Why Brett Hundley Should Return to UCLA in 2014

Kyle KensingContributor IDecember 9, 2013

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He has impressed in two seasons as UCLA's starting quarterback, and there's much more for redshirt sophomore Brett Hundley to accomplish before making the leap to the National Football League. 

Hundley is seeking feedback from NFL scouts before making a decision on his future and weighing his evaluation, along with other considerations. 

"It’s not just the draft evaluations. There are a lot of things that go into this," Hundley told The Los Angeles Times, adding he'll talk with former UCLA teammate Johnathan Franklin.

That Hundley says his scouting feedback won't be the sole determiner is noteworthy, given DraftInsider.net reports "all the feedback he’s receiving has recommended he return for another season," though the site reports Hundley "wants to enter the draft." 

Popular opinion among draft experts does indeed suggest another year spent refining his game would bolster Hundley's draft profile.

NFL.com analyst and former scout Bucky Brooks wrote Hundley is "not quite ready for the NFL," praising the sophomore's football IQ but citing his need to improve his pocket presence. 

Brooks also evaluates Hundley as a future first-round pick—another popular opinion, shared by B/R analyst Matt Miller

UCLA head coach Jim Mora doesn't seem worried about losing Hundley for the 2014 season, judging from his comments on The Jim Rome Show last week. 

"I'm not concerned at all," Mora said, per The Los Angeles Daily News. "He loves UCLA. He loves his players. [UCLA coaches] love him. We’re not really worried or anything like that about him leaving.

Mora jokingly announced Hundley's return during the coach's postgame interview with ESPN following the Bruins' 35-14 win over USC in the regular season finale. Mora is obviously a key figure in Hundley's decision, and with the coach signing a six-year extension last week, has made a long-term commitment to the success of UCLA football. 

The Bruins won nine games in each of the past two seasons—not coincidentally, Mora and Hundley's two seasons together. Year 3 is filled with promise should Hundley come back for another campaign captaining the UCLA offense. 

UCLA was one of the youngest teams in the nation throughout 2013, playing 18 true freshmen over the season's duration. The inexperience forced the Bruins, especially Hundley, to take some lumps, but it ensures that in 2014, UCLA will have one of the most thoroughly experienced teams in the Pac-12.  

Nowhere was UCLA's youth more evident than on the offensive line, where injuries forced Mora to start three true freshmen. And in lining up behind such an inexperienced bunch, Hundley's most apparent need for improvement was on full display. 

Hundley often faced a rapidly shrinking pocket, and in turn, was at times rattled in the pocket. He struggled against Stanford when freshman lineman Caleb Benenoch was first inserted into the lineup, and Hundley took nine sacks in a loss to Arizona State, which effectively denied the Bruins' bid for a Pac-12 South championship repeat. 

Those were two of the best defenses Hundley saw in 2013, both flush with NFL talent. 

Both the young line and Hundley took a turn against USC, another unit highlighted with multiple pro prospects. Against the Trojans' No. 16-ranked sacking defense, Hundley was decisive. He made the defense react to him—not the other way around, as had been the case in some prior contests. 

That performance should not be the culmination, but rather a stepping stone to Hundley's continued maturation, as well as a prelude for bigger things at UCLA. It was a demonstration of how good UCLA can be, as well as Hundley individually. And it's also a very small sample size. 

With another year comes more opportunity to show off the same savvy throughout an entire campaign. It would be enough to elevate Hundley on draft boards, but also a catalyst to UCLA pursuing its first conference championship since 1998.