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Pregame Guesses: Brett Hundley's Decision Edition

We take another look at Brett Hundley's should I stay or should I go decision and what it means to the program in the short and long run.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Parquet Courts - Stoned And Starving (Live on KEXP) (via KEXP)

(This week's video is Stoned and Starving by Parquet Courts. Parquet Courts are a Brooklyn rock band with a great, punk feel. They sort of remind me of the Jim Carroll Band and I believe they would consider that a compliment. Both their new single and their new album will be on all the year end "Best of" lists. I already bought tickets to see them at the Henry Fonda Theater in January and you should, too.)

In September, Nestor wrote a fascinating four part series called "Brett Hundley and the NFL Draft."

In Part 1, Nestor looked at some of the hype from draft watchers that hit the Internet after our huge win against Nebraska. At the time, Michael David Smith from NBC's Pro Football Talk wrote about Hundley as the second best quarterback in the hypothetical 2014 draft. Wrote Smith:

Hundley currently looks like the second-best quarterback prospect in next year's draft, behind Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater. Hundley redshirted his freshman year in 2011, which means he could declare for the draft as early as the end of this college football season, or he could play two more years at UCLA after this one. (Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel is in the same situation.) It's tough to see why Hundley would return to school after this year. He looks ready for the NFL.

Part 2 examined the reasons that Hundley should return for his redshirt junior season. In the post, Nestor laid out some points provided by Bellerophon including the difficult transition dual thread quarterbacks have transitioning to the pros, Hundley's opportunity to establish himself as one of the great UCLA quarterbacks, the fact that the 2014 quarterback draft class should be stronger than the 2015 class and Hundley's need to continue to refine his mechanics and his development.

The third entry laid out the risk factors related to Hundley's return including

The possibility of injury, his draft status vis and vis other quarterbacks and so on. But it's what Nestor wrote in Part 4 that I want to revisit a bit.

Nestor wrote:

What I will be disheartened by is if we experience a repeat of Tommy Maddox circa 1991-92. Back then another red-shirt sophomore followed a promising red-shirt freshman season (although Hundley's first year was way more magical than Maddox's first year) with a good but not great sophomore year (an 8-4 season which included a win against Southern Cal and a boring Donahue (6-3) win vs. Illinois).

If Maddox had returned for his junior season, UCLA probably would have been a top-10 team and a pre-season favorite to go and perhaps win the Rose Bowl. Instead Maddox pulled the NFL trigger and ended up having a mediocre career starting with the Broncos and then wandering around with the Giants and Steelers. I really hope we don't have to experience that all over again.

Several months later, not much as changed. But the football program really (and maybe selfishly) needs Hundley not to pull a Maddox.

Sure I could - we could - try to dissect Hundley's game, compare him to other quarterbacks in the draft and try to guess where is his mind is at. We could pretend we know how much he cares about graduating, whether or not he needs the pro money now and what his parents might or might not think.

That would be a fun, perhaps interesting thing to do, but really it would just be a bunch of fans pretending to know more than we do and a bunch of people pretending we can read Brett Hundley's mind.

Well, I'm going to tell you straight out that I'm not a pro scout and I have zero idea what Hundley might be thinking or feeling. I could tell you that I watch a lot of pro football and Hundley doesn't yet do the things I see pro quarterbacks doing, like throwing the deep out on a rope, or hitting receivers running a post in stride, or going through his progressions to find the second or third options or hanging tough in the pocket and making the right throw before tucking and running. But if I wrote that, it would mean nothing because I'm just a guy with a keyboard. I'm not some expert. And I could write about how Hundley wants to leave his mark on UCLA or how he wants to make his sister Paris proud or that he wants to win a national title. Yeah, I could write those things but it wouldn't mean a whole lot because I don't know Hundley and for all I know all he cares about is cash and he's already picked out the BMW he plans to buy with his signing bonus.

What I can address for a bit is just how much is riding on Hundley's decision.

In my opinion, Hundley's should-I-stay-or-should-I-go quandary is equally and probably more important than the decision recruiting ace/offensive line coach Adrian Klemm made. Hundley's return is more important than any recruit currently committed or on our prospect list. He's more important than a five star receiver or defensive lineman.

Next season is Year Three of the Jim Mora era and it shapes up as the most crucial season in recent UCLA football memory. I'd say it's as important as 1998 when we rode in on a 10 game winning streak and ran it out to 20 before Miami happened. That Bob Toledo failed to capitalize on that streak and a down USC is a tragedy we're still paying for now. Toledo got lazy, recruiting went south, Southern Cal hired Pete Carroll and we entered a decade long dark age.

