Nov 23, 2013; Pasadena, CA, USA; UCLA Bruins linebacker Myles Jack (30) runs for 37 yards as Arizona State Sun Devils safety Alden Darby (4) goes for the stop in the first half of the game at Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Jack quickly worked his way into the starting linebacker corps as a freshman, and he performed well in his first three games (I remember first noticing him in the game at Nebraska), but it was at Utah where he really started garnering attention, with five tackles and an interception. He followed that up with big games against Cal, at Stanford, at Oregon, and against Colorado.
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But a rash of injuries to the running backs forced Mora to turn to Jack at Arizona, where, in addition to his eight tackles and two passes defended, Jack rushed for 120 yards and a touchdown on six carries in a 31-26 win. He was the feature weapon in the debut of what we now know as Mora’s ‘jumbo package,’ bringing defensive players in on offense for goal-line and other select scenarios.
In 2010 the college football media had gone ecstatic over Owen Marecic‘s turn as a two-way starter for Stanford (as a fullback and linebacker), and when Jack came up big in Tucson, the pump was already primed for interviews and puff pieces on the new age of the iron-man and retro, tough guy football being back in vogue.
Steve Sarkisian either wasn’t paying attention or didn’t buy the hype because Washington‘s defense let Jack gain another 59 yards and four touchdowns in a 41-31 UCLA victory the following week. He racked up another 86 yards and a touchdown in the loss to Arizona State the following game. Against USC, Jack scored a three-yard touchdown and was stuffed on 4th-and-1, but I also recall him being successfully used as a decoy on a third-and-short conversion later on.
Steve Sarkisian either wasn’t paying attention or didn’t buy the hype because Washington’s defense let Jack gain another 59 yards and four touchdowns the following week.
As you can just tell by looking at the previous four paragraphs, the narrative of Jack’s season switched from defense to offense halfway through. Jack consistently stated that he was happy to play whatever role he needed in order to help the team, but he also maintained that he saw himself as a linebacker and was not looking to change positions permanently.
All the focus on Jack’s rushing risks overshadowing that he had a fantastic season on defense, too. His 75 tackles were fifth on the team and second most ever by a UCLA freshman (behind Kenny Easley‘s 93 in 1977), he led the team with eleven passes defended, and had two interceptions and a defensive touchdown.
Next: A sophomore linebacker on Heisman watch?