In-Depth with Brett Hundley: Part 1

In our extended, exclusive interview with Brett Hundley, we asked Hundley about the decision to return to school, how he weighed the different factors, the early Heisman campaign, and much, much more...

Q: Brett Hundley, you've made the decision to return for your fourth year, probably your last year—

A: Yeah, there probably won't be much discussion about it after next year.

Q: Not having another press conference?

A: No, no, probably won't be doing any of that.

Q: You've talked about the decision to come back, but in terms of the feedback you got from the NFL, you said in the press conference afterward that you heard 2nd, 3rd, maybe even 4th. Was that just different scouts telling you different things?

A: It was really just different people. The majority of it was 1st round. So, I guess I should get that out there. The majority of it was first round. The expectation of how many teams needed a quarterback and how many were in the top 15, if I were to declare, the assumption was that I would go in the top 15, or somewhere around there. That's pretty much where the high assumption was. Like I said, though, there's a lot of scatter when you get it. When you send to the NFL for your evaluation, there's only four teams that grade.

Q: So, when you ask for an evaluation from the NFL, they just assign it to four random teams who give their individual evaluations?

A: I'm not perfectly sure how it works, but I do know that it's either four or a little more than that—it's not all of the teams' grades. You're getting an evaluation and it may not be indicative of where you'd actually be drafted. All you have to do is impress one team, but it may be the team that, like the Broncos for instance, that have Peyton Manning, so they don't need a quarterback. So, you put some consideration into the evaluation, but not as much you'd think just looking at it from the outside. But it came back anywhere from first to third round, but like I said, the majority of it was first, and knowing how many teams need quarterbacks and where I was slotted to go, probably in the upper half of the first round. To be honest, leaving and worrying about falling out of the first round really wasn't the issue, but just leaving something behind that I didn't want to leave was the big issue.

Q: Anthony Barr was saying last year when he got his evaluation back it was basically just a grade and then a short paragraph that was a basic evaluation. Is that kind of what yours looked like?

A: Yeah, exactly, and it was stuff I already knew. That's why, when people were like, "are you waiting for your evaluation?" I wasn't sure they really knew what it was. It's not like it's completely useless, you're going to look at it, but it's not something where you're going to sit there and say, "Oh, if it says 3rd round, I'm definitely staying." Just because there's so much more you have to take into consideration. The evaluation, I looked at it, but it wasn't the big factor in my decision.

Q: When you're thinking about, the decision to go pro, I guess for me, if I had the prospect of potentially making a few million dollars doing what I love, I'd probably sign up immediately. How does that sort of thinking weigh on the decision?

A: That's the crazy part. A lot of people were like, "TAKE THE MONEY." But when you think about it, when's the draft?

Q: Is it May now?

A: Yeah, I think it's May. So you think, "In four months, five months, I could be a millionaire", then that's really what you're saying. And not just like one million, but like multi-millionaire. You're at least thinking, if you get in the top 15, you're at 15 to 20 million. And then you're like, "No, I'm going to go back to school." That's really what you're saying, and to the outside perspective, that looks like a crazy decision. But to be honest, the way I thought about it, I thought this decision was best for my longevity in the league, just because, going to the League too fast, I think I'm ready, and I think I could compete with the best, but I don't want just one contract in the NFL, and do decent. You want to be there til…you want to do this for your life. You don't want it to end just like that after one contract and say you were there for just three or four years. I'm trying to be in there for 18 to 20 years, and be one of the best quarterbacks to do it. Coming back will make me that much more prepared so that when I do leave, the team I'm drafted on and who picks me, I'm going to tell them, and I mean this, they'll be the best team in the league. I'm going to tell them that straight up. I feel like next year when I do come out, I can settle down with a team, develop, and then do something great.

Q: The interesting thing to me is, when you're sacrificing an immediate pay day to stay for another year, you want to develop and make the necessary strides so that you come into the NFL ready to play from day one.

A: Right.

Q: So was there any conversation or conversations you had with the Mazzones or with Coach Mora to say, "Hey, these are some things I want to work on, these are some things I'd like to have worked into the offense so I can develop more."?

A: Oh yeah, I had very long conversations with Coach Mora about stuff like that, and I feel like we have the coaching staff to do it. And this year, I feel like it's going to be more on me going in with them, even in the offseason, just spending time with them. I think last year, it was so much on the game plans. The first year is learning the system, the second year is understanding game plans, and the third year, you can really break down into defenses. You already know the game plan, you can really start breaking down things and learning the different defensive systems. I started doing that at the end of last year, helping make the game plan, thinking about what you want to run and things like that. But now it's just really spending time with not just the offensive side of the ball, but the defensive side of the ball. Put it an hour with Coach Ulbrich or Coach Meat, and just sitting down and listening to what they're talking about and what they teach their guys to understand the game better.

