During last three years on Bruins Nation, usually this time of the season we put up our notes on various positions going over the depth chart of the team. We decided to put together our notes because we were not seeing any comprehensive takes on various positions elsewhere around the internets. However, this year the online landscape is a little different. We have already seen sources from both new and traditional media making a better effort this year in putting together position previews of the football team. Plus our own captainqtp has been doing a great job going through select positions and analyzing whether there has been an upgrade or downgrade from previous season. So given those factors, I will probably not be doing the depth chart analysis have been doing last three years and instead will be threading together notes on position analysis that I see from other media sources. I will start with notes on the QB position.
It seems like even though there questions about our QB position (since we don't really know yet what to expect from Prince in college game situations), the depth chart for now is little more settled than last year. It will be all about Kevin Prince. As noted by Sam Saig of All Pac-10 (a cool new blog which has been doing a solid job of putting together comprehensive posts this off season) right now Prince's biggest obstacle will be overcoming his inexperience:
Kevin Prince spent most of 2008 with the practice squad, but he also dressed for every game including all five road trips. This gave him a front row seat to watch one of the worst offenses in college football last year. As Kevin Craft struggled on the field, Kevin Prince meticulously studied Norm Chow’s pro-style offense and impressed the coaching staff in the process.
His redshirt year in 2008 allows him four full years of eligibility and he will have a chance to go the distance as a starter if he continues to play as well as he did during the spring. At 6-2 225 pounds, Prince is solidly built for a freshman and he might need all of that bulk since the offensive line did not help Craft stay on his feet for most of last season.
Prince showed great maturity taking snaps with the first team offense, and more importantly, he is a tireless worker. The word out of Westwood is that Prince stays after practice routinely in order to throw, pick Chow’s brain with questions, and then throw some more. Prince also has a very live arm, probably the best of all the Bruin quarterbacks; combine all of these factors and it’s pretty clear to see why he was named the starter in April.
Prince’s biggest obstacle will be overcoming his inexperience. He played his high school ball at Crespi in Encino, CA where the offense was predominantly shotgun-based. While he has progressed wonderfully under center since joining the Bruins, playing against his first few Pac-10 defenses will be a test. The learning curve will be steep, but the strong-armed Prince appears game.
What I will be looking for most from Prince is what UCLA coaches were looking from a QB like Wayne Cook. He has to be able to manage the game. More after the jump.From all accounts it sounds like Prince is more athletic and has a stronger arm that might enable us to take advantage of some of the weapons we have in the receiving corps. From Chris Foster in the LAT:
There are clear upsides to Prince. He has a strong arm and seems to carry necessary leadership qualities. There are downsides as well. He has not played in a game in two years, since he suffered a knee injury in the first quarter of the season opener.
Neuheisel believes that Prince, who he says has a "dangerous arm," can create the type of long scoring plays seen by opposing defensive backs last season.
"We were devoid of big plays last year," Neuheisel said. "If we can create some big plays early, it will give us the confidence to make then."
That remains a potential at the moment. But linebacker Reggie Carter has liked what he has seen in Prince.
"He doesn’t move around a lot and he doesn’t flinch," Carter said. "He stays in the pocket and he makes the right decision. If it’s there, he throws it, if it’s not, he keeps it. That’s all I need. I don’t want him to throw the ball to other people. As long as somebody on our team has the ball, I’m happy."
Remember Wayne Cook? His first full season at UCLA was 93-94 (after he went down with an injury in his first game the previous season). Cook played the role of a game manager perfectly. He never tried to do too much yet did just enough to make sure he took advantage of the deep threat talents via JJ and Kevin Jordan. With him UCLA ended up going all the way to the Rose Bowl. I certainly don't have the same expectations for Prince. However, what I am looking for is for him to restore a sense of calm and confidence in our offense. Reggie Carter had some interesting note on this point during Media Day:
"We screamed all kinds of crazy things at him" during spring practice, Carter said. "He still made smart decisions. That's all he needs to do. He doesn't have to throw 80-yard touchdown passes, just make smart decisions."
If he can play the role of a ball control QB, who can keep the other offense of the field and take advantage of scoring opportunities whenever we have them (I still have nightmares of the ASU game from last year), we will be in better shape this season.
As for Craft, I have nothing but admiration for his heart and courage. No doubt his performance on the field in terms of productivity was not up to UCLA standards. But when it comes to sacrificing himself for the program and showing dedicate to the team by constantly battling with whatever he could muster up, he was an absolute warrior. It will be good to have him on the sidelines. Although, he will not be needed this year, having someone like him who has shown the mentality of being a total team player is nothing but beneficial the program.
In terms of Brehaut, it is going to be interesting to see whether he gets any action. In the ideal situation Prince will be able to hold his own and manage to play the entire season like Craft did. If that is the case, then I am sure coaches will be looking to redshirt Richard, which will allow to space out our QB depth chart even more and secure the program for the long term. What I have been most impressed about Brehaut is how from all the spring reports we have read about him, he seemed to have fit in the program. Even though he is obviously a very confident kid, he didn't rub his team-mates the same way the last time a such highly touted QB checked into Westwood early for spring ball (See J.P. Losman related posts by going thrown BN archives). It will be great if we don't have to use him this coming season and allow him to get even stronger and more well versed with Chow's office.
Meanwhile, don't forget about Nick Crissman. per the LA Times notes from Pac-10 Media Day he was give a "clean bill of health." The kid has been beset by injury issues since he came to UCLA. He didn't do much because of shoulder surgery he had last year. Let's see how he looks during camp in August. Remember he was also a highly ranked QB coming into college. It will be interesting to find out how he stacks up against Prince, Brehaut, and Craft. One thing for sure, I like this depth chart lot more than the one from last year featuring Craft, Forcier, and Rasshan. While Prince was available last year, it would have been to risky to throw him to the wolves as a true frosh, less than a year removed from his knee injury from senior year in high school.
Still as mentioned above and through out this off season what we have in Prince and other QBs are still questionmarks. While signs from what we have read and heard from practices are positive, we are not going to know the real deal until we see him in game actions. Plus there are all those questions around OL re. whether they will be able to provide protection and generate a credible running game. Can't wait to find out all the answers.