On defense, you have to fly to the ball, plain and simple. You can’t take plays off, you have to be alert as to where the ball is at all times, and you have to have the competitive instinct to want to make an impact each series that you are out there. Last year, senior Jayon Brown led the way for the Bruins in that department as he tallied 119 total tackles (69 solo, 50 assisted).
Unfortunately, Brown graduated following the 2016 campaign and now the Bruins will have to find someone to fill the rather sizable void left by Brown’s departure. They need to find someone who is not afraid to step up and make a tackle and who also plays with the same type of hunger Brown had. Luckily for the Bruins, they have a catalyst who is coming back for his senior season, one that is ready to cement his status as one of the best linebackers in the Pac-12. Enter Kenny Young.
A native of New Orleans, La., Young measures in at 6-1, 240 pounds. He showed promise beginning in his freshman year of 2014 when he played in 11 contests, tallying 35 tackles (21 solo, 14 assisted). Any fears about a sophomore slump were quickly erased when in 2015, he nearly doubled his tackle total, recording 69 tackles (40 solo, 29 assisted). In addition to his tackle increase, he also recorded an interception which he returned 23 yards for a touchdown in addition to two forced fumbles.
After two successful seasons, he entered the 2016 campaign looking to been even better, something that given his impressive statistics would have been a lot to ask. However, he stepped up to the challenge and did so with flying colors. Notching 90 total tackles (57 solo, 33 assisted), he showed that he wasn’t messing around, becoming a central part of the Bruin defense, and a key piece in the UCLA linebacking core. His best game of the season came on October 1 against Arizona when he tallied 12 tackles (eight solo, four assisted) and a sack.
As we head into the 2017 campaign, the question surrounding Young is a rather simple one: What kind of impact will he have on the defense? The answer is simple, he will have a positive one. Now that Brown is gone, expect Young to become the leader of that defense. He has the talent to do so, and should be able to slide into the same type of role that Brown had.
What will that look like statistically? My guess is that Young will have a bit of a drop in production, not because he will be slowing down though. He had a tremendous season last year and it would be extremely difficult to replicate those numbers. Predicting even better ones would be unfair to him. With that in mind, I’d say around 85 tackles would be a fair estimate.
Defensively, this is his team now and it should be exciting to see what he will do with this opportunity.