Q: Watching the offense this year, it looked, and this is just my layman's perspective so you can tell me if I'm an idiot, but watching it last year as opposed to this year, it looked like last year it was predicated much more on quick reads, and a lot of quick passes, and then this year, it looked like they were trying to work in more deep reads and deeper progressions—

A: That's completely true. That's the thing—last year, the stats were some crazy numbers. Last year, it was a lot of quick, get the ball out passing and running. Slants and a lot of bubble screens, and those were getting us twenty yards a pop when you have Damien Thigpen, Johnathan Franklin, and Joe Fauria. This year, it was more schematically built on making progressions based on what the defense does, understanding you go here, here, here, and if he's not open, you keep going through your progression. Now, it was more of a "this is our offense" deal, where it wasn't just throwing screens and quick outs. I mean, we had it, but now it was reading more downfield dig routes or a post, or a scissor, or something like that. There was a lot of stuff in the offense this year that was just more complicated. If they had thrown this stuff in last year, I'd have been completely swimming. But luckily, these coaches have done a great job of helping me progress in my career, and throwing what I need at me at the right times.

Q: And it seemed like a few games, the offense did get a bit simpler, particularly after the offensive line was down to me and a couple other journalists. Like, the USC game, it seemed like it was once again more of a simple, quick read offense.

A: Yep, and that was all game plan and strategy. Sometimes we feel like a team is going to come out, like Virginia Tech, and just go Cover 1 or Cover 0 all game, and versus those defenses, you can't really sit back in the pocket and wait. Well, I guess against Cover 1 you can to a certain extent, but against Cover 0, you have to get the ball out, so it's going to be more get the ball out and get the ball in playmakers hands and let them do what they do best.

Q: In terms of that, this year you were obviously trying to show that you could make all those reads and run something closer to an NFL offense to show you're ready for the next level. When you had those offensive line injuries, and those running back injuries, and knew that your blocking wasn't going to be what you thought it'd be heading into the season, how difficult was it for you to know that you had these goals and expectations for how you wanted to look throughout the middle part of that season, and then have it get derailed a little bit in part because of those injuries?

A: It's just one thing as a quarterback you have to understand. As a quarterback, you have to understand who you have in the game, and really know your personnel. I think Peyton Manning does a great job of that and Tom Brady. But I think it's understanding who you have, how much time you're going to have to stay in the pocket, and understanding that you've got to get the ball out of your hands. You can't sit back there and think you're going to get through all of your reads sometimes. You've got to know that it may be first read, second read, and then you've got to go.

Q: Where do you think you are in that progression? From the beginning of the year to now, are you where you want to be in terms of that clock in your head and knowing when to get it out.

A: I feel like I am where I need to be. I think another year of growth is going to help me get even better in that regard so I'm more prepared when I do go. I feel like sometimes people would rush to the league just to get the money, and they still have a little more developing to do. In the league, and as a quarterback, if you get picked in the first round, you're expected to play. You have to be ready to play. They're not going to sit around and develop you. I think I could, but it would be nice to come back, get another year, get my degree, and experience another year of college. And then go off and have fun in the NFL. The NFL will always be there, and that's why I didn't want to rush.

Q: It's odd, looking at the NFL Draft, prior to the last four or five years, guys drafted in the first round weren't expected to perform as immediately as they are now, and the crazy thing is, they paid those guys a lot more money than they pay first round guys now.

A: Exactly, And if you're talking as much money as they made then, that's like 50 or 60 million. I mean, there are opportunities in life where you just have to say…I mean, you have 40 or 50 million dollars waiting on you. It's right there in five months, or I'm coming back to school. I mean, even right now, it's a lot of money, but there's a big difference between 10 or 15 million and 40 or 50 million.

Q: Sure, one's where you can buy a nice house in Hancock Park, the other is where you can buy a mansion in the hills.

A: Exactly. You're thinking with 40 million, you can pretty much settle your whole life, and probably the lives of many close to you. I mean, it's a lot of money no matter what, but when we're talking about it as players, it's like, 15 million dollars is a lot of money, but when you compare the amount to what it used to be (for a first round pick), that's more what you get on the second contract, so that's kind of the goal. Those are the bigger contracts.

