Pac-10 Position Breakdown: Quarterback – UCLA Bruins
Here are the facts; in 2009 a guy named Kevin will likely assume the quarterback position in Westwood. The choices are A.) Senior Kevin Craft or B.) Redshirt Freshman Kevin Prince.
Head coach Rick Neuheisel and offensive coordinator Norm Chow have made it quite clear so far that the latter is a better option. Prince ended spring practice atop the depth chart. Clearly, incumbency has not helped the senior starter from last season. In fact, Craft may not even win the backup role.
In April, Richard Brehaut, a 6-2 205 pound true freshman outperformed Craft decisively. Neuheisel recruited both Prince and Brehaut for Norm Chow’s system. It is becoming evident that Neuheisel and Chow were embarrassed by last year’s anemic offense and are ready to start a new era at quarterback for the Bruins.
Kevin Prince spent most of 2008 with the practice squad, but he also dressed for every game including all five road trips. This gave him a front row seat to watch one of the worst offenses in college football last year. As Kevin Craft struggled on the field, Kevin Prince meticulously studied Norm Chow’s pro-style offense and impressed the coaching staff in the process.
His redshirt year in 2008 allows him four full years of eligibility and he will have a chance to go the distance as a starter if he continues to play as well as he did during the spring. At 6-2 225 pounds, Prince is solidly built for a freshman and he might need all of that bulk since the offensive line did not help Craft stay on his feet for most of last season.
Prince showed great maturity taking snaps with the first team offense, and more importantly, he is a tireless worker. The word out of Westwood is that Prince stays after practice routinely in order to throw, pick Chow’s brain with questions, and then throw some more. Prince also has a very live arm, probably the best of all the Bruin quarterbacks; combine all of these factors and it’s pretty clear to see why he was named the starter in April.
Prince’s biggest obstacle will be overcoming his inexperience. He played his high school ball at Crespi in Encino, CA where the offense was predominantly shotgun-based. While he has progressed wonderfully under center since joining the Bruins, playing against his first few Pac-10 defenses will be a test. The learning curve will be steep, but the strong-armed Prince appears game.
As for the backups, Richard Brehaut is the highest rated quarterback out of high school that the Bruins have had on the roster in a while. He fielded offers from numerous high-profile programs around the country but opted to try and help return the Neuheisel-led Bruins back to national prominence.
Brehaut is a former Elite 11 high school quarterback, and was California’s second highest rated QB in the class of 2009 behind only USC’s Matt Barkley. The 6-2 205 pound product out of Los Osos High School in Rancho Cucamonga, CA possesses a quick release and has nice zip on his throws. He has already demonstrated great leadership and competitiveness since arriving on campus at UCLA.
Kevin Craft is of course the other option at QB for the Bruins. His statistics from last season cannot be described as anything other than poor. He threw for 2,341 yards with seven TDs and a school-record 20 INTs. He was sacked 32 times as well.
It wasn’t all Craft’s fault, but his inability to improve throughout the season makes it difficult to believe that he can become an efficient starter in the Pac-10. He may be the primary backup to start the season because of his experience, but Brehaut will push him throughout 2009 and could eventually supplant him as the No.2.
The amount of skill-position talent that Rick Neuheisel has already brought to UCLA is going to pay off for these QB’s in the future; I just don’t think the future is now. Everything I have heard about Prince is positive and his demeanor makes me think he won’t freak out if things go south out of the gate for UCLA.
The most important thing to watch this year for the QB’s in Westwood is how they finish. As long as Prince ends the year well, that will be the best thing any Bruin fan could ask for. I personally think Brehaut is the future. He is a legitimate pro-style prospect that Norm Chow could really mold into a star. Neuheisel may redshirt him, but I don’t think he trusts Craft enough as the only backup.