UCLA’s Jack making most of his opportunities at running back

UCLA’s Myles Jack spent all of the offseason talking about how he wasn’t a running back. Jack claims to be a linebacker, thank you very much.

Except, he scored a touchdown as a running back in Saturday’s home-opener, which was the eighth of his short college career. That’s a lot of rushing touchdowns for a linebacker.

Ok, he admits it: Jack missed playing running back.

"Yeah, I did," he said, laughing.

And the thing is, he’s really good at it. In the third quarter, he plowed right through the pile, appearing to be down short of the goal line before emerging and scampering into the end zone for a four-yard touchdown run. It was a move that showed his speed, power and athleticism all in one. The entire crowd gasped.

But to Jack, it’s just a four-yard run, no big deal. Nothing like that 66-yard run he reeled off last year at Arizona.

"That was really just the offensive line moving guys and I’m getting behind them," he demurred. "I don’t really take any credit for a four-yard touchdown run."

Jack insists that he still doesn’t really know how to play the position. He just runs. In fact, he came in at running back in the first quarter as a decoy and didn’t quite know where to go. He was then handed the ball on the next play and didn’t follow his blockers; he just ran straight ahead and was downed for a gain of two yards. 

"The first run, I was supposed to bounce it," he said. "But I was so excited to get the ball in my hands I just ran right into that tackle."

Running backs coach Kennedy Polumalu was proud to see that he followed directions in the third, grabbing him and wrapping him up in celebration.

"He said, ‘See what happens when you follow your blockers,’" Jack said.

He’s not ready to move over to offense full-time, but the Bruins’ package using primarily defensive players has proved effective in the past and was effective Saturday night as well. At a time when the Bruins are not playing their best ball, offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone said they might not have a choice but to expand it.

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Head coach Jim Mora has said in the past that he doesn’t want the novelty to wear off by using it every game. Against Memphis, it was simply the right situation.

"We had it last week but we just didn’t get the situation that we wanted last week," Mora said. "We got it this week so we put it in there. What we’ll try to do is expand that package and get something for these guys to work on but once again, you’ve got to be careful with how much you use it."

Jack’s role in particular could grow as the Bruins still struggle to firmly establish the running game.

"If we can get him in there and mix it up and let him run the ball with the power that he has, then we’ll do it," Mora said.

In the meantime, Jack will continue to patiently wait for the play to be called.

"It felt really good just being back there" he said. "It was fun being back there and getting a touchdown. It’s whatever the coaches ask of me."

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