It’s just one game. That’s the approach UCLA QB Brett Hundley needs to take after a shaky debut today against Virginia. It’s also the approach NFL teams should take when evaluating the Bruins quarterback.
I had Hundley ranked as the top draft-eligible quarterback coming into this season. No matter what happens later today with Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota, Hundley will still be No. 1. I’m not going to overreact because of one game, especially one in which UCLA found a way to win. However, several question marks remain as Hundley failed to improve in the areas of his game that needed the most work coming into the season.
The biggest question mark surrounding Hundley is his vision. Last season, he put his head down and ran the majority of the time he felt pressure. The same thing occurred today. The UCLA offensive line could not contain the Virginia pressure, leading to Hundley leaving the pocket and running. When this happens, Hundley needs to keep his eyes downfield and find the open receiver. Very few collegiate quarterbacks are able to do this, but the ones who do (Winston and Baylor QB Bryce Petty are two examples) excel in throwing the ball downfield.
Another area in which Hundley struggled this afternoon is the read-option. On several plays, he made the wrong read resulting in the running back being tackled for a loss. In the fourth quarter, deep in his own territory, Hundley and his back weren’t on the same page which led to a fumble and lost yardage.
The final stat line for Hundley reads 20 for 33, 242 yards and zero touchdowns or interceptions. He also ran the ball 15 times for 39 yards and a score. A handful of those incompletions were the result of drops, but there were also a few passes that were batted down at the line of scrimmage.
The competition won’t get any easier for UCLA either. Of the Bruins’ 12 opponents, Virginia had the ninth best total defense in 2013. This began to show late in the game as Hundley had more time to throw and made better decisions both in and out of the pocket. He needs to consistently play to the level he did beginning with the last drive of the third quarter. If he can’t put together 60 minutes of solid play, Hundley will begin to drop on draft boards across the league.