Q: So when you're looking at the offense for next year, you're obviously going to want to show off even more of the deeper, longer reads and NFL-type decision making and play making throughout the season. How important was it for you to look at the offensive line depth chart, running back depth chart, and receiver depth chart when making your decision? Was it a big deal for you when Xavier Su'a-Filo announced he was leaving?

A: Yeah, I wish he would've stayed. But it was a decision he had to make, and I love him to death. We're always going to be in touch. But like I said, you have to know what you have and what you have to work with. Even though he's leaving, we still have a solid line. Depth-wise, we should be better than we were last year. We just had an enormous amount of injuries last season. We had so many injuries last year. We have to expect the best and hope for the best this year. Hopefully everybody stays injury free. If they do, we should be more than solid.

Q: The day of the press conference, Coach Mora told us that you just called him the night before to tell him you were coming back. You didn't put an ornament on your Christmas tree Matt Barkley-style?

A: I should have. I should have done something like drop a package off at his house on the front steps, like a Special Delivery. No, I didn't want to do something like that. At first, I was like, I‘ll just call him, and then I'll tweet it so everyone will know, but then we were talking and he said, "well, we've got media tomorrow, so we might as well do a press conference."

Q: So, coming back to college, a huge part of these next few weeks is recruiting and stocking the team with a bunch more freshmen for next year. How much of a role are you planning on playing in the next few recruiting weekends? Are you going to try to host some guys?

A: Yeah. My first two years I took a pretty big part in it. Last year, I had a lot more going on so I didn't host anyone. This year, I think I'm going to try to spend a lot more time doing it, and, if not host, at least help out in telling guys where to go, what to do, and help them enjoy their experiences. I'll probably host a couple, though. Our recruiting class is going to be big. That was one of the things Coach Mora and I talked about.

Q: When you came in, Rick Neuheisel was the coach running the Pistol offense, and you came in to run that offense. What was the adjustment like, going from that offense under Neuheisel to the Mazzone offense in spring of 2012? Looking at it as an observer, it seemed like you made a pretty huge leap from December of your freshman year to that spring.

A: I actually think the Pistol terminology and everything gave me a good basis for understanding the new offense in spring. It was more of like an NFL style, where you would say the whole play. You'd go to the sideline, and you'd get a whole NFL type play call. You'd have your reads, if it was Cover 3, look here, if it was Cover 2, look here, if it was this, that. It sort of helped me gain an understanding of what college football is and what defenses actually look like. I remember talking to Coach Neuheisel when I first got here, I didn't know a damn thing about defenses. Cover 4? Cover 3? I knew Cover 2, but that was pretty much it. I've always played quarterback, but it was never taught in depth what different defenses were. In high school, it was all athletic ability, just run around and throw the ball. Your receivers will be here, here, and here. But when I got to college, I really had to start learning stuff, and so I told him, "I don't know anything." Then, I really started studying, and I'd go into Coach Neuheisel's office and talk. He knows so much about the game. That's why I feel like, it all happens for a reason. He gave me so much knowledge and passed down so much to me before Mora and them got here. I learned a lot from Neuheisel. He's a great coach, I mean, and teaching quarterbacks, I learned a lot from him. And that's the one thing I think I learned about so much from him before any of the other coaches got here, I had a great understanding of what the game was in my one year from him.

Q: So you had Neuheisel, who was your QB coach through most of your first year, Marques Tuiasosopo, who was the QB coach for a couple of months at the end of the season, and then it was the Mazzones. Taylor, was he working with you just this past year, or was he working with you each of the last two years?

A: No, it was primarily just this year.

Q: So it was Noel the previous year?

A: Yeah.

Q: Man, how can you process all of that, to have four different quarterbacks coaches in that time? Is it a lot of different voices that you have to meld together into one thing?

A: Yeah, I think for me, as a quarterback, when you get older and more mature, you start to understand your game and what works for you and what doesn't. You start to have a voice with what you do and what you want to do as far as footwork and things like that because you know what works best for you. And then, talking about Peyton Manning, when you get to that level, it's not like quarterback coaches are coming to them and teaching them how to play the game. It's more like helping them with specific aspects of a game plan, or giving a little advice on a specific thing here or there. I think that's how you start developing as a quarterback, when you develop a base line of things that work for you, and then you start taking bits and pieces from everything you're hearing from the outside to go along with the stuff you already know works for you. Then, when people come around to tell you stuff, you're not just listening to everything and breaking yourself down again, you're gathering little pieces to add to what you already do. You already have your base, you already have your foundation. At that point, all of that is already built, and now it's just adding specific details that you need.

Continued Tomorrow with Part 2...


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