Let's finish our review of the depth chart on the offensive side by going through our QB position. For number of good reasons there have been a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth in Bruin Nation this past decade over the marquee position of a college football team based in Los Angeles. Many of us who grew up rooting for the Bruins in previous decades were spoiled witnessing number of legendary QBs leading UCLA team to Pac-10 conference championships, Rose Bowl victories and other huge bowl wins.
Gary Beban won the Heisman. John Sciarra, Tom Ramsey and Rick Neuheisel brought us Rose Bowl victories. Troy Aikman came close twice but settled for a New Year's Day bowl victory before making himself a Dallas Cowboys legend. Then we had Wayne Cook managing the team to a Pac-10 championship in 1993, before Cade McNown made his magical run in Westwood. Yet bad luck after bad luck plagued the Bruins in this position since Bob Toledo gave a scholarship for J.P. Losman, essentially telling Kyle Boller to look somewhere else. Losman in Westwood became a fiasco as he didn't last even for six months. Except for a good season from Drew Olson not much has gone right for us in this past decade. So, yeah, can't really blame us for being paranoid and over thinking about the state of this position every season.
Heading into this season there are number of questions around our starting QB spot and our depth chart. For those who want to be jaded about it based on what we have gone through last 10 years, there are reasons to be anxious. Yet, if you really look through the numbers of our starting QB, and consider the roster he has behind him, there are also reasons to think we just might be OK this season, getting us into a decent bowl game, and set ourselves up for a memorable run in 2010.
Here is the depth chart of our QB heading into spring camp:
|4||Kevin Prince (6-2, 230, So.**)(11)|
|12||Richard Brehaut (6-2, 222, So.)|
|18||Nick Crissman (6-3, 205, So.**)|
|11||Darius Bell, (5-11, 207, So.)|
|14||Clayton Tunney (6-4, 213, Jr.**)|
** Redshirt season
() Number of games started
The official depth chart doesn't list anyone beyond Crissman because it doesn't include incoming freshman and JC transfers who haven't gone though official practices. That is why I have Darius Bell behind Crissman. I went ahead and included Clayton Tunney - the walkon QB - because his name has come up during discussion in recent months.
Speaking of Tunney note the numbers change. Tunney now has Kevin Prince's old number 14, while Prince has switched over to number 4. Analysis after the jump.
Obviously we have to start with Kevin Prince. Forget national exposure. He is not getting much love regionally heading into his second year as the starting QB of UCLA. This is going to be third year in the program as he redshirted his first year, recovering from knee injury he suffered in his senior year in high school. I will get to Kevin's numbers in a bit. The biggest question mark from all of us is whether Prince is going to be able emerge as a durable QB for the entire season.
Prince got off to a solid start last year before getting banged up in the closing mins against Tennessee, which kept him out for 3 weeks. When he came back, it essentially took him 3 games to get back in rhythm, before getting hurt again from a cheat shot by the Washington Huskies. He got hurt one more time against Southern Cal, before ending the season with gutsy performance against Temple. So once again, the question is can he stay healthy? He sure seems to have put in the work this off-season. He almost looks like a LB now following this off-season's S&C regimen. He also looks to be in great shape in terms of speed and agility workouts. Per coaches he has been running a 4.6 during workouts, although not sure how much stock I put into those stats. Still he seems to be in the best shape of his UCLA career. He looked pretty FAST. If he can stay healthy, keep his mouthpiece on, perhaps we can be cautiously optimistic.
Oh and as noted during spring, Prince has assumed total control of the team. As Blair Angulo noted, Prince started self-organizing off-season workouts during this winter:
Maybe it's because Prince didn't waste much time assuming control of the team after it returned from its EagleBank Bowl victory in December. He organized a weekly throwing schedule with his receivers three or four times a week at Spaulding Field.
"It's all about getting that timing down," receiver Taylor Embree said. "You look at the NFL and the greatest quarterbacks -- Peyton Manning and Tom Brady -- it's all timing. This is a rhythm game. Once you get that trust and that rhythm down, there's no stopping it -- especially with someone as skilled as Prince."
By all means, Prince is not a finished product. Neuheisel would like to see an improvement in Prince's accuracy. Chow would like to see more growth and development. For Prince, it's all about leadership.
"Coach Chow wants us to take control," Prince said. "He wants us to push him to the side and say, 'We've got this.'"
As far as numbers are concerned, Prince despite missing almost 3 games racked up pretty notable stats. He became just the second freshman quarterback in UCLA history to pass for over 300 yards three times (311 v. Cal, 323 at Oregon St., 314 at Wash. St.) in a season (Tommy Maddox in 1990). In fact, only McNown, with six as a senior in 1998, and, with four as a senior in 1982, put up more 300-yard passing games in a season.
Sure Prince's TD to Interception ratio wasn't all that great. Yet as we laid out in detail back in February those numbers were not any different than the ones from Patrick Cowan, Drew Olson, and the amazing McNown in their first year as regular starters for UCLA. In fact Prince's numbers stacked up pretty well against those from recent UCLA QBs who experienced success in last couple of decades. Then you take into the account facts that UCLA's leading rusher was a freshman, our top receivers were underclassmen, and we had an OL with zero seniors, Prince's numbers looks more than reasonable. In other words, if Prince was lining up behind Petey Carroll's 5-star studded OL, his numbers would have looked even better (and certain better than the most overhyped sophomore QB in the country).
