Well here we are. The final business day before camp begins - and one of the biggest days in BN's history - and it is time to wrap up our series of pre-training camp previews with the highest profile Bruin player in our blog's era in the sport's glamour position.
Unlike some of the other positional previews, there will be no fierce battle for the starting spot at quarterback this fall, nor (fingers firmly crossed) will this month's competition further down the depth chart have any significant playing time for this season at stake aside from some late-game relief efforts later in the fall. Below is the depth chart at Quarterback for the Bruins heading into Fall Camp:
|Brett Hundley - 6'3, 227, Jr*
|Asiantii Woulard - 6'3, 208, Fr*
|Jerry Neuheisel - 6'1, 195, So*
|Mike Fafaul - 6'2, 205, So*
|Jake Hall - 6'4, 195, So*
|Aaron Sharp - 6'3, 190, Fr
* - Denotes player has used a redshirt season
There is not a lot to say about Brett Hundley's position on the chart or the roster. In making the decision to return to Westwood for his redshirt Junior season, Brett truly was Coach Mora's biggest recruit of the class of 2014 and is the key to the team making a leap toward competing for this year's college football playoff. Brett's leadership and commitment to his teammates and to UCLA have never been in question, but his return to campus was also informed by some critiques of his game by scouts who feel that he needs to work on a couple of things before he will be a nationally elite quarterback. As noted by Rob Rang of NFLDraftScout.com:
When his intended target is covered up, Hundley doesn't always maximize other options downfield before tucking the ball and running it himself. Further, Hundley doesn't consistently hit his receivers in stride, limiting yardage-after-the-catch opportunities. On the surface, Hundley's skill-set seems every bit as tantalizing as Oregon's Marcus Mariota or Florida State's Jameis Winston. To leapfrog these two as the elite quarterback prospect in the country, however, Hundley will need to improve in the critical subtleties of the quarterback position - reading defenses and ball placement.
Basically, Brett is as talented as any quarterback in the country and had the talent to have been a high pick in last spring's draft, but there are some elements in his game that do need work before he can be the Heisman winning, #1 NFL pick that is inside of him - things that most of us have noticed at times over the past two seasons. And as Scout.com's Brandon Huffman shared with us earlier in the Spring, Brett is hard at work addressing these issues.
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.
As long as Brett stays healthy this season, UCLA will be able to make another strong run at the divisional and conference titles. If the work that he has put in over this offseason has succeeded in elevating his game, the Bruins will be able to make
Of course, Brett Hundley's health is a crucial factor in what the Bruins can hope to achieve this fall. The greater stability and experience on the offensive line along with Brett's maturation as a QB should help keep him behind center throughout the season, but the ...
The competition between Jerry Neuheisel and Asiantii Woulard for the backup QB spot is pretty close... While Asiantii has the greater physical stills, Jerry showed a bit better consistency during the spring and does have some game experience. If the season had started after Spring Ball, I think Jerry would have been named the #2 guy. But with another month of training camp ahead, I think Asiantii pulls ahead.
While I noted that Neuheisel has been the more consistent player to date, it helps to keep in mind the experience of the two quarterbacks. Jerry has taken both a greyshirt and a redshirt season at UCLA - while he is a sophomore in terms of eligibility, he is now 4 years removed from high school (having graduated from Loyola-LA just one year after fellow Cub Anthony Barr). Before those previous two Fall Camps and three years of Spring Ball as a Bruin, he was tutored from childhood by a father who knows a thing or two about being a UCLA QB. Asiantii is a redshirt freshman who only began playing QB as a high school junior. Having enrolled along with most of his cohorts last summer, this was his first taste of Spring Ball and the inexperience showed. He has quite a ways to go in learning to play quarterback at a high level, but being in close competition with Jerry Neu this early in his real development is a good sign for his future. Or at least in his being UCLA's #2 quarterback this fall.
Further down the depth chart are a pair of redshirt sophomore walk-ons. Mike Fafaul served as the 3rd string QB last fall, and even got to run the offense for a series in the 4th quarter of the Sun Bowl (completing a pass to Logan Sweet late in that game). But with Asiantii Woulard shedding his redshirt, Mike falls back in the pecking order, and will likely be limited to scout team and/or emergency+++ duties behind center this fall. Jake Hall has yet to take a snap, but did gain some attention due to his sideline responsibilities last fall.
Last but not least is incoming freshman Aaron Sharp. The 3-star rated recruit out of Texas is a certain redshirt this season, but is definitely worth keeping an eye on during camp and tracking through the next couple of years. With Asiantii Woulard and Josh Rosen expected to battle for the honor of replacing Brett Hundley next fall, Aaron will have an opportunity to compete for but probably not gain a high spot on the depth chart at QB. But as we noted over the winter in his commitment post, Sharp is an elite athlete with crazy speed - he was last year's Texas state champion in the 200m dash, and finished 2nd in this year's state title meet.
The notes covering his recruitment hint that he does have a fair shot of sticking at QB, though with the coming logjam at the position and his physical skills, it would be a shame for him to be buried for his 4-5 years in Westwood. My guess is that he will get two years in the program as a QB. Assuming there is no attrition following next year's QB competition and that Mora/Mazzone are successful in recruiting another signal caller in the 2016 incoming class, I think Aaron will be asked to move to one of the offensive skill positions. But that's something that we can wait until a future positional preview to really look at. For now, Aaron will be taking the practice field as Bruin quarterback on Monday afternoon.