UCLA football: Richard Brehaut is in charge on Day 1 of spring practice
Brehaut and freshman Brett Hundley took the majority of the snaps. Kevin Prince (knee) and Darius Bell (shoulder) are sidelined and Nick Crissman (shoulder) is limited.
So Brehaut, a junior who started seven games last season when Prince was injured, realizes the opportunity.
“I need to keep cool,” Brehaut said. “I’ve studied. I know what I’m doing. Now it’s just a matter of taking a deep breath and actually doing it, and not letting anything rattle me where stuff has happened in the past. I’m going to be a junior now. I can’t have those freshman mistakes that I used to have.”
Brehaut had few of them Tuesday, throwing several crisp passes. That included a nicely placed pass between defenders that wide receiver Taylor Embree grabbed.
It has been the growing process this winter, as he ran seven-on-seven drills while working out with the baseball team in his spare time.
“I feel I got a lot more guys behind me,” Brehaut said. “I proved to a lot guys that I can be a leader, perform when it counts. I have a lot more support around me, from the offensive line to the receivers.”
Coach Rick Neuheisel said he won’t settle on a starter until August.
But on Day 1 of spring, Neuheisel said, “Richard was good. I want to work on some things now that I got myself in charge of the quarterbacks. I see some things fundamentally we can work on. I’m impressed, given that he was working at baseball, that he has not let his attention to details to football slide.”
OFFENSIVE LINE CHANGES
Jeff Baca, academically ineligible last season, settled in at tackle on the first-team offense, with Sean Sheller moving from tackle to guard.
It is part of the different approach UCLA has this season. The Bruins will flip-flop their line, with Baca and Sheller on the side without a tight end, except in formations where the Bruins go with two tight ends.
Baca, who has played guard and tackle, has the footwork necessary to protect the weak side.
Tony Dye moved to free safety with the first team, with Dietrich Riley playing strong safety. Rahim Moore, who declared for the NFL draft, played free safety last season.
“Dietrich has a monster hitting body, so we’re trying to some new things,” Dye said. “Rahim and I learned both positions last season, so it’s nothing new to me. I put on six more pounds, but I still kept my speed.”
GREAT (undefined) EXPECTATIONS
Asked if he had any concerns about keeping his job, Neuheisel said, “I think in this business, you understand that there is always pressure. I look at it as a great challenge.... I am disappointed we haven’t gotten further advanced in three previous years, but I do think we have the makings to take a big step, hopefully a real big step.”
Asked to define, “a real big step,” Neuheisel said, “Now we start quantifying wins again.”
The first practice went off mostly without injuries, though defensive tackle Cassius Marsh hobbled to the side after getting his foot stepped on during a play. Neuheisel did not believe it was serious.
Photo: Richard Brehaut. Credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times