As we are in the middle of basketball season, I have football on my mind. I have been thinking lot more about upcoming spring football camp than how we are going to finish out rest of this season. We are going to have a long off season to hash out our pre-season expectations heading into next year. While we are going to mostly fly under the radar this spring, I am cautiously optimistic about our team making a splash in terms of getting back to the plus column in our overall conference record. Well all of this depends on how our redshirt sophomore QB - Kevin Prince - is going to perform his second season as starter in Westwood.
Of course I am sure Richard Brehaut is going to compete hard against Kevin this spring. However, I think for Brehaut this spring and coming fall, is going to be about building on the crash course he had to cram through last year. For Richard this year will be about being more prepared and confident in executing Norm Chow's offensive scheme when called upon to step in for Kevin. I think the best case scenario for UCLA will be if somehow Kevin can make it through a season without needing backup QB for mop-up time. That will allow coaches to use perhaps like Nick Crissman or the other QBs available on roster, and redshirt Brehaut to space out the QB depth chart.
Going back to Kevin, I have been wondering what we can expect from him in his second season. Well to do that, I wanted to compared his first season with other UCLA quarterbacks who emerged as starters (or got to start a substantial number of games) in their first season at UCLA. Here is how Kevin stacks up:
Few quick notes about this chart:
- Bold represents QBs who beat Southern Cal
- Bold/Italic represents QB who won the Pac-10 and beat Southern Cal
- Kevin Craft is the only transfer on this chart
- The chart does not include QBs who transferred out such as Brett Johnson, Ryan Fien, Ryan McGann and Matt Moore (although he did end up beating Southern Cal with Oregon State, go figure). It doesn't also include Jim Bonds, Rob Walker, Scott McEwen, and the Law Firm
So going back to the chart, considering all the circumstances, it appears Prince actually had a really good season in his first year as the starting QB for UCLA. More analysis and perspective after the jump.
Again to reset he started his first game after staying away from the football field for almost two full years as he got injured early in his senior season at high school and then red shirted his first season at UCLA. He then came back and got injured in his second game at UCLA which caused him to miss 2 more games. He also missed half the action against Washington and Southern Cal. So over all he put up the numbers above despite missing almost 3 games this season.
I am not sure if we can compare Prince to either Cade McNown or Tommy Maddox, but I thought their numbers in their first year was interesting. Maddox with his Tommy Gun arm was a freak of nature. He also had the luxury like Prince to redshirt his first season. McNown was more a pure athlete who played with the mentality of MLB at the QB spot (Prince tries that but he needs to wisen up and work on his sliding skills with his freaking mouthpiece on). Notice though how McNown was sacked only 11 times his first year. I don't have the numbers on Maddox. However, from what I can recall I don't think he had to deal with playing behind a completely rebuilt OL, like Prince has had to this season.
Also, the talent level at UCLA both during McNown and Maddox's era was slightly higher when they took over the offense. Maddox had Sean LaChappelle and Scottie Miller, while Cade was flinging it too Jim McElroy and also had Karim Abdul-Jabbar (a solid and experienced RB) in the backfield. Looking at the numbers, statistically Maddox had the better season than Prince, however Maddox failed to take his team to a bowl game. In Cade's case, he didn't have numbers as good as Prince, but did beat Southern Cal and took us to the bowl game. He didn't win the bowl game though (against Kansas in Aloha Bowl) unlike Prince.
Similarly when Drew Olson came around, he had MJD, Manny White, Tyler Ebell, Craig Bragg, and Marcedes Lewis to throw and hand off to in his first year with substantive playing time as the starting QB for UCLA. Keep in mind Olson's number above was his sophomore season, as he also got called into action the year before as a true freshman when Cory Paus got injured. His numbers were way more mediocre his freshman season when he was pressed into action (threw for 702 yards, completing 53 for 104 passes (51%), 3tds and 4 picks). I would rank Prince's season ahead of where Olson was in his initial years. His numbers were easily better than what we got from Cory Paus in his first year at UCLA.
Prince's number looks slight better than Patrick Cowan from 2006, who basically took over the team 5th game into the season when Olson went down against Arizona. He didn't give up the starting job since that game and went on to win that memorable game against Southern Cal, before blowing it against Florida State. One has to wonder what would have happened with Cowan at UCLA if he had a competent head coach, offensive coordinator and a serviceable offensive line (same goes with Ben Olson, who was beaten to a pulp in blue and gold).
Wayne Cook's numbers are the most interesting ones to me. Except in the TD department, Wayne's numbers look very similar to Kevin's first season. Guess that happens when Wayne had a Heisman candidate like JJ Stokes at his disposal. Wayne also had Skip Hicks (at least early in the season), Sharmon Shah (hadn't changed his name yet), Kevin Jordan, and a legendary OL that was anchored by Jonathan Ogden and Vaughn Parker (as upperclassmen).
Still putting all those numbers in context, I am (cautiously) optimistic about Prince. I don't think we need dramatic improvement from him to make steady progress as a football program. We need him to keep developing at a steady rate. I am sure he will be reminded over and over again about the need to slide and using that mouthpiece. Hopefully the off-season conditioning will make him stronger.
Once Prince gets even more acclimated to Chow's scheme, I think he should be able to cut down the number of interceptions and get to the end zone lot more. We can also hope our OL will continue to improve even without XSF as rest of the starting unit anchored by Kai Maiavia come back with more experience under their belt. Add to that if we can get our young receivers including Nelson Rosario who showed signs of breaking through take another step, it could get really interesting. Hopefully Randall Carroll, Morrell Pressley will be more comfortable with the playbook. Ricky Marvray will be looking to make his contributions. In the backfield perhaps we will have a more confident JetSki teaming up with Malcolm Jones, Milton Knox, Damien Thigpen, Derrick Coleman and Jordon James.
Despite the frustrating games we had against Stanford, Oregon, California, and Arizona, our offense seemed to take another step starting with that fourth quarter against Oregon State. Again, at this point we don't need Prince to take a dramatic step in his second year in Westwood. If he builds on his first year, which stacks up pretty well against the other UCLA QBs in the post Aikman era, I feel good about our program taking another step forward. Again to put in perspective Kevin Prince, I believe is the first UCLA quarterback in Post-Aikman era to finish his football season on a winning note as a first year starter. Not too shabby for someone who came back in action after two years on the sidelines. Can't wait till spring.