When Brett Hundley was named UCLA's starting quarterback, it marked the beginning of a bright new era of UCLA football. How much different this era (one with a new head coach, new offensive coordinator, and a new defensive coordinator to go along with a new QB1) will be from the last era is yet to be seen. All of UCLA's issues with finding a winning identity, and adopting a new mindset as a program aside, Brett Hundley will play a major part in bringing UCLA back from the nation's cellar.
Hundley's new offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone will be his biggest asset from day one. While Mazzone has had success in the past with 6'8" quarterbacks that are 6'8", Hundley presents an interesting opportunity in that he can use his legs to create throws as well as his arm. UCLA could still follow the general principals Mazzone offensive plan, and will be throwing the ball about 40 times a game, but will now be able to use the running game in both zone key plays (as we saw with Osweiler), and the more Rodriguez-esque triple option plays that attack with the quarterback vertically without going too far from Mazzone's bread-and-butter key plays.
Schematically, of course, Mazzone can do anything he wants to, and according to him, he won't be changing much from the offensive scheme he used at ASU. So, Hundley will have to form his playing style around Mazzone's ultra-accurate gunslinger template, something that Hundley should possess the skill-set for, and will add his raw athleticism and ability as a ballcarrier, something Osweiler didn't do at ASU. Some say Donovan McNabb, and within an air-raid-esque offense, Hundley could fit a mobile gunslinger mold very quickly.
The tools around Hundley will be the biggest part of his immediate success on the field, though. UCLA is loaded with young wide receivers, and also boasts one of the nation's most freakish athletes in Joseph Fauria at the new "Y" receiver position for the Bruins. Parallel with many spread offenses, UCLA has mostly shorter, faster receivers, but can boast some size at the flanking positions. Jerry Johnson and Shaq Evans (X and Z respectively) are the "larger" flankers, at 6'3" and 6'1" a piece, with Ricky Marvray as the quicker "F" receiver in the slot. All three have shown great proof of talent under previous regimes, but will be aided even further by Fauria, a 6'7" pass-catcher that simply cannot be countered by one defender. Weaving a gameplan for Hundley will be easy on paper, that is, if UCLA's habit of poor offensive line play ended with Neuheisel.
Offensive line coach Adrian Klemm spearheaded a stellar offseason recruiting effort, and he'll need to "wave his wand again," as he'll try to make a serviceable offensive line for Mazzone's attack. UCLA will have a talented, but dramatically offensive line going into this season. Xavier Su'a Filo returns from his LDS mission, and will be an instant anchor at left-tackle. Look for him to stand out regionally this season at the very least. UCLA has two more upperclassmen on board with Jeff Baca and Greg Capella, who carried their own weight last season, but after that, UCLA's offensive line gets green quickly. Things have gotten better as of late for the line, but will need to be ready to go by week two at the earliest.
It is no secret, Brett Hundley can throw the ball well. I expect Hundley to be using Fauria extensively for the early parts the season, and then use his other tools on the exterior as he gains confidence as the signal caller. He'll be aided tremendously on the ground with Jonathan Franklin and Malcolm Jones, and you better bet that Mazzone will be using his runners well after using a 1000 yard rusher in Cameron Marshall very well at ASU last season.
To many, Hundley will be a savior if he can come in and find a way to knock of Southern Cal at the end of the season, but Hundley's career as a whole should determine whether or not he brought UCLA "back." I feel that Coach Mora's decision to go with the freshman was a risky, but wise decision on UCLA's behalf. Hundley has the ability to provide an immediate jolt to a previously anemic UCLA offense, but a freshman's expectations must be curbed initially.
Hundley has a unique situation in that he'll immediately be the centerpiece of the offense. Comparable unexperienced quarterbacks like Darron Thomas stepped in and performed right away, but Thomas was padded by unparalleled skill position talent, and a scheme to promote his strengths while shielding his weaknesses. In Mazzone's scheme, Hundley will need to be the majority of all of UCLA's success, instead of complimenting it. If Hundley can emerge from his first season with eight wins or more, and keep UCLA competitive in all of their losses, then we can start leaning in closer to see his true potential as a "program-saver."
For now, Hundley is simply a prospect for the future, but a great one for Bruin fans, and Coach Mazzone to enjoy.