Running back Johnathan Franklin (Dorsey HS) has had a good career at UCLA, but UCLA has nothing to show for it. Inserting quarterback Brett Hundley may change all of that. Photo by Jason Lewis
Everybody is saying the right things, but until they win on the field, it is all just talk.
The rhetoric coming out of UCLA’s football camp is nothing new. Whenever a team has a new coaching staff, one that replaced a staff that created a losing environment (Rick Neuheisel), everybody says how different the new regime is, and that all the changes are making the team better.
After UCLA pushed Karl Dorrell out the door, most reports out of UCLA about Neuheisel’s staff were positive. The football monopoly in Los Angeles was over. The changes that UCLA’s golden child made were going to lead them back to the Rose Bowl and make the football program relevant again.
Well none of that happened. There was change all right, and all of the players and coaches were saying that they were going to be much better because of the changes, but none of it led to winning.
UCLA finds themselves right back in the same situation with new head coach Jim Mora Jr. Apparently he has instilled some pride and a stronger work ethic into these players. He has made them into believers that they can compete. He took them out into the San Bernardino heat to toughen them up. He is not taking the nonsense that happened under Neuheisel. This is his team.
All that is great, and has made some fans excited to see if these changes actually work. But fans should not be too quick to get their hopes up, because they have heard all of this before. Until this team proves it on the field, they are an underachieving program that has done a lot of talking, but have produced little for their efforts.
But there may be one ray of hope. And that is redshirt freshman quarterback Brett Hundley. He was recruited to UCLA to be the savior of the program, and if there was only one thing that Neuheisel did right last year, it was not playing Hundley just to save the season. Now he has a full four years to be UCLA’s starting quarterback.
Hundley has great size (6-4, 225), great arm strength, and like many black quarterbacks, he is very mobile. It did not take long for Mora to finally put an end to the Kevin Prince/Richard Brehaut era. Those two quarterbacks, both seniors, have a lot more experience than Hundley, but neither of them have accomplished anything over the past three years. Last season the Bruins were 81st in passing offense with Prince and Brehaut sharing playing time, and they averaged 23.1 points per game, 88th in the nation.
UCLA has a lot of issues all around their roster, but there is talent at the running back position with Johnathan Franklin (Dorsey HS), and Malcolm Jones (Oaks Christian HS), and wide receiver with Shaquelle Evans (Inglewood HS) and Jerry Johnson (Venice HS). But UCLA’s offense has not been able to get much out of those players with poor play from the quarterback position. That may change if Hundley can live up to his potential.
Defensively, hopefully a new approach from a new coaching staff will do the trick, because UCLA gave up 31.4 points a game last year, 92nd in the country.
Looking at UCLA, there really is no reason in getting excited at this point. But maybe Mora will show that it was just a change in culture that the Bruins needed.