the bed she likes to sleep on. She should know, and try to change, all my bad habits and I should realize she has no bad habits. It's like that between a quarterback and coach."

In short, Mazzone said, "It's Brett who has to communicate with those guys."

Hundley has.

"We each have a different style, and he caters to that person," Payton said. "If a dude needs to be yelled at to get going, that's the dude he'll yell at — that's me. If a guy needs to laugh, he'll make him laugh."

There are efforts on both sides.

Lucien said, "I do different little things to get in his ear. I stay with him during films and try to work with him after practice."

Duarte makes sure to check with Hundley before practice because "you don't want to come out here unsure of things."

Payton tries to eat with Hundley every day so, he said, "I can get to know what he likes. Because at the end of the day, it's about what he likes."

Hundley likes receivers who run crisp routes and create separation. And, above all else …

"Finish," Hundley said. "Catching the ball is what it's about."

Eight receivers and one football becomes an interesting equation. And, Noel Mazzone said, "That doesn't even include that swing pass that no one likes me to call. We throw to backs so much, there's 40 to 50 catches that would be going downfield."

The trade-off is playing time.

"We're not going to play three receivers, we're going to play six to eight," Mazzone said. "That's the back end."

Which gives Hundley a buffet from which to chose.

Said Hundley: "Kenny Walker looks good using his speed. Devin [Lucien] is having a good camp. J.P. is consistent. Thomas Duarte is a load. Devin Fuller is going to be hard to keep off the field. … "

So there could end up being a lot of me-to-you.

Said Mazzone, "I think it's going to be like 'Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,' when they're being chased by the posse. People will be saying, 'Who are those guys?'"

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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