Jeff Ulbrich reviews first season as UCLA’s defensive coordinator

Jeff Ulbrich talked at length with the media on Friday, hitting everything from what it meant for Eric Kendricks to win the Butkus Award, to Jim Mora’s long-term future at UCLA, to — of course — how he’s evaluated his first season as UCLA’s defensive coordinator.

Despite a starting lineup loaded with future pros, the Bruins have been inconsistent on defense this season, holding Arizona’s explosive offense to seven points only to allow 31 to Stanford four weeks later. It was a year that saw the 37-year-old Ulbrich take significant criticism for not generating enough of a pass rush: UCLA is tied for 85th in the country with 22 sacks, 15 of which came in the final six games.

“Guys that I’ve been around a lot (in my career), their philosophy regarding scheme and calling a game is always put the game in the players’ hands,” Ulbrich said. “Keep it simple. Be great with fundamentals and technique, alignment, assignment. Let them know it and understand it at a high level so they can play fast and physical.

“The problem is that college football’s a little different. You’re seeing so much exotic stuff on offense, that you almost have to balance that with being exotic in your own right at times just to keep them off balance. … I gained a better understanding of that as the season went on.”

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UCLA’s Eric Kendricks win Butkus Award for top college linebacker

Eric Kendricks can now officially call himself the best linebacker in college football, even if Pac-12 coaches don’t think so.

After being left off the All-Pac-12 first team last week, UCLA’s all-time leading tackler received the Butkus Award on Tuesday morning — becoming the first Bruin to ever win in the trophy’s 30-year history.

Even former teammate Anthony Barr, a consensus All-American and ninth overall NFL draft pick, settled for a finalist spot behind Alabama’s C.J. Mosley.

In a statement, the Butkus Award selection committee called this year’s race “as close as any (in) the past decade,” and said it included eight write-in candidates. Continue reading

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Eric Kendricks named Butkus finalist, Pac-12 Player of the Week

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. Continue reading

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Eric Kendricks, Myles Jack named Butkus Award semifinalists

UCLA’s Eric Kendricks and Myles Jack were both named among 15 semifinalists for the Butkus Award, given each year to the best linebacker in the country.

Kendricks leads the Pac-12 with 93 tackles this season, and is just 43 tackles away from tying Jerry Robinson’s all-time school record of 468. The senior is coming off one of the best games of his career: a 16-tackle performance in the Bruins’ 40-37 win at Colorado that included an interception, as well as three third-down stops to force a punt or a field goal. All but one of his tackles were unassisted.

Head coach Jim Mora called it Kendricks’ best game of the season, adding that the tackle total wasn’t inflated by plays farther down the field. Continue reading

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UCLA leads Butkus Award watch list

UCLA linebackers Anthony Barr, Eric Kendricks and Jordan Zumwalt all made the 51-man watch list for the Butkus Award. The Bruins tied BYU with three players on the list, the most of any team.

Barr and offensive lineman Xavier Su’a-Filo were also mentioned for the Lombardi Award watch list, though that ballooned to over 100 names. The award is given to a down lineman on either side of the ball, or linebacker who lines up within five yards of the ball.

No UCLA player has ever won either award. The Pac-12′s last Lombardi winner was Arizona State’s Terrell Suggs (2002), and its last Butkus winner was USC’s Chris Claiborne (1998).

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