The UCLA Bruins have high expectations for themselves heading into the 2014 season as they try to regain supremacy in the Pac-12 South. Head coach Jim Mora has built the Bruins into one of the conference’s top teams in an extremely short amount of time and has them consistently contending for a Pac-12 title under his reign. One of the key pieces to the Bruins’ success this fall will be the development of linebacker Myles Jack, who burst onto the scene as a freshman on both sides of the ball in 2013 but will become a defensive star this season.
Jack wasted little time finding a place for himself in the Bruin starting lineup during his freshman year. He finished fifth on the team with 76 tackles, including seven tackles for loss, two interceptions, 11 pass breakups, a forced fumble and a blocked kick. When injuries ravaged the depth at running back, Jack stepped up and played both ways, rushing for 267 yards on the year with seven touchdowns, averaging a whopping 7.03 yards per carry. His ability to play both ways was put on full display in a 41-31 win over the Washington Huskies when he recorded five tackles and four rushing touchdowns.
His performance earned him the Offensive and Defensive Pac-12 Freshman of the Year honors and has raised Jack’s recognition level significantly heading into his sophomore season. But don’t expect him to be a fixture on offense this year with a healthy stable of backs returning to take over the running game. Instead, Jack will be focused on making an even bigger impact on the defensive side of the ball. During the offseason, Jack has reportedly added 15 pounds of muscle which should only make him more imposing as one of the most athletic players on the field.
For UCLA to get back to the Pac-12 title game, they will need an elite defense to win some games for them. With a talent like Myles Jack continuing to develop as a defensive star, the Bruins could have one of the best linebacker corps in the country. Will that be enough to get them to a conference title this season?