Next time you tune in to watch a UCLA football game, wait for the Bruins to get their defensive squad out on the field, and look to the left side of the TV. You’ll probably see linebacker Eric Kendricks there. Then look to the right of the screen, and he’ll be there too. Then locate the ball once it’s been snapped, and wherever it is, Kendricks will as well. Eric Kendricks is all over the field. He is everywhere, somehow involving himself in every play.
For UCLA, sitting at 14-1 odds to win the National Championship, to find success, Kendricks’ involvement wont be enough, but if he can impact plays, influence plays, and change plays, rather than just get himself involved in them, he will elevate this Bruin team to new heights.
In 2012, Kendricks quietly lead the nation in solo tackles. He finds the ball — that much is clear. But with holes to fill, like the loss of Anthony Barr, Kendricks need to influence the ball. He needs to make his presence felt, and make offenses cater to that. If he is lined up and in position to stop the run, teams need not be able to trust their blockers, and quarterbacks had better switch up the play. While this impact might be less statistically impressive, it is the kind of play that earns a player national recognition, and does the same for his team.
Should he encourage offenses to veer away from him, or even make runners second guess their next move, he’ll put his younger and less experienced teammates in position to make a play, make their name known, and learn what they need to do — and that is what seniors do. Teach the younger men, and make things happen.
Kendricks has special talent, and he is a special player. In years past he has shown that on an individual scale, but having drawn more attention from offenses last season, Kendricks set his team up for success. Should he continue down this road, so will UCLA their success. Keep an eye on Kendricks this season, and see if he can help his talent transition into team success.