The dark horse Heisman Trophy candidate and the most dangerous dual-threat player in the country, Myles Jack has college football’s attention. But the All-American linebacker has said more times than necessary that he won’t play running back this season.
Strengths: Tackling, blocking, pass rushing and scoring touchdowns.
In case you haven’t figured it out yet, Jack is really good at a lot of things.
He plays pass-protection in the Nickel package; he can step up on the interior if needed (but only practiced on the outside during training camp); and he can line up at running back. Jack is so good at so many positions that it’s tough to limit him to only one.
But Jack finished fifth on the team with 75 tackles, including seven for loss.
Last season was about adjusting to the pace of the game and learning the playbook. This year, he feels that his instincts have greatly improved.
"My whole overall football IQ has improved," Jack said. "My eyes, reading guards, reading pullers and just kind of seeing what the offenses will do in certain situations."
Biggest impact players for UCLA: No. 3, RB Jordon James.
Weaknesses: There aren’t many, but with the extraordinary expectations put on Jack and his ever-heightening profile begs the question of whether or not he can handle the pressure.
"I try to avoid media days as much as possible," Jack said. "This sport is a team sport, there’s 11 guys on the field and everybody has to do their job and make plays and make stuff happen. But I guess if I’m getting the attention I can just try and bring attention to the team, and bring the team up as much as possible because it’s not really about me."
But if he makes a push for the Heisman, it will be about him.
Key stat: If you think Jack should move over to the offense to strictly play running back, consider this: with Jack only on offense, Arizona State put up 484 total offensive yards in their Pac-12 South Division-clinching win over UCLA.
The old adage goes, "offense wins games but defense wins championships," and the Bruins sacrificed defense for Jack to play offense in the most critical game of the season. The results spoke for themselves.
Quotable: Jack threw himself into learning the finer details of playing linebacker during the offseason, and he now feels a solid grasp of the position.
"I’m learning more about how to be a linebacker, not just being an athlete out there and reacting," he said. "I’m spending more time on the particulars and every day I feel like I’m getting better."
As UCLA season opener nears, keep an eye on these players.
Final thought: While he will figure into special packages in the backfield, his aptitude for offense is nowhere near what it should be. He struggles in blocking situations, and his knowledge of the playbook is not as deep as someone who plays offense full-time.
In his stint last season as a running back, he’d simply take a cue from his quarterback — right or left — and then turn on the jets.
But as a linebacker, expect a much stronger, faster and smarter defender on the outside.