UCLA head coach Jim Mora faced plenty of questions about his quarterback situation at UCLA during Pac-12 media days, but he is far from prepared to settle on a starting quarterback for the start of the 2015 season. He must have been prepared for that given Brett Hundley left the Bruins a year early to enter the NFL Draft and Asiantii Woulard is hoping to be ruled eligible to play elsewhere this fall. The spring game yielded far too little confidence in any candidate to grab the starting nod months ahead of the season, so Mora is going to hold off on making any concrete decisions until he can get a better sense of who is ready to lead UCLA’s offense. One thing Mora does not plan to do is use multiple quarterbacks.
“I’d rather use one. I think that is the most beneficial way to build your team and consistency is to use one,” Mora said Friday during Pac-12 media day. “But we’ll see. My gut instinct is to name a guy and support the hell out of him. That’s what I’ve tried to do.”
So, who will that be? The three quarterback race is down to Jerry Neuheisel, Mike Fafaul and freshman Josh Rosen. Despite the high expectations for Rosen, Mora is not getting caught up in the hype just yet.
“He hasn’t taken a snap at this level. So I don’t want to put too many expectations,” Mora suggested. “I’ll let others put expectations on them. I think if Josh reaches his potential every day at the end of his time at UCLA we’ll look back and say he was a success.”
The UCLA spring drew to a close Saturday afternoon on the west coast. As far as head coach Jim Mora is concerned, there is no need to name a starting quarterback just yet, and he may be letting the competition brew right up until the season’s opening kickoff against Virginia.
Earlier this week Mora said “I will not say who’s the guy until our first series against Virginia,” and after the spring game that plan has not changed.
The options for UCLA are Jerry Neuheisel, Asiantii Woulard, Mike Fafaul and early enrollee Josh Rosen. If the spring game was any indication, it might be a wide open race to replace Brett Hundley. There were some nice plays at times, but the final spring practice also saw a decent amount of overthrowing targets, and it would be fair to suggest none of the candidates for the starting job jumped out and grabbed a hold of the position out of the spring.
Woulard did serve up one of the nicer highlights from UCLA’s scrimmage…
UCLA opens the 2015 season at home against Virginia on September 5.
Quarterback Brett Hundley is listed as the starting quarterback for UCLA tonight. The Bruins have been silent on the status of Hundley, who was injured two weeks ago in a game against Texas. With the game now just hours away from kicking off, head coach Jim Mora apparently is ready to go with Hundley in what should be a pivotal game in the Pac-12 South.
Hundley had been practicing this week for UCLA, but there was no information shared regarding his status for Thursday night’s Pac-12 South contest. If Hundley was not available, Jerry Neuheisel would have been the starter for the Bruins after leading UCLA to a win against Texas. Should Hundley get banged up by Arizona State’s defense, expect Neuheisel to come in for relief once more.
Arizona State, of course, will be without its starting quarterback. Taylor Kelly was already ruled out for the Thursday night contest. Mike Bercovici will get the start after coming in to lead the offense against Colorado.
As the summer months passed by and it became time to speculate about the College Football Playoff contenders, UCLA was one of the trendy picks to represent the Pac-12. With players like quarterback Brett Hundley and linebacker Myles Jack and a program seeming to be budding under the leadership of head coach Jim Mora, why not the Bruins? UCLA has jumped out to a 3-0 start this season, but nobody really saw it coming this way. Next up is a Thursday night contest on the road against Arizona State, another top 25 team with a 3-0 record. The primetime match-up could be a battle of back-up quarterbacks with major Pac-12 South implications riding on the outcome.
UCLA needed its defense to bail out a sluggish offensive effort in a season opening game across the country against a Virginia team that may be better than initially expected. The following week the defense could do nothing to stop Memphis in Los Angeles, but the offense found enough. In week three UCLA’s special teams set up the Bruins with a backup quarterback to escape the state of Texas with a victory over the Texas Longhorns. Hundley went down in the game and it remains unknown if he will play Thursday night in an early, yet pivotal, game in the Pac-12 South Division. Mora has been keeping silent on his quarterback’s availability. If Hundley is not available, Jerry Neuheisel will get a chance to start for UCLA after helping to lead the team to a victory over Texas.
Arizona State will be without starting quarterback Taylor Kelly is definitely out for the game, so Arizona State head coach Todd Graham will not be playing mind games up until kickoff. Kelly suffered a foot injury against Colorado, which means the Sun Devils will ride with Mike Bercovici under center.
If UCLA is going to fulfill the expectations of being a legitimate playoff threat, this is a game the Bruins have to win. A loss not only puts a blemish in the loss column, but it also puts the Bruins behind in the Pac-12 South race. An Arizona State win would put the Sun Devils on top of the South with a 2-0 conference record, and Arizona State would own a head-to-head tiebreaker. Every division game, regardless of conference, is critical. With Arizona and USC appearing to be threats in the South and Utah proving to be no pushover, Thursday night’s battle of top 25 programs in Tempe could set the tone for the rest of the season in the South.
Arizona State and UCLA play Thursday night at 10:00 p.m. eastern.
UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley was sharp on the first offensive possession of the spring game Saturday, and that was apparently enough for the returning starter. After completing four of five attempts for 30 yards, Hundley’s spring came to a close as head coach Jim Mora chose to rest his starter and allow more snaps for back-up options.
Jerry Neuheisel, son of former Bruins coach and current Pac-12 Network analyst Rick Neuheisel, was the game’s leading passer with 180 yards but was intercepted twice. Mike Fafaul completed seven of 16 attempts for 116 yards, Asiantii Woulard completed four of 13 attempts for 42 yards, and Mike Hall accounted for eight yards on his lone completion on two attempts. Saturday’s game showed UCLA has a legitimate concern if Hundley has to miss any playing time in the fall, but the Bruins may be able to survive a short absence if needed. Hundley is a key ingredient for the Bruins in 2014, and he could work his way into the Heisman Trophy conversation with a successful Pac-12 championship run.
The good news is UCLA will have receivers no matter who the quarterback is. Jordan Payton was the game’s leading receiver with 96 yards and Devin Lucien added 76 yards on five receptions. Two key receivers for UCLA did not play Saturday due to injury, but Devin Fuller and Thomas Duarte are expected back for the fall.
The Bruins should be fine on defense as well despite losing Anthony Barr. UCLA’s defense racked up eight sacks in the spring scrimmage, and last year’s young breakout star, Myles Jack, is focusing on defense.
UCLA has played in two of the three Pac-12 championship games since the conference expanded. After missing out on the championship game last season, the Bruins look to have a team capable of getting back there in 2014 in what could be a wide-open Pac-12 South. UCLA opens the 2014 season August 30 at Virginia.