Credit UCLA's Brett Hundley for being honest and saying what many had been thinking about his play earlier this season.
Hundley, a redshirt junior and one of the top QB talents in college football, recently acknowledged that NFL pressure affected his play at the outset of the season, to the point where his play might have been geared more toward fulfilling the wishes of scouts than the needs of his team. That meant intentionally avoiding using one of his greatest attributes -- his running ability -- so he could further prove himself as a pocket passer and protect himself from taking hits.
It's no wonder, then, that the NFL has been on his mind.
Tough balancing act
Trying to pull off that balancing act of pleasing NFL scouts while playing for your teammates and coaches is a difficult task and a common problem for players that have been hyped as much Hundley. There are times that we in the media -- including me -- create some of these problems by raising expectations to a level that's so difficult for any player -- even the most talented -- to attain. We create spots for these young athletes that are almost untenable.
There are also long-held stigmas that continue to be a factor in today's game. I remember Geno Smith, when he was entering the NFL in 2013, telling me, in regards to his ability to use his legs to succeed, that he firmly believed he could best beat defenses from the pocket with his arm and mind. I believed that his statement stemmed from being a black quarterback and wanting to shatter stereotypes.
I don't know if that's where Hundley is coming from, but I do know that being considered a pocket passer is still a big deal for QBs with great running ability. In addition to predicting NFL stardom for Hundley in July, Mora said, "It would be awful for people to characterize Brett as a running quarterback," calling Hundley "a passer first."
No shame in being able to scoot
The truth is, though, that a QB who can run is no longer frowned upon at any level. In fact, utilizing a QB's athletic ability in that way is being encouraged in the NFL more now than at any other time in the league's history. It used to be said that the QB should only run out of sheer fright. I don't think people look at it same way anymore when you see the damage being done by dual-threat guys.
Despite all the pressure, Hundley seems to have ended up in the right frame of mind. Ultimately, the best prospects play for their team first and scouts come into the picture later on the list. The more team success you have, the better you're going to look as a prospect, even if that means running from the pocket as it breaks down. Hundley's play of late has shown that he realizes that.
His game has improved and he's helped his team more (it's won three straight) as he's started to run more frequently, including in a win Saturday over Arizona, when Hundley had a career-high 24 rushing attempts for 131 yards. Mora told Hundley after he took 10 sacks in a loss to Utah to cut it loose and take off when the pocket breaks down. He has responded, rushing for 106 yards per game in the four contests since.
Big decision awaits
Hundley might be back on the right track, but a tough decision still awaits him. He's been dead-set that this will be his final season with the Bruins. Will he stick to that, or could he be better served by another year of seasoning in the college ranks before entering the pros?
It's a question worthy of Hundley's consideration.