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UCLA quarterback 'controversy' is virtual but not reality . . . yet

Many Bruins fans have taken to the Internet to express their desire that starter Kevin Prince be replaced by backup Richard Brehaut. But Coach Rick Neuheisel is sticking with Prince, at least for now.

September 13, 2010|By Chris Foster

There is a quarterback controversy at UCLA, though it only exists outside the football program.

Bruins fans have tested the capacity of cyberspace the last few days, calling for a change at quarterback after a 35-0 loss to Stanford on Saturday night at the Rose Bowl.

The consensus was that Kevin Prince needs to sit and backup Richard Brehaut needs to play against Houston on Saturday.

On Monday came an answer from inside the UCLA program: Prince last Saturday, Prince this Saturday.

All it took was a review of the game video, an X-ray of Prince's right (throwing) shoulder and a meeting between the sophomore quarterback and Coach Rick Neuheisel.

"Kevin is our starter," Neuheisel said. "That's my plan."

Word that the 0-2 Bruins would stick with the status quo spread quickly Monday afternoon and seemed to be about as popular as the idea of UCLA wearing cardinal-and-gold uniforms.

Prince said he is oblivious to the Internet rants, saying, "I know people are thinking the end of the world is coming. As a quarterback and a leader of the offense, you can't be among those people who are freaking out."

There was a question whether Prince would remain the leader of the offense after he completed six of 12 passes for 39 yards and had one woefully thrown pass intercepted against Stanford.

Neuheisel on Sunday had sounded as if he was leaning toward an evaluation period this week, but he'd changed his mind by Monday morning. Plan B, as in turning to Brehaut, was a nonstarter.

"Richard Brehaut is going to continue to compete, and continue to be ready," Neuheisel said. "Right now, Kevin is still ahead in managing our offense."

In other words, as bad as Prince looked, Brehaut looked as bad or worse. Brehaut completed five of nine passes for 42 yards with an interception against Stanford, but he lofted one pass into an area where there was no receiver.

Asked about Brehaut's performance, Neuheisel started by complimenting the sophomore, but added: "When Richard goes into a game, he still has two or three things happen that he doesn't quite have the answer to why he let them happen."

And, asked whether the decision to go with Prince was based more on Brehaut's performance, Neuheisel said, "When you make decisions you use all your information. I can't quantify that for you. Everything factors in when you make a call."

As for Prince, Neuheisel said: "I just think he's pressing, really pressing. He's just stuck in that. We've got to unstick him."

Prince was named the starter before spring practice, and had the look of one before tearing a muscle in his back the second day of summer training camp. He practiced little for three weeks, then started UCLA's opener against Kansas State. He was nine for 26 for 120 yards with two interceptions against the Wildcats.

Prince showed up with a sore shoulder last week and was limited in practice leading up to the Stanford game. He underwent an X-ray on his shoulder Monday and said, "I guarantee it will show nothing." He added, "This is the best I have felt in about two months."

Neuheisel and Prince met Monday morning and "talked about how I felt, about football and life in general," Prince said. "We talked about my mind-set and the things I thought we could do better to be on the same page. I think it will help us moving forward."

Moving forward with the forward pass is the next step.

Prince said that he has "locked onto receivers" and has not "necessarily taken what the defense has given us."

Neuheisel said that in emphasizing the running game while learning the new "pistol" offense, "We neglected something we took for granted: our throwing game."

Another major issue is Prince's health, which has slowed his development since last season when he suffered a broken jaw, concussion and separated shoulder.

Neuheisel said that Prince was "as sharp as he's been" warming up before the Stanford game. But Prince said, "There were throws that still hurt."

On Monday, Prince said there was no pain except for "a tiny bit in my shoulder. But nothing to cause concern."

Nothing to cause concern? Try telling that to UCLA fans.

chris.foster@latimes.com

twitter.com/cfosterlatimes

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