UCLA football coaches, players and fans had better get used to this.
The Brett Hundley Love Fest kicked off Monday. During his weekly news conference, Virginia Coach Mike London gushed about UCLA’s quarterback in advance of Saturday’s season opener in Charlottesville, Va.
“Hundley is the guy, Sports Illustrated, Heisman Trophy candidate, almost 8,000 total yards,” London said. “He is a guy who is really as good as advertised.”
Expect this to be a weekly testimonial from opposing coaches, who likely feel that praise is the best course of action heading into a game against the Hundley-led Bruins. London was certainly not going to say anything that could be considered a slight.
“The Hundley guy is exceptional with his arm and legs,” London said. “That’s the threat in that style of offense they run. He’s the guy who can make it go.”
London seemed to run out of superlatives when asked about his quarterbacks.
The Cavaliers have David Watford, who started all 12 games on a 2-10 team last season. All he’s scheduled to do Saturday is hold a clipboard on the sideline. The starter is Greyson Lambert, who played seven games in relief last season.
The best London could do was tout his quarterbacks’ experience, and also the talent of third-stringer Matt Johns.
“We have two guys who have played in college football games,” London said. “We’re relying on the fact that being an experienced player, having the same offensive coordinator, having what we believe are really good wide receivers surrounded by running backs, that those things will help Grey, David and Matt Johns be successful.”
Watford threw for 2,202 yards last season but had twice as many interceptions (15) as touchdown passes (eight). Lambert completed only 44% of his passes. Johns played in all 12 games — as the holder for kicks.
Lambert won the job during spring practice.
“Greyson is the best at the present moment of executing the plays and doing things required of a quarterback to run this offense,” London said.
Furthermore, London said, “Greyson has done a really good job this camp fostering the attitude ‘You can count on me.’ ”
Back in Westwood, UCLA coaches love Hundley, too. But they also would like to see him take a step forward.
“We’ve seen him change the tide our way with his abilities. Now we’d like to see him do that mentally and vocally,” quarterbacks coach Taylor Mazzone said.
Said offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone: “He’s already doing a good job at it, but I would like to see him continue to hang in the pocket and make completions downfield.”
Crazy at heart
Linebacker Ryan Hofmeister was again chosen a UCLA captain, though he is unlikely to see much time on defense. However, he will ramrod the Bruins’ special teams with a controlled chaos approach.
“The word ‘crazy’ does come up a lot,” Hofmeister said. “I don’t think it’s crazy to love doing this. I was recruited as a special-teams guy. Yeah, part of me, being a football player, feels, ‘I want to be out there on defense and I want to show what I can do.’ Another part of me understands my role.”
Hofmeister had 19 tackles playing mostly on special teams last season.
“We put special teams on a pedestal here,” Hofmeister said. “It’s a privilege to be on special teams. It’s how really big the change is from the old UCLA to now. Little things are taken very serious.”
It must be football season at UCLA. Suspicion was in the air.
Staff members ran off innocent bystanders who lingered too long Monday on the parking structure overlooking Spaulding Field. Hundley was withheld from the media on what was his designated day to speak.
Receiver Devin Lucien went through his first full practice since being taken to a hospital two weeks ago. He suffered from the effects of heat and had hit his head. Lucien is expected to play against Virginia. … Offensive lineman Sam Tai will begin noncontact workouts Sept. 1. He had surgery on his right knee during the off-season.