Nov 1, 2014; Pasadena, CA, USA; UCLA Bruins linebacker Myles Jack (left) sacks Arizona Wildcats quarterback Anu Solomon (12) during the first quarter at Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
Coming off of a year like that – which netted him the Pac-12 Defensive and Offensive Freshman of the Year trophies – and with 2013’s premier defensive performer Anthony Barr leaving the linebacker corps via the NFL draft, many assumed that Jack would take control of the defense and put up even gaudier numbers. Specifically, I think that since Barr and Jack were both outside linebackers, many people envisioned Jack picking up the bulk of Barr’s sack totals and terrorizing the backfield.
That’s just never been Jack’s game. Eric Kendricks stepped forward as the leader of the defense, amassing 149 tackles, most in the nation, and Deon Hollins led the team in sacks. Jack ‘merely’ redirected offensive game plans and cast a shadow across the whole field, particularly with his speed and coverage abilities.
Case in point: he played man coverage against USC’s leading receiver, Nelson Agholor, holding him to 3 receptions for 24 yards. In doing so, he single-handedly took away Cody Kessler‘s favorite target (a 1300+ yard receiver), enabling his teammates to sack Kessler six times, pick him off once, and limit USC to 62 yards rushing.
That doesn’t show up on the stat sheet. Was that game a disappointing performance for Jack? Only if you have a very narrow set of expectations for what he needs to do in order to be as good as advertised.
Thankfully, Jack has the right perspective on it all. This from another profile by ESPN’s Kevin Gemmell:
"‘Realistically, I thought I had a great season,’ Jack said. ‘The positions I was put in and the things I was asked to do, I thought it went well. ‘I don’t want to say I’m content. But I’m happy. I don’t feel like I need to come out and redeem myself or bounce back.’"
Next: Jack's last chance to justify the hype...