Things are not exactly the same now, but there are similarities.

SC is down. They've just hired Steve Sarkisian and he does not scare us. He might do fine, but he does not scare us. We've beaten them twice in a row but our recruiting is still a suffering because today's high school seniors grew up as Southern Cal fans. Outside the Southland, we're still playing catch up to Stanford and Oregon and maybe Arizona State, too. A third win in a row next year could, however, lay the foundation for a half decade of great recruiting.

But next season, there are no excuses. We get Stanford, Oregon and SC at home. The non-conference schedule has two easy games against Memphis and at Virginia - the only real challenge is the "neutral site" game against Texas in Cowboys Stadium in Dallas and we've proven over the years we can beat Texas when we need to.

On top of that, our roster losses will be significant, but minimal. We're definitely losing Jordan Zumwalt, Anthony Barr and Cassius Marsh on defense and those guys were all important players. But we have young and talented depth on the defensive line and at linebacker to offset those guys leaving. On offense, we'll miss Shaq Evans, sure, but have good returning receivers. Our running backs come back and, in fact, we should be better off in 2014 because they'll be healthy. I assume Xavier Su'a-Filo will go to the pros (and we can't begrudge him that - he's a three year starter), but the rest of the line comes back, plus the injured Simon Goines and hopefully the injured-but-suspended-at-the-momentTorian White is reinstated and ready to go.

And none of that counts the kids who played on the scout team this year or any studs Mora and Company bring in as recruits.

Simply put: Our roster is loaded next year and the schedule is as favorable as we could ever hope for.

2014 is our year. It's our year so much we optimistically overlooked flaws in this year's team because we're all in on next season. It shapes up as the culmination of a three-year resurrection project undertaken by Mora and his staff.

But we need Brett Hundley.

We need Brett Hundley, but it's not clear that this need will factor into Hundley's decision. And who knows if it should.

But without Brett Hundley our quarterback choices will be Jerry Neuheisel or Asiantii Woulard, who redshirted this season and ran the scout team. The practice reports on Woulard sound good. He's got a big arm and it's said to be accurate. He's athletic and presumably can pick up yards with his legs as well as with his arm. But he's never taken a snap in a college varsity game. Yeah, he could be great, he could be better than Hundley eventually. Who knows? What I do know is that I'd rather have the veteran Hundley going into the fourth quarter in Cowboys Stadium with the score tied than Woulard.

As an aside, it occurs to me that the decision to automatically redshirt guys like Hundley and Woulard is more difficult than some feel. Almost everyone I know didn't want Woulard to play this season to give him four more years of eligibility. But all too often the best players are ready to go after their redshirt sophomore or junior years - what are the odds you actually get a redshirt senior season out of your quarterback. How different would things be if Rick Neuheisel had played Hundley as a true freshman? Shoot, Neuheisel might still be coaching if he had done that. And I can't end this without taking Mora and Noel Mazzone to task a bit. They are responsible for the fact that we might go into next season with just Neuheisel and Woulard as our quarterbacks (because they didn't add anyone else to the roster) and they are responsible for the fact that at the moment we don't have a quarterback recruit committed nor are we in on any uncommitted prospects. Our best chance is a player named Brad Kaaya, who is still committed to Miami. If he sticks with his decision and Hundley goes pro, we're way to thin at the position.

Back to next season: We have a chance to open the season ranked in the Top Ten, maybe even the Top Five. We have a chance to establish ourselves as the team to beat not only in the Pac 12 South, but in the conference. We have a chance to step on the Trojans neck before their new coach has a chance to establish some momentum. And if we dare to dream, we could make the playoffs and maybe even win our first national football championship in 50 seasons.

I believe what happens next season could go a long way toward defining what our football program looks like for the next decade. We have a chance to plant our flag among the nation's elite programs.

All the dominoes are set up - we just have to knock them over.

But to do that, I really believe we need Brett Hundley.

It's his decision and it might not be fair for the fate of the entire program not only next year but for years to come to ride on his shoulders. In the end, he needs to do what's best for him.

But, damn, do we need him to come back for another season.

And with that, here are you Pregame Guesses, Brett Hundley Decision Edition:

  1. What player from this year's scout team are you most interested in seeing next season?
  2. Who will be the next coach of the Texas Longhorns?
  3. Other than Myles Jack, which freshman did you enjoy watching the most this season?

Note: In reading this over, I think I wrote "need Hundley" in some form or another about five times in this post. I guess you know how I feel about it.