QB Prince fine with new offense

When the UCLA football team took the field at the Rose Bowl on Saturday night for its spring game, Kevin Prince wasn't too concerned about making impressions.

The redshirt sophomore quarterback wasn't pleased with a few of his reads, but he wasn't worried about filling the stat sheet. What bothered him was the game's noncontact bubble of protection.

"It's frustrating," Prince said. "I was getting pretty mad because you put on weight and do all that work so you can break tackles. There were a few runs I could have broken loose, I'm 100 percent sure of it. But they called it down and I understand why -- and that's fine -- but it's just a little discouraging because in a real game situation our offense would have been producing better."

Prince barely cracked a smile after completing 5 of 13 passes for 72 yards. His rushing numbers were obscure, mostly because he was "sacked" five times for a loss of 23 yards, though the term is used loosely because of the nature of the game.

Last season, Prince broke his jaw in one game and suffered a concussion in another. Still, he was visibly frustrated Saturday because he couldn't take off and run.

"Injuries happen," Prince said. "People can say I'm injury-prone, it is what it is. ... It doesn't bother me much, but I'm going to continue to get stronger and try to get rid of that label."

The 6-foot-2 Prince gained 15 pounds during the offseason to raise his weight to a more durable 230. He looked sharp and comfortable running UCLA's new "revolver" offense all spring, making precise reads and letting his feet do the work when needed -- except in the spring game, which is a big reason why coach Rick Neuheisel didn't seem too discouraged.

"I don't think we were uncrisp, we just weren't hitting the passes," Neuheisel said. "The running game, when we look at the tape, is going to be OK. Some of the down and distances got away from us because of the inability to get the ball out of our hands."

Though it wasn't apparent on Saturday, Prince used the spring to show that he's capable of making all the throws: long heaves down the sideline, soft fades, quick slants, on-the-run dump-offs. He ran the revolver formation -- the middle ground between a shotgun and under-center positioning -- in high school. Offensive coordinator Norm Chow, who typically stays away from shotgun formations, made the switch because he thought Prince was an exception.

"I realized that everyone is doing it," Chow said. "Prince is comfortable in it because he understands it. He's in control."

That means making sure everyone is where they're supposed to be and making sure he's a bit more vocal.

"It's what he's got to do," offensive lineman Jeff Baca said. "That's his job as our quarterback."

Even defensive players have taken notice.

"I can see his progression already," sophomore cornerback Aaron Hester said. "When he's in, you can have a clean break on a receiver's route but Prince still fits the ball in there somehow. He's just a whole different person this year, more poised and more confident."

Maybe it's because Prince didn't waste much time assuming control of the team after it returned from its EagleBank Bowl victory in December. He organized a weekly throwing schedule with his receivers three or four times a week at Spaulding Field.

"It's all about getting that timing down," receiver Taylor Embree said. "You look at the NFL and the greatest quarterbacks -- Peyton Manning and Tom Brady -- it's all timing. This is a rhythm game. Once you get that trust and that rhythm down, there's no stopping it -- especially with someone as skilled as Prince."

By all means, Prince is not a finished product. Neuheisel would like to see an improvement in Prince's accuracy. Chow would like to see more growth and development. For Prince, it's all about leadership.

"Coach Chow wants us to take control," Prince said. "He wants us to push him to the side and say, 'We've got this.'"