LOS ANGELES -- UCLA quarterbacks coach Taylor Mazzone was mixing his metaphors a bit when talking about the next incarnation of UCLA's signal-caller. But his point was well taken.
"I just want a point guard," Mazzone said. "I don't need you driving to the bucket, or tucking the ball like Michael Vick. Just get the ball to the playmakers. Distribute. Be a point guard."
In other words, don't try to be the next Brett Hundley. Because FYI, you won't be.
Hundley, the quarterback one of several Bruins are trying to replace, was a point guard, a shooting guard, a swingman and a forward. If he was a couple inches taller, he could probably post up at center. But he could also take it to the bucket and tuck it like Michael Vick.
He was the quintessential do-it-all quarterback, which is one of the reasons he leaves Westwood with a slew of records. And keeping with the NFL quarterback theme, it's why he's drawing comparisons to former NFL quarterback Donovan McNabb as the 2015 NFL Draft draws near.
But the Hundley era -- as great as it was for the Bruins -- is over. And whether his replacement is Asiantii Woulard, Josh Rosen, Jerry Neuheisel or Mike Fafaul remains to be seen. To sift through this quartet-of-quarterbacks conundrum this spring, the Bruins are running a two-by-two system. On one day, two quarterbacks will get live full team work, while the other two work against a skeleton defense. The next day, they swap. The coaching staff feels this gives them the best opportunity for the four to get a lot of reps and establish some rhythm.
"From a coaching standpoint, I can see why they love it," said Neuheisel, the only quarterback on the roster who has attempted a pass for the Bruins in a game. "As a player, I hate it. You never want to sit and give up reps to someone else. When you see a guy make a great play, you want to be out there showing what you can do also."
Whoever gets the job, they'll be in a better position than Hundley was in when he took over prior to the 2012 season. The Bruins have solid receivers. They boast the league's leading rusher from last season in Paul Perkins. And -- finally -- it looks like they have experience along the offensive line. And the defense? Filthy. It should be one of the best in the league. In fact, it's not hard to imagine the 2015 Bruins surpassing the 2014 Bruins ... if ... they can get competent quarterback play. That's a hefty "if" that adds even more pressure to a position already silly with expectation.
"Everybody wants the keys to this offense, but no one wants to be the Achilles heel," Neuheisel said.
This is the second quarterback competition of the Jim Mora era. When he took over the job following the 2011 season, he had to decide between veterans Kevin Prince and Richard Brehaut and the upstart Hundley, who was coming off of his redshirt season. However, the drama was whether to start Hundley immediately or ease him into the job. Mora has made no secrets about how appreciative he is that his ousted predecessor, Rick Neuheisel, redshirted Hundley.
Mora started Hundley on Day 1 and enjoyed a 9-5 season and a Pac-12 South title in his first season and a 29-12 mark with Hundley at the helm.
Offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone shaped the offense to fit Hundley's skill set. But none of the four would-be-starters are the athlete Hundley is. Not a problem, Mora says. The 6-foot-8 and far-from-mobile Brock Osweiller had success at ASU in this same offense (4,036 passing yards, 26 touchdowns, 13 interceptions his final season) when Mazzone was Dennis Erickson's offensive coordinator. And he still had a 1,000-yard rusher in Cameron Marshall.
"I don't want to temper expectations, Mora said. "I think what's important is we don't change the expectations, we just recognize the differences in approach. There are going to be things that Brett did that none of these guys are capable of doing at this point. And there are going to be things that they do very, very well that we need to take advantage of. ...Noel has made this offense fit with a lot of different quarterbacks. That's important for us right now."
With Neuheisel, the coaching staff knows what it's getting. He's liked by his teammates, came through in the clutch last season against Texas and would be considered the safe choice. Rosen, a true freshman early enrollee, who should be at his high school prom, was one of the nation's most touted 2015 quarterbacks. All he has right now is untested upside.
"A couple of weeks after he got on campus, he and I met for about an hour and I gave him a list of everything I expect from him," said center Jake Brendel, who is going to be a four-year starter. "So far, he's done everything I've asked. With Jerry, I didn't have to do that. He already knows what we expect."
The competition will likely go well into the fall session, with plenty of speculation and evaluation happening along the way. And for a UCLA team that has top-10 promise, the right decision could have massive ramifications in Los Angeles and across the college football landscape.
"You never want to be the guy following the guy," Neuheisel said. "You want to be the guy who takes the baton and elevates the team to the next level. It's the job of any quarterback who is following somebody who had such a great career to move the needle a little bit more. We're not satisfied with being No. 2 in the Pac-12 South. We want to be in that championship game every year. We don't want to stay where we are. We want to move the needle a little bit more."