Oct. 1, 2011
By Amy Hughes
The road to success as a Division I starting quarterback is rarely smooth. UCLA junior Richard Brehaut is no exception.
"Richard has matured on schedule," said UCLA head football coach Rick Neuheisel. "Unfortunately, he had to play earlier than he was ready. Because of that, he took a lot of criticism and I think he's starting to settle down and play with poise because of his development in the position.
"I think good things are ahead for him."
Brehaut's opportunities started to present themselves as early as his freshman year. He freely admits now that he has grown up and learned a great deal since arriving on campus in 2009. Now in his third season with the Bruins, Brehaut has certainly learned the value of preparation.
"The way I always prepare is that you have to be ready to go in there at any time," said Brehaut. "Just because you aren't the starter, you'd better prepare like the starter because there's no worse feeling in the world than coming into a game and not knowing what you're doing. That was something I experienced a little bit my freshman year. You're a freshman and you think you know it all. It all comes crumbling down when you get in a game and you don't know what you're doing."
"Ultimately, the quarterback position is one of complete and thorough understanding," said Neuheisel. "If you go out there and you don't know [what you're doing], things are going to happen too fast for you to be successful. I think [Brehaut] kept thinking he was ready, and often times he got caught looking hurried and scrambled. I think he's getting closer and closer to having a mastery of what this position is all about."
Brehaut's growth as a quarterback has been scrutinized under the microscope of a fervent fan base. He played off the bench in six games as a true freshman in 2009 and played in nine games with seven starts as a sophomore in 2010.
This season, he has piloted UCLA to victories in both of his starts, while coming off the bench in relief in the Bruins' two losses.
In the season opener at Houston, Brehaut came in for an injured Kevin Prince and accumulated 351 yards of total offense, completing 17-of-26 passes for 264 yards and two touchdowns.
After starting UCLA's win over San Jose State, Brehaut once again relieved Prince against Texas before locking down the starting job for last week's game at Oregon State, a 27-19 victory.
Neuheisel has taken notice of Brehaut's maturity at the position and his improvement behind center.
"He's more thorough in terms of what he does and how he does it," said Neuheisel. "It's clear to me that he's starting to get it. I think there are a number of positive things to say about Richard Brehaut as a person and as a quarterback, and I think that with a program that's trying to get its sea legs, he's taken an undue amount of criticism, but I think that UCLA fans ought to be really excited that we have him."
Part of Brehaut's development over the past year included a season spent as a catcher with the UCLA baseball team, where he worked with two of the country's top pitchers, Gerrit Cole and Trevor Bauer. Cole was the top pick by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 2011 MLB entry draft, while Bauer was the third pick, going to the Arizona Diamondbacks.
"That was something that I'm going to remember for the rest of my life," said Brehaut about working with Cole and Bauer. "Just being around those guys and learning how they go about their preparation and their business on game day and how they are great leaders for our baseball team.
"I've never seen a more confident person in his own game than Trevor Bauer, in any sport. The reason why Trevor had the success he did was because he believed in himself. For Gerrit, he was a great leader. He was a guy that everyone looked to when things weren't going well, and Gerrit always was there to pump everyone up. I learned a lot from both those guys in terms of the mentality you must have and how you go about your business on a daily basis."
Brehaut, who is at UCLA on a football scholarship, asked for and received permission from Neuheisel before returning to his days as a two-sport athlete. Brehaut was also a two-sport star at Los Osos High School in Alta Loma, Calif.
"I told him that there aren't many quarterbacks who have time to master a position and also play another sport," said Neuheisel. "I wasn't going to tell him that he couldn't, but I was going to hold him accountable when competition time came to knowing everything. He wasn't going to get any benefit of the doubt just because he was busy doing other things. He understood that."
Brehaut participated in practices with the baseball team last spring, taking a redshirt season after more than two years away from baseball.
"We knew that he was a very good athlete and was a good left-handed hitting catcher," said UCLA's head baseball coach John Savage. "We knew that he'd be behind because he hadn't played in quite a while, but he was a prospect at one time."
Savage believes that Brehaut still has a bright future in baseball, although his first priority remains the Bruins football program.
"He just has that athletic mentality," said Savage. "He's a smart guy. He's an athletic guy. I think the presence having to be the quarterback in this league, he brings a certain presence to our program that you'd like to see. He went out and played this summer a little bit with the MLB Academy team and did well when he played. I think the more he plays the better he's going to get."
Brehaut participated in a wooden-bat baseball league last summer and will have the chance to continue his baseball career with the Bruins this spring. Meanwhile, his focus remains sharply on the gridiron, beginning with tonight's game at Stanford.
"Physically, I've never had a problem with arm strength or accuracy. That's always been one of my strong points," said Brehaut. "In my freshman and sophomore years, I didn't have the knowledge I have now in terms of recognizing defense and applying that recognition in terms of running the offense.
"I credit a lot of my growth to really spending time with Coach Neuheisel almost every day. He's taken over as our position coach. Really, just learning from him in terms of recognizing fronts and how fronts translate into the coverage and picking apart the defenses is where I think I've personally made the most growth."