Last season, UCLA Bruins quarterback Brett Hundley set the tone for the season with a 72-yard touchdown run against Rice. He then went on to set the school’s single-season passing mark with 3740 yards, surpassing Cade McNown’s 3470 yards set in 1998. He also passed for 29 touchdowns and added another nine on the ground. He finished the year with 4,100 total yards and 38 touchdowns. Can Hundley, a legitimate Heisman candidate in his sophomore season, improve upon last season’s performance?
Hundley should be working with a better receiving corps and a better offensive line this season. Shaquelle Evans, the team’s top receiver last season, returns for his senior season and should improve on his 60-catch, 877-yard, three touchdown performance from last season. Sophomore Jordan Payton is also poised for a breakout season after catching 18 passes for 202 yards and one touchdown as a true freshman.
More importantly, the offensive line will return seven of their ten linemen from last season. Among those lost is Pac-12 second team guard Jeff Baca. The line will be led by junior guards Kody Innes and Xavier Su’A-Filo. The two tackle positions as well as center will be manned by sophomores. Torian White is slated to be the right tackle and Simon Goines to protect Hundley’s blind side after he receives the ball from center Jake Brendel. Last season, the Bruins allowed an eye-popping 52 sacks, a total that could have been higher had it not been for Hundley’s mobility. This year, the line should be much more stable but not immune from making mistakes. There is a lot of potential on the line but they will need to execute on the field. If that happens Hundley could easily surpass 4,000-yards passing this season.
The passing game could become the focal point of the offense this season after the Bruins running game lost Jonathan Franklin who rushed for 1734 yards last season. The running game could surprise but it is likely coach Jim Mora will rely on Hundley’s arm this season.
Hundley was responsible for UCLA seeing its highest offensive output in years. The Bruins averaged over 250 yards passing (276 yards per game) for the first time in over seven years. The Bruins could very easily average over 300 passing yards through the air this season. Just as importantly, the Bruins posted their first positive turnover ratio since 2006.
The sky is the limit for Hundley and this season could very well be Hundley’s national coming-out party. If all the cards fall into place Hundley could give Johnny Manziel a strong challenge in defending his Heisman Trophy.