UCLA quarterback battle gets even more interesting

Kevin Prince and Richard Brehaut have done this dance before.

The last three seasons, the two have battled to be UCLA’s starting quarterback. Prince won each time, though it was a photo finish heading into the 2011 season.

What changed this spring are the people they are trying to impress. New Coach Jim Mora and offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone are getting their first looks at the two.

“You’ve just got to go with it,” Prince said. “There’s nothing you can do to change the circumstance.”

Brehaut agrees, saying, “There’s nothing I’m going to do that I haven’t done the last three years.”

The field is more crowded. Prince and Brehaut, who both have one year of eligibility left, now share the stage with Brett Hundley, Jerry Neuheisel, T.J. Millweard and walk-on Mike Fafaul.

Prince, Brehaut and Hundley received the majority of the reps in 11-on-11 team drills during Tuesday’s practice. Brehaut had the better day, though most of his work came against second- and third-team defenders.

“The biggest difference is we’re all getting equal reps,” Brehaut said. “It’s not just Kevin and me. You have to make an impression in a short amount of plays. There are not 25 to 30 plays in practice where you get to show your stuff.”

Prince, whose career has been pock-marked with injuries, has started 26 games. Brehaut has started 11.

Prince is confident that the job will be his, saying, “I feel I bring experience, having played the most. I feel that experience will help this team win games.”

Brehaut is equally sure, saying, “I have the ability to command an offense. There is a difference when I’m in the game, and when I’m in the huddle.… I’m the most accurate quarterback out here.”

Both, though, may end up watching someone else run the team.

Hundley, a redshirt freshman last season, has improved his throwing ability. His skill as a runner was already a considerable strength. What he lacks is experience.

UCLA has four practices before the spring game. Mora and Mazzone would like to decide on a quarterback heading into the summer.

“After 30 years, it’s a gut feeling,” Mazzone said. “You know when a starting quarterback walks onto the field or runs into a huddle. That’s what I’m waiting to see, one of these guys grab it and start running with it.”

Strong point

The one area that Mora is most confident about is the defensive line.

“Right now, it is probably the strength of our football team,” Mora said.

The first team has had Datone Jones and Cassius Marsh at defensive ends and Brandon Willis at nose tackle. They are being pushed by Owamagbe Odighizuwa, Kevin McReynolds, Seali’i Epenesa, Iuta Tepa and Donovan Carter. Still to come is Monrovia High School’s Ellis McCarthy, the jewel of UCLA’s 2012 recruiting class.

“I think we have eight guys who are legitimate players at this level and a couple who will be legitimate players at the next level,” Mora said.

Quick hits

Safety Dietrich Riley will miss the 2012 season after undergoing neck surgery Monday. “He had to have this procedure if he wanted to play football again,” Mora said. … Wide receiver Ricky Marvray had back surgery Monday. He is expected to be back when the Bruins begin fall camp in August. … Linebackers Patrick Larimore and Aaron Wallace suffered concussions Saturday. Larimore missed Tuesday’s practice and Mora was not sure when he would return. Wallace was at practice but was held out of drills.