Eric Kendricks’ stellar season is garnering more and more recognition. UCLA’s senior linebacker became a Butkus Award finalist on Monday, and also picked up his second Pac-12 Player of the Week honor.
Kendricks is the second Bruin in as many years to be named a finalist for the Butkus Award, given each year to college football’s top linebacker. No UCLA player has ever won the Butkus; All-American linebacker Anthony Barr lost out to Alabama’s C.J. Mosley last season.
This year, Kendricks’ stiffest competition is likely Washington linebacker Hau’oli Kikaha, who has 23.5 tackles for loss and 17.5 sacks. Kendricks has the edge in tackles (128 to 63) and interceptions (three to zero), but has just seven tackles for loss and two sacks.
In fact, Kikaha nation-leading sack total dwarfs the rest of the field. None of the other finalists — Miami’s Denzel Perryman, Michigan’s Jake Ryan, Notre Dame’s Jaylon Smith — have more than two.
Kendricks was also named Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week for the second time this season, following his 14-tackle performance against USC. He also made a one-handed interception in the second quarter, one of the biggest plays of the 38-20 win over the Trojans. The 6-foot, 230-pound linebacker has led UCLA in tackles in every single game this season, whether by himself or sharing the top mark.
He is eight tackles away from tying Jerry Robinson’s all-time school record of 468.
Asked about the impending milestone, Kendricks said: “I tell everyone not to mention it. People have a couple weeks back, but I haven’t heard anything (until) you just mentioned it.”