UCLA’s re-emergence in the past two seasons has been greatly attributed to head coach Jim Mora and rightfully so. But to contend in a conference full of ranked teams, you most certainly need a trustworthy quarterback that can lead an offense.
As we enter the 2014 season, all eyes will be on Florida State’s Jameis Winston, the 2013 Heisman Trophy winner. Plenty of other names will be thrown around and talked about in the first few weeks of the season as top schools play a weak schedule and post big numbers. But Hundley could be one of the few invited to New York City in December.
Hundley led UCLA to the Pac-12 Championship game in 2012 in his first year a starter, and the Bruins narrowly missed returning to the conference title game in 2013. UCLA’s loss to Arizona State late in November put them second in the Pac-12 South, and the Bruins closed the year with a 42-12 win over Virginia State in the Sun Bowl.
Hundley threw for 226 yards and ran for 161 more on 10 carries in the victory over the Hokies, a sign of the things to come this season.
In 2013, the Chandler, Arizona native raised his rating six points and his adjusted QBR 16.7 points from 2012. The incoming junior was also sacked 17 fewer times in 2013 than in 2012 and rushed for 587 yards to go with 3.071 yards through the air.
Hundley had a similar completion rate as Winston and ran for more yards in 2013, but he threw for 1,000 fewer yards. Winston, however, benefited from an easier schedule and top-rated receivers when it came to the passing numbers.
He also posted a higher completion rate than Oregon's Marcus Mariota and Baylor's Bryce Petty in 2013, but he lacked touchdowns and tossed a few more interceptions. Hundley simply needs to see the number of scoring plays increase, and the Heisman hype will reach the same level as his counterparts.
And he has all the tools to raise those numbers even higher in 2014.
The Bruins return four starters on the offense line—none are seniors—and starting running back Jordon James and receiver Jordan Payton.
Hundley ran the same number of times in 2013 as in 2012, but he rushed for nearly 400 more yards last season. An experienced offensive front certainly paves the way for another solid year on the ground, and having eight returners on defense could mean the ball is in his hands more often.
Hundley will also have ample opportunity to prove his abilities against top-ranked opponents, an important factor with Heisman voters.
The Bruins will face five conference teams that are ranked to begin 2014, with three of those being at the Rose Bowl: Oregon, USC and Stanford. Contests against Arizona State and Washington are on the road.
The schedule for the Bruins could play a key factor in Hundley’s Heisman hopes. Hundley will need to show his dominance in the first nine games of the season and prove he can defeat the heavy hitters in November when UCLA closes at Washington and at home against USC and Stanford.
If those things come to fruition, there is no reason to believe Hundley cannot lead the Bruins to a Pac-12 championship and find himself in the hunt for a Heisman trophy.