Highly touted freshman quarterback Brett Hundley was not ready to play had UCLA needed to replace Kevin Prince against Arizona last week, Coach Rick Neuheisel said Monday.
“I’m not afraid to play Brett Hundley,” Neuheisel said. “My concern is Brett being ready to play.”
Neuheisel said he “thought briefly” about using Hundley, but it was junior Nick Crissman who warmed up late in the game. Crissman didn’t play because the Wildcats ran out the clock in a 48-12 victory.
Whether Hundley should play or be a redshirt has been a hot-button topic with UCLA fans. Neuheisel has taken the cautious approach.
Neuheisel used quarterback Richard Brehaut during his first year at UCLA and now regrets it.
“It was too early,” Neuheisel said. “I don’t want to do that again until I know a guy is ready.”
Hundley had hoped to be a redshirt this season. He has considerable skills but has struggled throwing the ball in practice. As the backup quarterback, he has been getting more time in practice, but Neuheisel has not felt comfortable with exposing Hundley to Pacific 12 Conference defenses.
“I don’t want to throw him to the wolves,” Neuheisel said. “He should know everything when he goes out there.”
Nor was there a reason to make a change Thursday. The Bruins’ main problems against Arizona were on defense.
Prince passed for 286 yards and one touchdown. He was effective even though the Wildcats were expecting more passing after building a 42-7 first-half lead.
Neuheisel said burning Hundley’s redshirt year in that situation “wouldn’t have been fair.” He said he was prepared to go with Crissman because “he’s been a great teammate and it was time for him to get a chance.”
It was clear to cornerback Sheldon Price early in the Arizona game that he shouldn’t be playing.
“Cutting was difficult,” said Price, who sat out the previous two games because of a sprained right knee.
That was evident when Arizona receiver Juron Criner faked right, then darted left, leaving Price on his back. The play went for a four-yard touchdown pass.
“I couldn’t move like I usually do,” Price said. “I couldn’t really do much.”
Neuheisel said Price was in the lineup because “Sheldon felt like he was ready to go. We felt like we had seen enough in practice. We gave him a chance to prove that and he didn’t.”
Arizona quarterback Nick Foles went at Price from the start. His first three passes were to receivers covered by the junior cornerback.
Said Neuheisel: “There were times where he looked less than sure of himself. There were also plays where he looked 100%.”
Neuheisel said it was unlikely freshman receiver Devin Lucien would play against California even with four UCLA receivers suspended for the game. Lucien was expected to be a redshirt this season. … The loss to Arizona was UCLA’s fifth-worst in conference play, tying a 48-12 defeat to Cal in 1992. … UCLA’s game against Arizona State on Nov. 5 will start at 4:30 p.m. and will be televised on Versus.