Bruins QB Brehaut comfortable in leadership role
LOS ANGELES -- Richard Brehaut realized early in life that he simply prefers being in charge. Even in Little League, he gravitated behind the plate, figuring he could have the most control over the action as a catcher.
That's a rare bit of good news for UCLA's football team, which can use all the leadership it can get before another season heads south without a strong leader in the pocket.
Brehaut will make his third start at quarterback for the Bruins (3-4, 1-3 Pac-10) on Saturday against No. 15 Arizona. He has started two of UCLA's past three games, but Kevin Prince's knee surgery last weekend means the Bruins belong to Brehaut for the final five games.
"All my life I've been a leader, in sports and even just amongst my friends," Brehaut said. "When guys are messing up, when they need help, I like to be able to give it to them. I like being in that position where your leadership is worth something."
At Los Osos High School in suburban Rancho Cucamonga, Brehaut was a three-year captain of the football team and a two-year captain of the baseball team, winning MVP honors in both sports. He turned those multisport skills into a football scholarship to UCLA, but lost the starting competition last fall to fellow freshman Prince, who picked up the nuances of the Bruins' offense more quickly.
Brehaut got into six games as a backup last season, but his play didn't exactly leave the Bruins' coaches and fans wanting to see more. Even last month, after going through a full training camp while Prince sat out with another injury, UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel didn't sound sold on Brehaut's long-term prospects in Westwood.
"When Richard goes into games, he still has two or three things that happen that he doesn't quite have an answer as to why he let that happen," Neuheisel said. "That's not uncommon for somebody at his age or at that point in his career, especially now that we've made the QB the decision-maker at every point in our offense. Richard went in and ran plays that he's run in practice, and a couple of things inexplicably happened that we didn't have an answer for, and neither did he."
Brehaut overcame most of those concerns with steady improvements in practice, followed by post-practice workouts with his receivers in one of the NCAA's worst passing offenses. After mopping up in the Bruins' blowout loss to Stanford, he got his first career start against Washington State when Prince hurt his knee during UCLA's upset win over Texas.
Brehaut passed for 128 yards without an interception, doing his best work handing off to the Bruins tailbacks. Then 2½ weeks later, Brehaut drew the starting assignment at No. 1 Oregon -- and it went about as well as could be expected, with Brehaut passing for 159 yards in another blowout loss.
"I think Richard is playing with confidence," Neuheisel said. "It's important that it's not false confidence, but he's working real hard to get the job done."
UCLA faces the Wildcats ranked 117th out of 120 FBS teams in passing offense -- rocketing up from 118th last week -- with just 104.6 yards per game. Brehaut knows Arizona fields the Pac-10's top two pass-rushing defensive ends, and the quarterback also realizes novice left tackle Micah Kia will be protecting the right-hander's blind side while Sean Sheller serves a one-week suspension for an undisclosed violation of team rules.
And as those after-practice sessions in the Pacific mist show, Brehaut still has confidence in his receivers, even with starter Ricky Marvray suspended for a week for the same violation. The quarterback hasn't changed his approach at all while moving up to take over the first-team offense in practice.
"The only difference is Kevin isn't here to throw around ideas with," Brehaut said. "While he's out, I'm trying to take on more of a leadership role. I'm really excited to do that, and then get us back on the winning track."
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press
This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index
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