Starting quarterback role still in limbo

Still no word yet on who will be the starting quarterback for UCLA in the Bruins opener Sept. 4 at Kansas State.

Kevin Prince has not been throwing much during Fall camp because of a strained oblique that causes pain in his back. Richard Brehaut, a true sophomore, has been working as the No. 1 quarterback while Prince tries to recover.

Bruins coaches have maintained that Prince would start if he's able to go, but with just over a week to go, Prince, who was limited again in practice Thursday, is looking nowhere near ready to go.

Prince himself acknowledged Wednesday the possibility that he might not play, but with only one practice left before game-week preparations begin, no official word has been given to anyone.

"I haven't really heard anything about who is going to be the guy," Brehaut said. "It all depends on Kevin's health, but I'm just preparing to be the guy just in case it happens that I am."

Prince's injury has been the story of Fall camp. It has kept Prince from going full-throttle in passing exercises, lingered longer than Prince and his coaches had anticipated and has cast doubt on his ability to get ready to play on Sept. 4.

"We'll see," said Coach Rick Neuheisel, sounding about as tired of answering the question as media members are of asking it.

And that's about all they can do: Wait and see. And get Brehaut ready to go.

Brehaut attempted only 17 passes last season in backup duties and seemed to be struggling to adapt to the college game, but has made strides after being forced into the No. 1 role while Prince has sat out.

"He’s had a great camp and he was outstanding in the scrimmage and I think can be great," Neuheisel said of Brehaut. "He’s just got to handle the line of scrimmage and everything that goes along with that and he’ll be a terrific player."

This week, Prince's plight took many turns. On Tuesday, Prince said he felt good after throwing about a dozen mid-range passes during drills. On Wednesday he threw lightly and Neuheisel said he'd keep Prince out of Friday's scrimmage. On Thursday, he threw six passes--all either screens or short swing passes to backs out of the backfield.

Meanwhile, Brehaut has improved and steadily grown confidence with an increased number of looks at live defenses. He's reading the coverages better, finding his second and third receivers more quickly and delivering a higher percentage of well-thrown passes.

"I wouldn’t say night and day, but I would say absolutely totally different," Brehaut said when asked to compare the player he is now with the one who started Fall camp. "With all the reps I’ve gotten, I’ve just gotten that much better. More comfortable in the role."

He's also had to earn the trust and confidence of an offense that was expecting a different signal caller.

"I’ve tried to go in there and gain those guys’ confidence and trust and make them believe in me," he said.

The offense has responded.

"He has has definitely shown that he’s capable of leading the team," receiver Taylor Embree said. "He’s made some terrific throws and I think this camp he’s made some terrific progress. He’s definitely gained the trust of the receivers, the O-Line and the coaches so we’re not worried about it. We know that if we don’t have KP that Brehaut can get it done."

Running back Johnathan Franklin said that it's a bit disconcerting for the team not to know who will be the quarterback, but that in the long run, it doesn't really matter.

"Of course we want to know, but whoever it may be, we just have to go with them," Franklin said. "Regardless if it’s Kevin or Richard or [Nick] Crissman, we have to believe in them."

Brehaut, too, would like to know, but said when kickoff time comes, he'll accept whatever role he has.

"If I was told I was or wasn't the starter today, I wouldn’t do anything different," he said. "I’d be watching the same films and doing the same amount of studying. Coming in to camp, I knew I was the number two guy. It's Kevin's job, but his injury has allowed me to get better and we are going to be a better team because of that no matter what happens with Kevin."