With under one month 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. 5.
5. Jayon Brown, Senior Linebacker
2015 Statistics: 93 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 6 pass breakups, 1 fumble recovered
Why He's Important: Jayon Brown only started nine games last year, but somehow led the team in tackles with 93, and led all non-DBs in pass breakups with six. He only entered into the starting lineup after the injury to Myles Jack, and while we often likened him to a mini-Jack prior to last year, it became readily apparent as the year went on that he resembled a different former Bruin entirely: Eric Kendricks. Though playing a slightly different position, Brown exhibited some of Kendricks' best traits -- his keen, otherworldly nose for the ball and a sure tackling ability -- en route to his breakout season.
With the scheme change on defense, Brown is settling into a more traditional weak-side linebacker role, and watching him this spring, it looks like it might be even more of a natural fit for him than the defensive scheme last year -- and, again, he led the team in tackles last year. Throughout spring, he was a constant presence, sometimes looking like the only player on the defense from the amount of times he was first to the ball. He has the instincts of an ideal-world middle linebacker, actually, but his size makes him an understandable fit on the weak-side. He actually showed some skill as a blitzer this spring, which is something we didn't see from him last season.
It's funny how fortunes can change. Heading into last year, we were lamenting that Brown had never truly had time to shine behind Jack, but then within six weeks or so, he had become arguably the second-most indispensable player on the defense behind Kenny Clark. It was obvious from his freshman year on special teams that he could tackle, but what has become progressively more obvious over the last two years is that, aside from his size, there isn't an obvious weakness in his game. He can hit, tackle, cover, blitz, and does it all with very good awareness and instincts. It'll be very interesting to see what kind of year he can put together as a senior, and whether he can parlay that into a late-round NFL Draft pick.
What's Been Said About Him:
"(He's become a better leader) in every way, across the board, a much more vocal leader. He takes to it like a fish to water, being a more mature guy. He's a happy go lucky kid, but he's more business-like now." -- LB Coach Scott White, April 11, 2016
Most Recent Interview:
30 Most Important Bruins for 2016
|Rank||Name||Highest Rank||Lowest Rank|
|5||Jayon Brown||2 (John Evergreen)||15 (Blair Angulo)|
|6||Takkarist McKinley||5 (Blair Angulo)||10 (John Evergreen)|
|7||Kolton Miller||3 (Dave Woods)||20 (Blair Angulo)|
|8||Soso Jamabo||7 (John Evergreen)||18 (Blair Angulo)|
|9||Fabian Moreau||4 (John Evergreen)||22 (Dave Woods)|
|10||Nate Iese||7 (Blair Angulo)||Unranked (Tracy Pierson)|
|11||Ishmael Adams||8 (Dave Woods)||22 (John Evergreen)|
|12||Eli Ankou||10 (2-way tie)||21 (Dave Woods)|
|13||Isaako Savaiinaea||11 (John Evergreen)||27 (Dave Woods)|
|14||Eldridge Massington||8 (Blair Angulo)||26 (Tracy Pierson)|
|15||J.J. Molson||9 (Blair Angulo)||21 (2-way tie)|
|16||Nate Starks||14 (Dave Woods)||22 (Blair Angulo)|
|17||Jaleel Wadood||6 (John Evergreen)||30 (Tracy Pierson)|
|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)|