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UCLA's test will be keeping Brett Hundley on the field

Since 2005, the Bruins' No. 1 quarterback has not made it past the fifth game of a season. Hundley was named the starting quarterback Friday.

August 11, 2012|By Chris Foster
  • Brett Hundley throws a pass during UCLA's spring scrimmage at the Rose Bowl.
Brett Hundley throws a pass during UCLA's spring scrimmage at the… (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles…)

Brett Hundley was crying when he called his parents. They braced for the worst, then heard the news they had been hoping to get.

Hundley had been named UCLA's starting quarterback.

"I called my dad, I was crying, and he said, 'What happened? What happened?'" Hundley said. "He was thinking it was something really bad. After 10 minutes I was able to spit it out. My mom was mad. She told me I almost scared the hell out of her."

Then came the intentional grounding.

"They told me this means I have to work even harder now," Hundley said. "You got to stay humble."

Hundley, a redshirt freshman, already knew that.

There are many answers to come, like how he will handle his first college game. But the even bigger question is out of his hands.

Now that UCLA has a No. 1 quarterback, can the Bruins keep him on the field?

Since 2005, UCLA's No. 1 quarterback has not made it past the fifth game, including 2008, when Patrick Cowan was injured in spring and Ben Olson couldn't finish the first week of training camp.

"I think when you look at our team you'd say the one area we really need to develop is our offensive line," Coach Jim Mora said.

By the end of Saturday's morning practice, the Bruins had seven offensive linemen on the field and 10 missing in action.

Many were out with heat-related issues and could return soon. Guards Jeff Baca, a starter, and Alberto Cid were out with concussions.

The upside for the Bruins is that their best offensive lineman, sophomore Xavier Su'a-Filo, is at left tackle.

"Your left tackle has to be your most athletic and dependable guy," Mora said. "He doesn't have to be the most physical guy, but he's got to be a guy who can protect the quarterback's blind side."

As for the rest of the line, only center Jake Brendel is a lock to start, at least until Baca returns.

Said offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone, "Your offensive line has to be five guys who play like a nickel, not like five pennies."

But Mora is banking on a nickel offense.

"Our style of offense doesn't demand that someone stay on their block forever," Mora said. "We spread the field out and try to take advantage of matchups."

Hundley was the best option to run things, as his abilities stood out above senior Kevin Prince, senior Richard Brehaut and freshman Jerry Neuhesiel — the other three who were competing for the job.

There were too many upsides to Hundley, from his accuracy to his ability as a runner.

"Athletic quarterbacks make my bad calls good calls sometimes," Mazzone said. "He has the ability to create plays."

Hundley demonstrated that in spring and again the past week in training camp.

"He shows tremendous decision-making ability," Mora said. "To me that doesn't just mean you read the defense right or throw to the right spot. Sometimes that's throwing the ball away or knowing when to run or getting out of bounds."

No senioritis

Prince and Brehaut were in full support of Hundley.

"Any time you don't get the job, it's disappointing," Prince said. "But Brett deserves this."

Prince won the job the last three training camps, but has missed 11 games because of injuries.

"I never look back with any regrets," Prince said. "I just want to be a good role model for Brett and stay ready. I, as well as anyone, know how important it is for the No. 2 guy to be ready."

Competition for the second spot will continue.

Brehaut, who has a redshirt season available, said, "That's an option, but right now that's not where my head is at."

White cleared to practice

Tackle Torian White, who had chest pains a week ago, has been cleared to practice but will undergo a procedure to correct a heart murmur late this month,  Mora said.

chris.foster@latimes.com

twitter.com/cfosterlatimes

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