Brett Hundley as UCLA’s starting quarterback is a decision that may be in the near future.
Hundley, who was a redshirt as a freshman in 2011, took a big step toward winning the job Saturday. He ran the first team almost exclusively, getting a large chunk of reps as UCLA coaches wanted to get a look at his decision-making abilities.
“We wanted to see him make all the small decisions you have to make in this offense,” offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone said. “We put a lot of decisions on the quarterback at the snap of the ball.”
Hundley completed seven of 11 passes during a 24-play stretch with the first-team offense. That included a 28-yard touchdown pass to Shaquelle Evans. He displayed elusiveness, escaping pressure three times to make positive gains, including scrambling five yards for a touchdown.
Hundley also ran the first-team offense during the two-minute drill, moving the ball to the three-yard line. A wide-open Evans dropped a pass on fourth down. Hundley sprinted to Evans, not to berate but to encourage.
The extended time was important because “It’s easy when you know you only have five plays and then you’re out,” Mazzone said. “We gave him and Richard [Brehaut] an elongated course of plays in a row. It’s easy when you know it’s only five plays and you’re done. Now it’s third and three and ‘Am I’m making the right decision to keep us on the field?’”
Mazzone and Coach Jim Mora have kept their poker faces when asked about a decision at quarterback. But the momentum is obviously with Hundley at this point.
He has strung together three consecutive quality practices, where he has impressed coaches with leadership skills as well as with the way he has handled the offense.
Asked if he had a quarterback in mind, Mora said, “Not one I’m willing to talk about. We will announce it at the appropriate time, when it becomes apparent, when we have a chance to sit down as a staff and talk about which way want to go.”
That time may be approaching. UCLA has two practices before a final scrimmage at the Rose Bowl on May 5.
“Getting 24 plays was fun,” Hundley said. “But I don’t worry about whether I’m getting looked at longer. I just trying to master my craft.”
Brehaut and Kevin Prince remain the main competition, but neither has been as consistent as Hundley. Prince was held back Saturday because of soreness in his throwing shoulder.
Hundley said his growth is due in part to some tinkering with his throwing motion.
“I’m going over the top more,” Hundley said. “It’s simple stuff, like throwing through the pass.”
The rest has been hard work.
“I had to realize what was considered work and what wasn’t considered work,” Hundley said. “In high school you study a little bit film, go on the field and throw a little bit. In college there is a big difference.”
Whether he has done enough work doesn’t enter his mind.
“I’ve been focusing on the things I want in life,” Hundley said. “None of us came here to sit. I have unique traits I bring to the position, just like Kevin and Richard. My goal isn’t to beat out K.P. or Richard. It’s to get better.”
Linebacker Isaiah Bowens will have surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee and will likely miss the season.… Running back Dalton Hilliard worked at safety Saturday. He played safety the past three seasons and had hoped to play both offense and defense this season.… Cornerback Anthony Jefferson (back), safety Tevin McDonald (hip pointer) and Malcolm Jones (head) were all dinged up in practice, Mora said.