UCLA Football Spring Practice Preview: Finding A Quarterback

This spring, new coach Jim Mora hopes to find a full-time starter at quarterback and improve a defense that was among the worst in school history.

Begins: April 3

Spring game: May 5

So ... would you want to play quarterback at UCLA?

Seemingly every year the position is hampered by injuries and the Bruins have struggled to develop a quarterback as a result. Senior Kevin Prince has won the last three quarterback competitions, but because of injuries, has been prevented from ever completing for the course of a full season, often giving backup Richard Brehaut ample opportunities to take more than a few snaps under center.

With a new head coach in Jim Mora, who comes with an NFL pedigree dating to stints with the Seattle Seahawks and Atlanta Falcons, the competition is "open" this spring. (I guess he likes birds?) In short, keep an eye on redshirt freshman signal caller Brett Hundley, who gives Mora and new offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone the chance to go in a different direction with the position. Many have been clamoring for a change, and tabbing Hundley as the starter would certainly classify as such.

In recent years, Prince and Brehaut have rotated in and out of the lineup, but Mora has emphasized the idea of finding a starter and sticking with him on numerous occasions since being tabbed as Rick Neuheisel's replacement last December.

Luckily at least, this exact problem isn't entirely unique to UCLA. Among the six schools in the Pac-12 South, four are undergoing quarterback competitions of some form this spring, with Arizona, Arizona State and Colorado searching for replacements, as well. So there's that.

But however pressing finding a full-time starter at quarterback might be, other issues might need even more attention, namely on defense. After all, a season ago, UCLA surrendered 31.4 points per game -- 92nd nationally. It was the fourth-most in school history. And it was weak in just about every category, too. It gave up more than 190 yards on the ground per game. Opponents also completed nearly 50 percent of all third-down conversions.

Heading into the spring, they've made a few position changes with the idea of addressing some of those defensive concerns. Junior Anthony Barr is switching from Y-back to outside linebacker, and at 6-foot-5, 238 pounds, the switch should give the unit some more size and speed.

Historically, toughness has been a bit of an issue for the Bruins. They've had talent. They've recruited fairly well. But they've been pushed around. It's certainly something that needs to be addressed this spring, and Mora hopes to instill a sense of toughness and change in demeanor. And he appears to be serious about it, as evidenced by his pledge to get rid of the annual "over the wall" tradition among seniors.

A lot of what happens this spring will be attitude-oriented. Is has some key pieces to the puzzle back, namely senior running back Johnathan Franklin, who bypassed the NFL draft to return for his senior season. Franklin was 24 yards shy of 1,000 rushing yards last fall.

If Mora can find a quarterback and discover some way to improve defensively, UCLA should be on the right track.

Follow Joey on Twitter @joeyrkaufman

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