As Brett Hundley's game experience increased in college, so too did the trust from his coaching staff at UCLA. The reins were loosened slowly, allowing him to survey defenses from the line of scrimmage and make adjustments if a glaring deficiency revealed itself.
The former Chandler High School star quarterback compared it to learning how to drive -- watching at first, and then getting the go-ahead to take the car out for a spin.
"My redshirt freshman year, you sort of develop it as you go along (and they) kind of hand you the keys to the car," Hundley said. "My redshirt sophomore and junior year, I had the keys and was able to drive it. I had access to be able to change protections or change plays. Now, in our offense we don't need to do that as much because we try to build something in there and there should be something in every play to beat defenses. But if you don't like it, you're able to change it."
This is the point in the analogy where Bruce Arians rolls up to Hundley at a stop-light, revs the engine and leaves him in the dust. The Cardinals coach is familiar with the road ahead, but as Hundley and the other spread quarterbacks preparing for the NFL have yet to learn, there's quite a difference between cruising the neighborhood and speeding down the Autobahn.
"So many times you're evaluating a quarterback who has never called a play in the huddle, and who has never used a snap count," Arians said. "They hold up a card on the sideline, he kicks his foot and throws the ball. That ain't playing quarterback. There's no leadership involved there. Now, there might be leadership on the bench, but when you get them now and give them verbiage and they have to spit the verbiage out, use a snap count, change the snap count, they're light years behind."
Hundley has the physical tools to be an NFL quarterback. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.63 seconds at the NFL Scouting combine last week, which was on par with many of the skill players. He was among the top quarterbacks in the vertical jump, broad jump, three-cone drill and 20-yard shuttle.
His collegiate production with the Bruins was solid. He threw for nearly 10,000 yards in three years, completing 67.6 percent of his passes with 75 touchdowns and 25 interceptions. He also averaged nearly 600 rushing yards per season, finishing with 30 career scores on the ground. But throughout the week at the combine, a multitude of coaches and general managers bemoaned the severe adjustments needed for spread offense quarterbacks like Hundley.
The quarterback position is about elite physical skills, yes, but it's also about dissecting a defense, going through progressions and remaining calm in the pocket as chaos closes in.
"I don't know how many of you have sat in a quarterback room – I mean, that's pretty intense stuff," Seahawks General Manager John Schneider said. "It's like learning a whole language. Just to think of the things those guys have to go through and as fast as that goes down for them. It's hard to evaluate those players at the college level when you look over at the sidelines when you are at a game and watching them play live, and they are looking at cards with, like, turtles and colors and stuff. You have no idea what they are doing, as compared to going to watch a guy line up under center, read a defense, check out of a play."
It's the reason why Jameis Winston has settled in as the clear-cut top choice among quarterbacks. He has the tools, and he put them on display in a Florida State offense which resembled a pro system. For as impressive as a guy like Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota was in college, he admitted he hasn't called plays in a huddle since high school.
Hundley's spread-offense days stretch back to his time at Chandler High -- where he carved up defenses with his arm and legs – and while it's served him well to this point, he's adamant his game can meld to whatever a team needs.
"If I need to be in the pocket and make all the throws, then I will do that," Hundley said. "In our offense, sometimes the situation dictated if I didn't see something, I'm taking off running. But if that is the offense and what I need to do – you can watch the film. There's times I sat in the pocket and made throws and I feel I did that consistently in college. But there were times our offense needs, if something's not there, just take off running."
Hundley is ranked as the third-best quarterback prospect in the draft, behind the consensus top two of Mariota and Winston. He entered the combine with a second-round projection, and was asked if he was shooting for a specific spot.
"One," Hundley said.
"My goal is to be No. 1 (overall,)" he said.
If Hundley can combine pocket-passing expertise with his physical skills, many teams will rue passing him up on draft day, but for now, there are too many question marks for clubs to consider taking him early. When Hundley sat down with Jim Mora before the draft process began, his coach at UCLA said to use the doubt as motivation.
"The one thing he said was don't listen to anything," Hundley said. "He said 'Turn your social media off. Turn it all off, because in these next couple months they will break you down and they will not tell you anything good about yourself. And you've got to go out and prove everybody wrong. So always hold that chip on your shoulder.'"
A photo gallery of Cardinals at the Scouting Combine in past years