Redshirt freshman Brett Hundley will open the season as the Bruins'… (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles…)
Brett Hundley was picking out footballs to use in UCLA's season opener.
True, he was getting unsolicited advice from punter Jeff Locke after practice Sunday. But this was Hundley's call. His first big decision as the Bruins' quarterback.
"I guess things are getting close," Hundley said. "That's pretty cool."
On Thursday, Hundley will take the field against Rice, his first game since his senior season at Chandler (Ariz.) High.
The redshirt freshman will run an offense that UCLA players have never used in a game. Yet that doesn't seem to weigh heavily on his mind, as his pregame preparation, he said, will be to "try to get as much sleep as possible."
Offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone and head Coach Jim Mora will try to take the edge off as well. They will meet with Hundley this week to set up a rough-draft game plan.
"You sit down with your quarterback to ask what he likes, what would make him comfortable," Mora said. "You want him to have success early, especially a guy in Brett's situation.
Mora, who has coached the Atlanta Falcons and Seattle Seahawks in the NFL, has had offensive coordinators who scripted the "first 15 to 20 plays." That won't be the case with the Bruins.
"We're just going to go," Mora said. "We already have an idea how we want to open the game."
Mora said that even teams that prepare scripts often deviate from them depending on the situation. He said it would be better for Hundley to have a looser plan.
"We're just going to throw him out there and let him roll," Mora said. "We have a lot of confidence in Brett."
As does Hundley in himself.
"I'm not going to lie, there is going to be a moment when they yell out 'first-team offense' and I'm going to go, 'All right, this is it,'" Hundley said. "I plan just to let it loose on the field."
Besides, he's already made his first important call. While offering advice on which footballs to use, Locke was shooed away by UCLA equipment managers, one saying, "When you're in the NFL, you can pick."
Hundley had Locke's back.
"Jeff likes to kick the ones that are broken in," Hundley said. "Those are the ones I like to throw."
Dish on Rice
Last season, the Owls gave up 73 points to a Houston team that UCLA "held" to 38. Rice has since changed defensive coordinators, promoting Chris Thurmond.
The Owls are still expected to employ a 4-2-5 defense.
"That's just a nickel package to us," Mora said. "But we have to be ready to adjust.
"Any time you go into a first game and you don't have a lot of information on the team you're playing, you follow your rules and worry about yourself. Your rules should carry you through the play."
Rule No. 1? Don't turn the ball over.
The fathers of Rice safety Corey Frazier and wide receiver Klein Kubiak will be in Houston on game day. Trouble is, they'll be a few miles away.
Houston Texans Coach Gary Kubiak and Minnesota Vikings Coach Leslie Frazier face each other in an NFL exhibition game Thursday.
Freshman offensive linemen Colby Cyburt is scheduled to see a back specialist Monday. Cyburt has not practiced because of back problems. . . . Tight end Ian Taubler, who left practice because of an ankle injury Saturday, returned Sunday.