news features

PAC-12 MEDIA DAYS

UCLA's Mora: Hundley 'will be a star' in NFL

Thu, Jul 24, 2014

Oregon QB Marcus Mariota is a 4th-year junior graduate and eligible for the 2015 Reese's Senior Bowl. He talks one-on-one to seniorbowl.com as the 2014 season gets ready to kickoff.

HOLLYWOOD, CA -- Brett Hundley has the nickname, 'Big Superstar.' If you ask UCLA head coach Jim Mora, Jr., it fits.

"I can tell you unequivocally he's a first-round draft pick," Mora told the media at Pac-12 Media Days. "He will be a star in the NFL."

Hundley bypassed the NFL Draft last year to enjoy being in college one more year and to finish his education. He has done both and since he is a fourth-year junior graduate, is eligible for the 2015 Reese's Senior Bowl.

He is one of a handful of quarterbacks in a deep class of signal callers in the Pac-12 this season. Ten of the 12 schools have their starting quarterback under center again this season.

"I didn't want to leave before I felt like it was time to go," Hundley said. "We built a great foundation at UCLA and to leave it that quick, I don't think I could have done that."

With Hundley running the show, the Bruins are a popular pick in the Pac-12 South this season, picking up all but two of the 39 votes to win the division and potentially play North favorite Oregon in the Pac-12 Championship game in December.

"We understand that everything is earned," Hundley said. "We just have to work for what we want and as long as we do that, and handle our business each and every week, we'll be good."

GRAHAM: 'BEST TEAM WE'VE PUT ON THE FIELD'

Seventy of the 110 players currently on Arizona State's roster have a GPA at 3.0 or better. OT Jamil Douglas (3.92) and QB Taylor Kelly (4.0), who represented the Sun Devils at Pac-12 Media Days, certainly are doing their part to raise the team average. Head coach Todd Graham hopes the brain power will be an added weapon on the field this season.

"This is the smartest team I've had," Graham said. "The team with the best character I've ever had, and I have a lot of confidence this will be the best football team we've put on the field at Arizona State."
 
Graham has certainly raised expectations since he took over in Tempe a couple years ago.
 
"When I first came in, I said we're going to be about winning championships," he said. "I think some people looked at me, even within our program, they were going like, really? And then we were one game. We lost to UCLA on a last second field goal from being in the championship game our first year, so people believed.
 
"Then last year, I thought they believed we could win," Graham continued. "They believed that we could win, and we won the South and then we came up short in the championship game. Around our offices now, our players expect to win, and that is a different deal. So really, that's nothing that --that's how you want to progress. Year three should be your best year. This is when it all should come together and I have a lot of confidence that our team will."
 

THE QUARTERBACK CONFERENCE

It's hard to imagine a conference loaded with more talent at quarterback. Oregon's Marcus Mariota, UCLA's Brett Hundley, Oregon State's Sean Mannion, Arizona State's Taylor Kelly, Washington State's Connor Halliday, USC's Cody Kessler and Stanford's Kevin Hogan are among the 10 quarterbacks returning with a few of those names being future potential first-round picks.
 
"Never seen anything like this," said Stanford coach David Shaw. "Never seen anything like this where you have multiple guys in our conference that you could say could be the number one pick overall in the draft. You have multiple guys in the conference that could be All-Americans and could lead the nation in quarterback rating or lead the nation in yards and yards per attempt in touchdown passes, and that could be any of five or six guys that could do this that this year.
 
"I've never seen anything like this. I can't wait for some of these guys to get out of our conference, which I thought a couple would last year and they disappointed me and came back. But I think it's going to make for exciting football. I think the defensive coordinators will have their hands full all year accounting for the combination of these schemes and they're intricate and difficult and different."
 
"I don't think there is a conference that's close in terms of the quality of quarterbacks," said UCLA coach Jim Mora. "And that's not to say they're all going to go be great NFL players, but they're great college football players. Every week you get readyo play a Pac-12 quarterback, and there is a trait that they have that is unique, that is difficult to defend."
 

DON'T SLEEP ON THE CARDINAL

Defending Pac-12 Champ Stanford was picked to finsih second in the North, behind an Oregon team it has beaten the past two seasons. The Cardinal lost some key leaders from a year ago, especially on defense, but brings in some new talent to fill those holes.
 
"We're in a unique position to where we only recruit leaders," Shaw said. "They have to be leaders. So we have a platform where all we're going to do is compete like crazy and I'll never pick the leaders. Leadership just rises. So you have a group of leaders that the cream might rise to the top. I think leadership has to be organic. It has to come out and come from within. As guys start to exhibit those leadership
characteristics we'll see that without ever saying you're going to be a leader and you're going to be a leader."
 

SHAQ ATTACK ON OFFENSE?

Washington's talented junior LB Shaq Thompson could be getting some reps at running back this season. First-year coach Chris Peterson put him in the backfield a few times in the spring because of depth issues at running back.
 
"Every time we gave Shaq the ball, he did a great job," Peterson said. "So we'll continue with that and see how our depth goes out there and see how Shaq progresses. We don't want to water him down and make him less of a defensive player. So I think there is a fine balance there and we'll continue to work through that."