There is also consternation about how Prince is going to perform due to coaches integrating revolver formation into our offense. I don't think concerns over that issue are overblown. As Chow noted to UCLA beat reporters (who are mostly dumber than teenage pop stars), Bruins actually ran that formation number of times last year. What people also forget that Prince has a pretty decent set of wheels , which he showed off number of times last season. No, we don't expect him to take off all the time. However, when the opportune time comes he should be able to pick up good chunk of yards (he will have to keep his mouthpiece on).
What Prince is going to need is support from his entire team. He can manage game in big time situations (which he did in Knoxville). He is going to need solid and consistent protection from his OL upfront, help from his backs by catching the rock with regularity out of the backfield and racking up yards in open spaces, and big plays from his WRs with clutch catches, solid down field blocks, and separation from opposing DBs. Okay, there are lot of factors here in play and it will all be centered on a team coming together and functioning like a well orchestrated jazz band.
I will admit, I was wrong when I became skeptical of Prince following the Cal and Arizona game last year. I had some strong debates with Ryan over whether we should have stuck with Prince or go with Richard Brehaut. Ryan , I believe was correct in sticking with Prince over Brehaut (who still didn't seem to be comfortable with picking up blitz packages and looking indecisive in the pocket). I think Prince clearly got it going after the Arizona game. If he hadn't gotten knocked out against Washington, I am fully convinced he would have tore up the Husky defense (which he was doing while in the game). The game against the Trojans also could have Trojans if he had his receivers hold on to catchable balls and Paulsen not making dumb mistakes.
For Prince to have a good season this year, he doesn't need to have the same seasons McNown did in his last two years. I think if he stays healthy, keep managing the game well, and get better support from more seasoned and experienced team-mates, who have now had 2+ years under Chow, we might be all right. So call me cautiously optimistic and hopeful re. Kevin Prince.
Now in the most ideal world, Prince will take overwhelming majority of the snaps this coming season and only come out for mop up time. If that is the case, then the Bruins should really look for opportunity to red-shirt Richard Brehaut this season. Brehaut (6-2, 222), now a true sophomore enrolled early during 2009 Spring Quarter and was able to get a head start. Due to Prince's injury he saw some action in six games off the bench and completed 11 of 17 passing attempts for 124 yards, no touchdowns and one interception.
He certainly has a great arm and he is also a mobile QB. However, I believe his time is going to come if he remains patient, attentive and work his butt off during practices. The impatient fans on message boards always like speculating about transfer, but I happen to think Brehaut will focus on getting better and just be mentally ready to step up. His time will com.
From what we have heard redshirt sophomore Nick Crissman (6-3, 205) is now healthy. Apparently his shoulder is finally feeling healed and he has been feeling as good as he has ever felt since he came to Westwood. Crissman has been great for our program as he was essentially one of the key recruiters helping to land Jordan Zumwalt from last year's freshman class. Hopefully Crissman is going to have a solid August camp and put himself in a position where he emerges as a viable third option in the depth chart. It will be perfect if the coaches can use him to finish up in fourth quarter like he did against Washington State, when he got in the game late and took 10 snaps during a Bruin blowout. If Crissman can play that role, it will allow us to redshirt Brehaut.
and able to show he is ready to add depth to the position. He was sidelined during the 2008 season by a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder that required surgery and spent part of 2009 rounding back into competitive shape. He saw his first game action with 10 snaps last season at Washington State. As a prep senior in 2007, he totaled 2,048 yards passing.
Behind Crissman we will have JC transfer Darius Bell. We have discussed his potential in detail here and here. I think he will be busy learning the playbook and getting acclimated to the playbook. It will be interesting though to put him in for special plays with multiple QBs, lining up Kevin Prince out wide. We actually have done this before with Kevin Craft and Chris Forcier, except in this case Prince and Bell, at least on paper are much more athletic combinations. If Bell lines up behind center and Prince is out wide, it could potentially create a lot of matchup nightmares for opposing DC (who will still have to use one DB to check Prince out Wide) with Bell's mobility as a factor. Just something to think about.
As for the other guys, coaches will probably give walkon Clayton Tunney (6-4, 213), a redshirt junior who transferred in last year from UC Davis, some reps here and there. In fact he got some reps this past spring when Crissman was struggling with the revolver formation. He seemed to have pretty decent zip in his throws when I saw the team in person. Hopefully he will have a good August camp and make the team better through solid contributions in the scout team. BTW I did not see the other walkon - redshirt freshman Ted Landers - listed in our roster. Not sure what happened to him.
So there you have it. Done with initial look through our offensive depth chart. Let us know what we missed and what specific factors we didn't discuss that we should be thinking about heading into camp. There are lot of questions around this team yet there are lot of reasons to be excited about. Don't think we have ever been around a UCLA team which based on the questions heading into the season can win somewhere between a wide range of 5 and 9 wins. The kind of production we will get out of our QB spot (with help from the entire offense) will be a key to what we are hoping will be positive answers for our Bruins. Fingers crossed.