Debating Prince vs. Brehaut for UCLA

Interesting discussion on UCLA from the Orange County Register's Scott Reid and Adam Maya, who ponder the merits of quarterback Kevin Prince, who is out for the season with a knee injury, and Richard Brehaut, the Bruins new starting quarterback.

This is the key exchange:

Maya: But back to Brehaut. He is clearly a much better passer than Prince. It makes you wonder why the Bruins didn’t give him a fairer shake earlier in his career. He had a series of second-half cameos last season, but I think Rick Neuheisel wanted to ensure the Bruins made a bowl game, which they did. They probably wouldn’t have with Brehaut under center last year, but they’d probably be a lot better off this season.

Reid: Adam, I have a little different take on it. Is Brehaut better than Prince on one leg? Yes. But we didn’t see a healthy Prince all year. Are they a better team with Brehaut than an injured Prince? Yes. I also think Brehaut did get a fair shot, he just couldn’t get it done on the practice field. He might be one of these guys who rises to the occasion.

Maya: This past Saturday, they were a better team than with a healthy Prince.

I disagree with that strongly.

If Prince had stayed healthy this year, UCLA's season would be completely different, and no one would be questioning if he was a good quarterback.

Now, there's something ridiculous about me, here in Scottsdale, Ariz., arguing with reporters in LA who regularly cover UCLA practices. That's why I'm going to turn this back around to some wisdom previously provided by... Scott Reid!

In August, Reid pointed out that Prince's numbers over the second half of the 2009 season were comparable to a celebrated quarterback across town by the name of Matt Barkley.

Over the second half of the 2009 season Prince’s passing yardage, touchdowns-to-interceptions ratio and quarterback efficiency rating were actually better than Barkley’s ...

Over the last six games of the season Prince completed 103 of 175 passes for a 58.8 completion percentage, 1,321 yards, six TDs, four interceptions for a 129.0 QB rating. Barkley was 114 for 191 for a 59.6 per cent, 1,195 yards, eight TDs, nine interceptions, and a 116.63.

Of course, UCLA's second-half schedule in 2009 was much easier than its first half, but the point is still valid: Prince, as a redshirt freshman, showed ability as a passer. And did it fairly consistently.

Further, we also saw over the first half of this season that a healthy Prince can run the pistol offense effectively. He rushed for 60 yards on 10 carries in a win against Houston and 50 yards on 13 carries at Texas, and scored TDs in both games.

What was the common denominator in those games? He practiced the entire week. And he didn't do that before any other game he played in. In fact, Prince missed almost all of preseason camp with various injuries.

They say "practice makes perfect." You can imagine what not practicing therefore makes -- what you often saw from Prince this year, including him trying to play on his injured knee (he hurt it at Texas on Sept. 25) for two games.

My feeling is that if Prince had remained healthy, it's not unreasonable to believe the solid passer from the end of 2009 would have combined with the athlete skilled enough to run a pistol offense, and you would have ended up with a balanced offense with both a passing and running threat.

And the Bruins season would be much different, because that is certainly not the offense they have at present.

Saying all this: Durability matters. In many ways, it's a skill. Few things hurt a team more than having an expected starter not ready to play. That's exponentially more damaging at quarterback.

So while I believe a healthy Prince in 2011 would greatly benefit UCLA, it's also valid to ask whether Prince will ever be consistently healthy. And, therefore, can you ever count on him to lead a winning offense every Saturday?

That figures to be a big question this spring.