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Quarterback Brett Hundley a "special athlete," says UCLA quarterbacks coach

Current UCLA quarterbacks coach Taylor Mazzone speaks highly of his former pupil, who is now a member of the Green Bay Packers.

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

UCLA quarterbacks coach Taylor Mazzone found himself in the middle of traffic jam during a heavy downpour in a southern state in late May.

Life as a college coach continues after the season ends, of course -- whether teaching and evaluating current players during spring football, or in this case, recruiting for future classes of Bruins.

What was Mazzone doing? As he put it, he was "trying to find the next Brett Hundley right now."

Though the Bruins are well set at quarterback with five signal callers on its roster for the 2015 season -- including incoming freshman Josh Rosen and junior Jerry Neuheisel -- UCLA will have to replace Hundley: an intelligent, athletic, three-year college starter drafted by the Green Bay Packers in the fifth round of the 2015 NFL Draft who owns school records in touchdown passes (75) and total offensive yards (11,713).

Mazzone initially recruited Hundley as a member of another Pac-12 program. Mazzone and his father, current UCLA offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone, tried to sell the now 6'3, 226-pound Hundley on committing to Arizona State, where both Mazzones were on staff.

Hundley, then the No. 4 dual-threat quarterback in the 2011 class according to 247Sports composite rankings and the No. 3 quarterback in the country per, instead chose to leave his home state and play for the Bruins.

Both father and son joined UCLA's coaching staff in 2012, bringing their version of an up-tempo spread offense to the Bruins. Already familiar with the former four-star quarterback, Mazzone knew Hundley already had solid fundamentals and confidence entering the college game but saw him improve each year as the Bruins' starter.

"I knew he could handle playing on offense," Mazzone said, who was promoted to quarterbacks coach at UCLA in 2013 after serving as a graduate assistant coach in 2012.

"I knew, no matter what, whether you're playing Rice or you're playing Oregon, he's the same guy every day. He likes playing in big stages, but he's very mature -- and I really enjoyed watching him grow up or watching him grow from a freshman starter all the way to his junior year."

The quarterbacks coach, himself a former quarterback at Ole Miss and Eastern Carolina before joining the coaching ranks, said "there's not one throw (Hundley) can't make," but noted how in the last year or two how Hundley's confidence in his deep ball has progress.

Mazzone also saw Hundley continue grasp a deeper knowledge of the offense inside and out -- especially in the transition between his redshirt sophomore and junior years. The senior Mazzone ran the same up-tempo spread offense at Arizona State where current Denver Broncos backup quarterback Brock Osweiler threw for over 4,000 yards in 2011.

Hundley added a unique skill set different from what was seen with the 6'8 Osweiler. This was shown during his career at UCLA with 30 rushing touchdowns and most recently during the 2015 NFL Combine with a verified 4.63 40-yard dash.

Though Hundley used to rely on his confidence and athletic ability in seasons prior (shown in some situations by guessing or poor decisions), his growing knowledge of and comfort in the offensive pass protections helped the UCLA offense flourish in 2014. In his final college season, he completed 69.1 percent of passes for 3,155 yards and 22 touchdowns with a passer rater of 152.7. He also rushed for 644 yards with 10 touchdowns.

"I thought Brett really grasped the offense to the point where the ball's coming out of his hand better," Mazzone said. "He knew where the "conflict" defender was at all times. He never was guessing."

In UCLA's fast-tempo offense, as seen with many offenses in the college game, pace keeps defenses from showing multiple looks to confuse the offense on its assignments. Mazzone stated Hundley didn't see many defensive disguises due to the scheme of their offense.

"We're trying to snap the ball with 22 seconds left on the play clock," Mazzone said. "When you watch the NFL games, they're probably snapping (the ball) with about 4 (seconds). From a disguise standpoint is what (Hundley's) eyes will have to get used to -- seeing things that aren't really truthful."

This isn't something Mazzone is necessarily concerned about, however, as Hundley will be able to learn from Packers head coach Mike McCarthy and starting quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

As a person, Mazzone said Hundley is very intelligent; he is a detailed notetaker who studies the details of offenses and defenses down to the different techniques on each side of the ball. Named to the UCLA Athletic Director's Honor Roll in Winter 2011 and Spring 2012, that attention to detail is a characteristic seen by signal callers at the next level.

"That's what you want in a quarterback," Mazzone said. "You want a guy that's kinda nerdy. I think all great quarterbacks have some kind of nerdy vibe to them. If you're looking for that in Brett Hundley, you'll see it when he walks in that room."

Hundley became more and more of a leader in his time as a Bruin, Mazzone stated. Earning the trust of his teammates both on and off the field in his three years, solidifying his fundamentals, being a detailed student of the game, and possessing unwavering confidence were all factors that allowed Hundley to etch his name in the UCLA school record books and lead the Bruins to 29 wins in his three years as a starter.

"He's going to be missed," Mazzone said, "I can tell you that."