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UCLA Football: Brett Hundley’s Progress; Breakout Players for 2014 - Q&A with's Brandon Huffman

Part 2 of a 3 parts Q&A with’s Brandon Huffman, who recently discussed with Bruin front pagers number of issues related to UCLA football recruiting and thoughts on the upcoming football season.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Now that you have had some time to digest analyst Brandon Huffman's thoughts on the state of UCLA football recruiting in 2014-15, let's focus on on UCLA's personnel and of course Brett Hundley. Here are Brandon's thoughts on those topics in response to some of our queries in Part 2 of our 3 part with Q&A.

BN: Which offensive and defensive players do you think will be the biggest surprises for Bruin fans this fall?

Defensively, I think it will be Anthony Jefferson.  Yes, I understand he's a fifth-year senior, but he's always been kind of under-the-radar, and even last year as a starter, he never got much attention.  But he really came on last year, and I think he's going to have an all-Pac-12 season.  Offensively, I'll go with Thomas Duarte.  Again, he's not really a surprise because of the impact in the offense he had, but I think it will be a surprise just how MUCH a part of the offense he'll be this fall.

BN: Will Malcolm Bunche be the starting LG this fall?

BH: That is probably likely the case.  He's coming in to help stabilize the line, bringing a ton of experience, and as admirable a job as Scott Quessenberry did last year, not having Xavier Su'a-Filo on the left side is a concern.  A Caleb Benenoch/Bunche left side makes a big difference.

BN: Do you think true freshman Nathan Starks could break into the running back rotation in his first year in Westwood?

BH: Honestly, it would be a surprise if he did.  And that's nothing against Starks, but more with the emergence I expect from Craig Lee.  Plus, you take the experience of Jordon James and the carries that Paul Perkins and Steven Manfro provide, and I could absolutely see a scenario where Starks ends up redshirting.  Of course, I always thought his best position was safety...

BN: Who do you think might be this year's surprise break out player?  Is there another Myles Jack waiting to happen?

BH: Again, I'll go with Thomas Duarte.  I think Thomas Duarte is the most natural pass-catching tight end that UCLA has had since Marcedes Lewis.  Does that mean I think he IS Marcedes Lewis? No.  But he's more than just a red zone target like Joe Fauria was.  Duarte runs great routes, is very physical, can block when needed to (the latter, things that Fauria was a work-in-progress at) and has soft hands.  He's underrated athletically, and I think he's going to be a favorite of Brett Hundley.

BN: How do you see Hundley's progress?  What has he been working on this off-season?

BH: From all reports, Hundley's biggest focus this offseason is the decision making and getting rid of the ball quicker.  There is something about him you saw this spring, a quiet confidence if you will, that makes me think he's more comfortable than he's ever been, and he seems more driven than at any point in his career.  And I think he heard the whispers about his decision making and I think you'll see the jump there.

BN: Jim Mora started and has been championing Brett Hundley's Heisman campaign.  Is the Athletic Department doing much (anything?) to generate any buzz and should they?

BH: It sure does seem like they are, especially notable since it's the offseason.  But in this day and age, you don't need a spring Heisman campaign, you need big plays and big games to happen in the fall.  Like Johnny Manziel and Jameis Winston, it's what you do in the big games.  So what Hundley does in Arlington or in Tempe or in Pasadena will trump anything that happens now, especially when Marcus Mariota is getting all the love as the Pac-12 quarterback.

Stay tuned for Part 3 and 3 of our Q&A with Brandon on Monday