THE MODERATOR: Welcome to the UCLA defensive press conference. It’s my pleasure to introduce UCLA defensive coordinator.
Introduce your players and make an opening statement.
COACH ULBRICH: We have Eric Kendricks, Myles Jack, Owamagbe Odighizuwa.
We’re excited to be here. It’s an unbelievable opportunity to finish the season the way we want to, take these seniors out the right way. Kansas State is a great opponent. They’re going to challenge us, especially defensively.
We’re excited about it.
THE MODERATOR: We’ll take questions.
- I know you all are defensive players, but how has Brett Hundley been a leader for you guys?
ERIC KENDRICKS: I think starting in the spring, Brett really took charge of this team, play calling, improving his role as a quarterback, leadership mentality. Practice got a lot more competitive. We all embraced him.
MYLES JACK: Just the change in Brett’s demeanor, mentality pretty much starting in the spring, in San Bernardino. Pretty much took the reins over everything. He had full control over the offensive line. His understanding of the playbook, he knew what he was doing. He knew it just as good as the OC.
Just his development and everything, he’s been a leader, very vocal this year. When things aren’t right, he’s going to say something. His development has been phenomenal.
OWAMAGBE ODIGHIZUWA: Just to piggyback what they say, Brett, he’s been a great asset to our team this year just from a leadership standpoint, his maturity, his understanding of football.
It’s been big for us as a team this year. It’s been helping a lot of the young guys who needed a figure to look up to and a role model and an example of how to carry yourself as a football player.
He’s been big for us this year. I’m excited we get one last game with him. He’s been awesome.
- Talk about the tone that Eric sets, give me examples of how he goes about it.
COACH ULBRICH: I think the greatest leaders, they’re authentic, they’re real, they’re genuine, they’re honest. That’s what he is. He’s not trying to be anybody but himself. He’s the same guy every single day, whether it’s practice, games, classroom, meeting room, he’s provided a great example for the linebackers, the entire defense.
I’ve said this more than once, I truly believe he’s the heart and soul of this team. Yeah, he’s a guy that makes everyone better, from the scout team guys to the starting guys. It’s going to be hard to replace a guy like that, it is.
MYLES JACK: For me personally, since day one, Eric has been that example for me since I got here. He’s been on me, always giving me ways to get better. I soak up everything he tells me.
It means the world. Like coach says, he’s going to be irreplaceable. There’s a reason he won the Butkus Award. I came into a great situation.
This is going to be my last game playing with him. I’m going to make the most of it and enjoy it.
OWAMAGBE ODIGHIZUWA: I’ve had the opportunity and the pleasure of playing and being with Eric Kendricks for five seasons. Like everybody has been saying, he’s a great leader, like Coach Brich has been harping on, he pushes everybody to get better, he loves the game of football. It translates to how he plays on the field. UCLA has been very fortunate to have a guy like that to represent UCLA to the max.
Going forward, he’s going to do great things, but the type of person and leader he is, the type of work ethic he brings to the football field every day.
- Eric, where does that come from, that desire to do things the right way?
ERIC KENDRICKS: I think it’s how I was brought up, how I was raised, the values my mother and my family, like my father, instilled in me.
I guess I owe a lot to my older brother Michael as well. We grew up competing with one another. He never let me get away with anything, let me slide on anything.
Can’t really tell you where it came from. I guess it’s just who I am.
- Myles, does this feel like a pass-the-baton game for you, you being a leader of the defense next year?
MYLES JACK: I guess you could say that. Last year was Anthony, this year is Eric, and I guess next year it will be me. I guess you could kind of look at it that way.
Big shoes to fill. I have a long way to go for me to claim that position. Still have a lot of stuff I need to work on.
I guess you could say that. The time is coming up. I think it’s my time. I’m going to have to fulfill that role.
- Jeff, Coach Mora said some great things about Tyler Lockett. Can you say what you’ve seen on film?
COACH ULBRICH: He’s a pain in the ass now. He’s obviously being extremely productive. It’s funny because you watch tape, there’s times where you know he’s getting the ball. You think the opposing defense is aware of that as well. He finds a way to make the play.
He’s a guy that’s got great hands, runs great routes. Has an unbelievable knack to come back to the ball. When he gets the ball in his hands, he’s explosive, can make you miss.
