With all the news coming out of the basketball program to open the week, it woiuld be easy to forget that the football team began spring practice yesterday, the first step toward the 2011 season and - as Brett Hundley stated after pracice - the run toward the first Pac-12 Championship. Coach Neuheisel and his retooled staff led the Bruins through their drills through the afternoon. For those of you that missed out, we detailed the various position battles in several posts over the past week.
Being opening day, there is plenty of time for the various storylines and position battles to play out over the coming days and weeks. For today, let's stick to the basics. There was quite a bit written about the two quarterbacks that are healthy and will be seeing most of the practice time. The LA Times led their practice report with the headline: Richard Brehaut is in charge on Day 1 of spring practice
I need to keep cool," Brehaut said. "I’ve studied. I know what I’m doing. Now it’s just a matter of taking a deep breath and actually doing it, and not letting anything rattle me where stuff has happened in the past. I’m going to be a junior now. I can’t have those freshman mistakes that I used to have."
Brehaut had few of them Tuesday, throwing several crisp passes. That included a nicely placed pass between defenders that wide receiver Taylor Embree grabbed.
But on Day 1 of spring, Neuheisel said, "Richard was good. I want to work on some things now that I got myself in charge of the quarterbacks. I see some things fundamentally we can work on. I’m impressed, given that he was working at baseball, that he has not let his attention to details to football slide."
Of course, the OC Register led their report with: Brett Hundley showed he belongs:
The freshman quarterback’s debut was a tangible sign of encouragement during UCLA’s spring practice opener Tuesday. The 6-4, 225-pound Hundley made an immediate impression on the coaching staff with his ability to throw downfield and from outside the pocket.
"There are going to be mistakes, but it never looked like it was too much for him," Coach Rick Neuheisel said. "He never looked exasperated. And he certainly made a number of throws today that show that he belongs at this level."
While the Register noted Hundley's strong showing for a 17-year old freshman, it remains that Richard Brehaut has entered camp running the first-team offense, getting the majority of the snaps. What the two quarterbacks have in common is the task of learning the playbook of new offensive coordinator Mike Johnson. And while the offense will be retaining many of the concepts - partucularly in the running game that were brought in before last season, there will be more of an emphisis on throwing the ball, and in taking the initiative.
... Neuheisel said the transition won’t be as sharp as the one UCLA made a year ago when it adopted the Pistol full time, as it is sticking with the bulk of its run scheme.
As for the passing game, the players quickly welcomed a change in philosophy from that of previous coordinator Norm Chow.
"We already have a lot more pass concepts in," Brehaut said. "I’m excited to throw this ball down the field."
Johnson said his first order of business is to change the offense’s mindset to a more aggressive one.
Jon Gold noted that the two quarterbacks did about as well as one should expect given there own positions:
Richard Brehaut and Brett Hundley both looked decent in UCLA's first spring practice, but neither wowed. Brehaut overthrew some passes, Hundley underthrew some, and they pretty much performed as you'd expect for their particular situations - Brehaut the maligned junior, Hundley the much-hyped freshman. Both had a number of really nice throws, and I have little doubt that this will be a back-and-forth battle throughout the spring.
Gold went on with some notes on how practice shook out, and the evolution of some of the players.
Still too many drops among the wide receivers, but a couple look noticeably different - Morrell Presley is getting bigger and bigger and Josh Smith looked really fast out there, and not at all hampered as he was constantly last season.
Saw a few really good breaks on the ball by Aaron Hester, and Tony Dye looks like he's going to be a really good player next year. His body is filling out where it needs to be, and he's taking more of a vocal role. He's a big key to the season, as he needs to not only become an all-conference player, but also replace Rahim Moore's vocal prowess
Spring practice continues this afternoon at Spaulding Field