Jimmy Bonds gained a slight edge over Bret Johnson this spring in his bid to replace the departed Troy Aikman as UCLA's starting quarterback next fall, Coach Terry Donahue said Friday.
Bonds shares top billing on the depth chart with the redshirt freshman, but Donahue made it clear after the Bruins' final spring scrimmage at the Rose Bowl that Bonds made a lasting impression on the coaching staff.
"Jimmy Bonds has been a surprise," Donahue told reporters after the sophomore from Hart High in Newhall completed nine of 13 passes for 153 yards and two touchdowns. "I didn't expect him not to have a good spring, but I didn't think his numbers would be quite as good as they have been."
Insiders believed that Johnson, whom many considered the nation's No. 1 high school quarterback two years ago at El Toro, would emerge this spring as the Bruins' quarterback of the future.
Bonds, though, possesses superior arm strength. And, Donahue said, he proved that he was sufficient in other areas, too.
"He showed more mobility in the pocket than I thought he would," Donahue said. "He's harder to trap back there than I had anticipated. He's got a nice feel for the rush lanes and where to dart."
Still, Donahue said, the battle is far from over. He won't name a starter, he said, until the end of two-a-day drills in August.
"I'm convinced that they're both going to grow tremendously and I don't want to stifle the growth of either player," Donahue said. "I think we're going to see a different Jimmy Bonds and a different Bret Johnson in the fall than we saw in the spring.
"I want to see what happens over the summer. They're both real young, so they're going to get better. Rather than decide now, I think we'd be better advised to let them develop a little bit further."
Terry Donahue said that UCLA will be more run oriented next season, relying heavily on tailbacks Shawn Wills, Kevin Williams and Brian Brown. . . . In the absence of Wills and Williams, who were out with injuries, Brown ran for 104 yards and a touchdown in 15 carries, and also caught a 59-yard touchdown pass from Jimmy Bonds.
In the first 2 1/2 weeks of spring practice, Donahue said, Wills was "as impressive as any player on the field." But a hit by freshman strong safety Willie Crawford 1 1/2 weeks ago knocked Wills out of action with a deep bruise in his back. . . . Williams missed the last two weeks of spring drills with a twisted knee.
Donahue said the most pleasant surprises this spring were provided by Crawford, reserve tight end Randy Austin and nose guard Jon Pryor, a converted tackle. And outside linebacker Marcus Patton "had a more impressive spring practice than I anticipated," Donahue said. . . . Donahue's biggest disappointment was with the punting of senior Kirk Maggio. The Bruins, he said, have a scholarship available and hope to sign a punter.
Bret Johnson completed seven of 14 passes for 68 yards and no touchdowns. . . . Fall practice starts Aug. 21 and UCLA will play Tennessee in its season opener Sept. 9 at the Rose Bowl.