With two months to go until the start of fall camp, we're going to count down our 30 most important UCLA players for the 2016 season. These are the players we think are going to have the most significant impact for UCLA this year, so don't take this to mean that these are the players we think are the best long-term prospects, or even necessarily the most talented. Every BRO staffer has ranked his top 30 UCLA players, and from that we've drawn an aggregate list.
Today we'll continue with No. 18.
18. Kenny Young, Junior Middle Linebacker
2015 Statistics: 69 tackles, 5 tackles for loss, 1 interception, 2 forced fumbles
Why He's Important: We can imagine that this is pretty controversial pick for the fan-base at large. Kenny Young had a poor year in 2015, and if you were going to point to a single individual as the biggest reason for UCLA's issues in run defense last year, Young would probably be the most likely candidate. He looked tentative virtually all year, and just seemed to struggle diagnosing plays, anticipating where the action would be, and getting the tackle. Instincts that come very naturally to players like Jayon Brown and, say, Isaako Savaiinaea just didn't seem to come naturally to Young last year. If Savaiinaea hadn't gone down with a high ankle sprain in the second half of the season, it's a fair bet that Young would have decidedly lost his starting job to Savaiinaea before the end of the year.
That all said, and knowing all of that, we still picked Young fairly high on this list, largely because we think there's a pretty good chance he still plays considerably this year. First, he had a good spring -- probably his best series of practices as a Bruin came this April -- and practice performance can be a tough thing to discount for coaches. Second, UCLA has already shown a preference for Young over Savaiinaea, having started Young last year over the older Savaiinaea, and then continuing to start Young even after Savaiinaea came back healthy toward the end of the season.
As it stands, it looked like Savaiinaea and Young essentially split reps evenly this spring, so that competition doesn't look like it's over. Ultimately, we think Savaiinaea is going to win it -- that's why you haven't seen him on this list yet. But even if Savaiinaea wins the job, we have to imagine Young is going to play quite a bit, and if Young wins the job, he'll obviously be a very important piece of the puzzle for UCLA this year. The hope is obviously that he can translate his practice performances this spring into game performances in the fall, but it's fair to feel a little skepticism, if only because he had a very good fall camp last year before really struggling once the lights came on.
What's Been Said About Him:
"Kenny has made a lot of improvement. Last year he was trying to sort it out on the fly. Now he's trying to slow it down." -- LB Coach Scott White, April 11, 2016
Most Recent Interview:
30 Most Important Bruins for 2016
|Rank||Name||Highest Rank||Lowest Rank|
|18||Kenny Young||13 (Tracy Pierson)||Unranked (Blair Angulo)|
|19||Theo Howard||14 (John Evergreen)||24 (2-way tie)|
|20||Matt Dickerson||15 (John Evergreen)||29 (Tracy Pierson)|
|21||Randall Goforth||12 (John Evergreen)||29 (Blair Angulo)|
|22||Austin Kent||17 (Blair Angulo)||30 (John Evergreen)|
|23||Bolu Olorunfunmi||13 (Dave Woods)||Unranked (Blair Angulo)|
|24||Deon Hollins||15 (Tracy Pierson)||Unranked (Dave Woods)|
|25||Darren Andrews||12 (Tracy Pierson)||Unranked (2-way tie)|
|26||Kenny Walker||13 (Blair Angulo)||Unranked (2-way tie)|
|27||Mike Fafaul||11 (Tracy Pierson)||Unranked (3-way tie)|
|28||Josh Woods||23 (Blair Angulo)||Unranked (2-way tie)|
|29||Keisean Lucier-South||14 (Tracy Pierson)||Unranked (3-way tie)|
|30||Nate Meadors||20 (John Evergreen)||Unranked (2-way tie)|