It’s going to be a great challenge for us. Our secondary, they’re excited about this opportunity, to take a player of his caliber, see how they stack up. If you want to be the best, you got to play the best. He’s definitely in that conversation for college football this year.
It will be fun.
- Jeff, with K State’s offense, I saw a quote from Jim calling it exotic. How would you describe what you see from the offense? How tough is that to stop?
COACH ULBRICH: Yeah, it throws a lot of challenges. A lot of different personnel groups, a lot of different formations. It’s common with the trend in college football nowadays where it’s this run-pass option stuff that it makes it extremely difficult for a defense. The triple option has suddenly become the quadruple option that you don’t have an answer for schematically.
We have to win our one-on-one battles. It’s not something where we can draw it up, say, This is how we’re going to stop it. It’s going to come down to guys playing with great technique and effort.
Schematically it’s tough, but at the same time the guys embrace it, understand it at a high level, play hard. They’re a physical team. It’s going to be tough. But our guys are excited about it.
- Owa, you were here in San Antonio for the Army All-American Bowl. Do you remember anything about that game and do you communicate with any of the players that were in there?
OWAMAGBE ODIGHIZUWA: About the game, I just remember having a great time, being so excited to play on a stage just as big as that.
I remember in high school when I was a sophomore, I saw that game for the first time, I think it was with Terrelle Pryor, one of the quarterbacks. I remember thinking to myself, One day I want to play in that game.
Just being able to play in that game was so exciting. Being able to compete at a high level with players around the country was something I looked forward to, something I relished when I was there. It was definitely a great time.
I had a lot of fun with guys that went to different schools. Definitely did keep in communication for a while with some of them. A lot of them was on the UCLA team, so it was even better.
MYLES JACK: Pretty much what I remember, it was a blast just playing against the top players in the nation. Played high school in Washington, there’s talent, but no talent like the All-American game, guys you see on the cover of ESPN and everything. Coming out, competing, seeing where you measure up with those guys.
I enjoyed it. I enjoyed San Antonio.
THE MODERATOR: We’re also joined by Anthony Jefferson and Kenny Clark.
- Eric, can you talk about what you’ve seen from Kenny Young in terms of development this year and that he’ll step into your role? Is he ready to take that on?
ERIC KENDRICKS: When we started in San Bernardino, he was all over the place. That’s expected of a freshman. He’s a hard worker. He’s willing to fix mistakes. As long as you have those two combinations, you’ll be all right.
So far he’s soaked in everything I’ve had to say to him. He’s learned a lot this year. He’s become a better player. He’s not a freshman any longer.
I can’t predict what he’s going to do. I know he’s going to be a great player because he has a great work ethic. We can expect a lot of things out of him in the future.
- Kenny, what are you trying to accomplish this year, outstanding last bowl game?
KENNY CLARK: Same thing. Work hard. Stop the run. Stop the pass. Get a good bowl win.
It’s a good opportunity for us to get 10 wins this year, and that’s what I’m looking forward to.
- Kenny, can you talk about how you and Eddie dealt with the double-teams?
KENNY CLARK: Just staying stout in there. They double-teamed us, just gives the linebackers opportunities to make plays.
We take pride in taking double-teams, just playing for our teammates, so…
We got to stay stout in there and do our job.
- Anthony, Kansas State’s wide receivers, can you talk about them.
ANTHONY JEFFERSON: They have a pretty good receiving corps. Leading them is Tyler Lockett, he’s a phenomenal player, dynamic player. He can do it on offense, special teams. He’s there go-to target. That’s going to be one of our main focuses on maintaining him.
They have a really good quarterback, too, with Waters. If you control Lockett and be able to get pressure on the quarterback, we’ll have a good game, it will be in our favor.
- Coach, your role as a coordinator, have you approached this game differently?
COACH ULBRICH: Different just in the way that we’ve had more time to prepare so we’ve been able to give these guys a few more looks, few more opportunities to meet. It’s always beneficial for us.
Other than that, not much has changed.
You need to bring their offensive staff in next year, fight-night weigh-in, face-to-face altercations. It would be awesome (laughter).
- Myles, did you find Mexican food?
MYLES JACK: No, I haven’t went yet. I went to Hooter’s two nights in a row. Scratch that (laughter).
But I will get Mexican food tonight.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.