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Breaking Down Neuheisel/Chow’s Collective Decision To Stay With Prince

<em>Photo Credit: <a href="" target="new">dabruins07 (flickr)</a></em>
Photo Credit: dabruins07 (flickr)

Let's follow up a little more on the QB news from yesterday. When the news initially came out yesterday it caused a lot of consternation among majority of the folks here on BN and other UCLA online communities. Based on the numbers alone from first two weeks, on paper at least there is a reasonable argument for coaches going another way besides Kevin Prince to start against Houston Cougars. However, the coaches (especially analytical ones like Norm Chow and Rick Neuheisel) have lot more information than we have at our disposal. So let's see if we can figure out how they reached their decision to stick with Prince.

First, there is the question of health. Coach Rick Neuheisel mentioned in his weekly press conference (see the full Q&A broken down in two part YouTube videos here and here) that Prince is feeling healthy and "ready to go." More importantly, CRN mentioned that he doesn't think Kevin Prince is going to be on a "pitch count" this week during practices. I think that is something we have to keep very close eye on while tracking the practice reports this week. Prince himself also was emphatic about this health according to his comments published in the LA Times:

Prince showed up with a sore shoulder last week and was limited in practice leading up to the Stanford game. He underwent an X-ray on his shoulder Monday and said, "I guarantee it will show nothing." He added, "This is the best I have felt in about two months."

Neuheisel and Prince met Monday morning and "talked about how I felt, about football and life in general," Prince said. "We talked about my mind-set and the things I thought we could do better to be on the same page. I think it will help us moving forward."

It is going to be all about his "mindset" from here on out. I think the biggest challenge Kevin Prince is facing right now is not his physical conditions (shoulder, back or whatever). It is all about his head. He needs to get the same confidence back, which he displayed towards the end of the season when he looked like  Pac-10 QB racking up 300 yards passing games.

I do think it is interesting that Rick Neuheisel mentioned that the coaches have "neglected" the throwing game. I think it was Ryan who had expressed the concern in past that perhaps UCLA coaches shouldn't have completely ignored practicing our pro-sets during spring break. After all as they had mentioned all along they kept both pro-set and revolver packages in place in first two games (which goes back to the whole concern about developing a consistent identity).

Anyway, it seems that lot of this angst can be addressed if Prince gets his confidence back. This brings me to the second point re. why the coaches stuck with Prince. I think the coaches stayed with Prince after watching the game films. One of the key duties for a QB running an offense out of "revolver" formation is to have the ability to make the right reads. It is up to the QBs to make the right reads, recognizing the defensive formations, and chose whether to hand off to RBs or hit the hole himself (or look for passing options). More after the jump.

Prince despite his horrible passing stats did make lot of accurate reads on Saturday. Our running game has been productive last two games. Lot of that has to do with the factor that it was Prince making the right reads. Moreover, lot of the offensive production has been stunted because of dropped passes, non aggressive WRs (we are looking right at you Nelson Rosario), and just inexcusable dumb drive killing penalties (which negated two huge plays on Saturday night). Yes, some of Prince's throws (including the pick he threw in first half) looked pathetic, but the offense has shown its moments.  In terms of Richard Brehaut, while some of his passes looked pretty during garbage time, made multiple wrong reads (as mentioned by Chow and Neuheisel in their post game comments). Specifically here are Chow's comments in the OC Register:

While starting quarterback Kevin Prince  struggled, completing 6-of-12 passes for 39 yards and an interception, Chow didn't sound very enthusiastic about the prospect of starting Richard Brehaut. Brehaut was 5-of-9 for 42 yards and an interception after replacing Prince in the closing seconds of the third quarter.

"Well, I thought it was typical," Chow said of Brehaut's performance. "He misread a couple of things. He threw a couple of balls I had no idea where they were going. We had an inside route run I believe, and he threw an outside ball."

Neuheisel alluded to those mistakes yesterday:

"Let me say this about Richard, he is going to be a great quarterback," Neuheisel said. "He's done great things in the fall. But when he goes into games, he still has two to three things that happen, that he doesn't quite have an answer as to why he let that happen. That's not uncommon for somebody of this age, and somebody at this point in his career. Richard went in there and ran plays he ran in practice, and a couple things happened inexplicably, that I didn't have an answer for. Neither did he. We have to keep those things from happening."

Now it's very possible that if Richard Brehaut gets to start a game, he might react different. Is that a certainty? No one really knows. In this case someone like Chow and Neuehisel are making their decisions after watching these kids go through hundreds of practice reps. While I am not emotionally invested in any of these QBs and just want our guys to win, I still think at this point Chow should get deference because of his track record from an incredible career. Chow also offered this:

"No," he said. "They're young guys, resilient young people. It's not like teams haven't started 0-2 before. And we have to stay positive. These are our guys. No excuses."

It will be interesting to see how it turns out this weekend. I mentioned yesterday that if Prince doesn't get it done this weekend, UCLA coaches will have to look somewhere else the following weekend. When I made that comment I forgot to account for the fact that the following weekend would entail a start in Austin. Thinking that through, I just don't see UCLA coaches making a switch at the QB spot at least for two games (no matter what happens this coming weekend). I could be wrong but I can't picture Chow and Neuheisel deciding to start someone else than Prince against a program like Texas with no starting experience whatsoever.

While this drama is playing out Prince sounds defiant:

Prince said he is oblivious to the Internet rants, saying, "I know people are thinking the end of the world is coming. As a quarterback and a leader of the offense, you can't be among those people who are freaking out."

I kind of like that chippiness. I hope it shows up in his mindset on Saturday.