During summer camp, UCLA’s biggest buzzword has been “tempo.” Offensive and defensive players mention it at every available opportunity. Multiple coaches, including head coach Jim Mora, have mentioned that this is the fastest they’ve ever seen the Bruin offense run. The key to all this is simple.
When offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone was asked last week about the keys to keeping his offense up-tempo, the only word he needed to say was, “Brett.”
He’s talking, of course, about UCLA’s quarterback and offensive do-all, Brett Hundley. The redshirt junior led the Bruins in every offensive category except receptions last season, including rushing yards and rushing touchdowns, and is a Heisman-hopeful. No pressure or anything, but UCLA’s entire offense really depends on Hundley.
“The only thing that slows us down is me,” Mazzone said. “We’re at the point now where he’s been in this offense long enough that he just looks at me and if I don’t give him a play, he just looks away and calls whatever the hell he wants to call.”
Behind Hundley, the backup quarterback competition is still up in the air, according to quarterbacks coach Taylor Mazzone. Jerry Neuheisel filled that role last year, but he’s apparently being challenged by freshman Aaron Sharp and redshirt freshman Asiantii Woulard.
Regardless, if any of these quarterbacks see playing time, UCLA is in trouble.
Helping Hundley in the running game are a trio of backs — redshirt senior Jordon James, redshirt sophomore Paul Perkins and redshirt junior Steven Manfro. Of the three, Perkins and James have the most experience, as they were the second- and third-leading rushers on the team last season, respectively.
The question is whether sophomore sensation Myles Jack, the linebacker who moonlighted as a running back, is going to see any more playing time in the backfield. He was good enough to win both the offensive and defensive Pac-12 rookie of the year, but the only reason he was on offense was because the running back unit became depleted with injuries. With this year’s depth greater than it’s been in a while, Jacks’ role is a up in the air.
“It really just depends on the coaches,” Jack said on Monday. “Me, personally, I’m more than up for it. They’ve talked to me a little bit about it, just hinting here and there, but we’ll see. I’m sure it’ll be like last year, where it will kind of be an unorthodox, last minute type of deal. Wherever they have me, I’m up for it.”
This is the first of five positional season previews that will run on UCLA Now. The rest of the schedule is as follows: Tuesday, defensive backfield. Wednesday, offensive receivers. Thursday, defensive front seven. Friday, offensive line and special teams.