The clock is ticking.
UCLA quarterback Kevin Prince thought that by the time he was a junior he would have two years as a starter under his belt and be ready “to have a breakout season. I don’t think I’m too far off course.”
In the other corner, Richard Brehaut envisioned his junior season “would be my third year as a starter. Sometimes things don’t go as planned.”
For one, it still won’t.
UCLA opened training camp Monday and the curtain went up on Prince-Brehaut III.
Prince won the previous two competitions but has been unable to stay healthy. Brehaut was handed the offense for six games in 2010 but was unable to turn the opportunity into a career-altering moment.
Now it’s back to school.
This is not a pass-fail course. Coach Rick Neuheisel cites former UCLA offensive coordinator Homer Smith’s philosophy that “quarterback is a class you have to get an ‘A’ in.”
Prince and Brehaut have incompletes thus far, never a good thing where a quarterback is concerned.
Day 1 seemed to go to Prince. He handled the offense well during 11-on-11 drills, though he was barked at by Neuheisel following one play.
Brehaut had two passes intercepted.
Prince, Neuheisel said, “looked pretty sharp.” But, the coach added, “He missed a couple throws. He wasn’t as crisp. That’s going to be the case until he gets his sea legs back under him.”
Brehaut, Neuheisel said, “did some good things.” But on the Homer Smith sliding scale, “there were some forced balls that we’ve got to work through. We’re going to get to the bottom of that.”
The bottom line, Neuheisel said, is “we’ve got to play this position. It has to get better. It has been woeful.”
Circumstances contributed to that.
Prince won the job in 2009 and lurched through the season, suffering a broken jaw, concussion and separated shoulder. Still, he had three games with more than 300 yards passing and got the Bruins to the EagleBank Bowl. He won the job last season but suffered a knee injury that required surgery.
“We want some durability with Kevin,” Neuheisel said. “We’ve got to know he can practice one day and the next day and the next day and come back and be that kind of guy who can be a complete player.”
Brehaut was overwhelmed as a freshman in 2009. He was 2-5 as a starter last season, though one of the victories featured a snappy two-minute drill to set up the winning field goal against Oregon State.
“Richard needs to grasp more of what we’re doing,” Neuheisel said. “I don’t want him memorizing it. I want a guy who really understands why we’re doing things.”
Brehaut, for the first time, thinks he is on equal footing. He came to UCLA a year after Prince and now thinks “this is my best chance to win this job. He has always had that extra year on me. Now that we’ve both been here 2½ years that is no longer an excuse.”
Prince, meanwhile, has the knowledge that he has won the job before . . . twice.
“To beat someone out takes a lot of mental focus,” Neuheisel said. “You can’t worry about what the other guy does. But the idea that he is working hard to beat you out, and you’re working hard to beat him out, gets the best out of everybody.”
Or so Neuheisel hopes.
Wide receiver Shaquelle Evans limped off the field Monday. Neuheisel said the sophomore was cramping. . . . Cornerback Jamie Graham, who is transferring to UCLA from Vanderbilt, was at practice but is still awaiting acceptance into graduate school. . . . Defensive end Derrick Bryant said he planned to transfer from UCLA.