The First-Round Book on ... Akeem Ayers

With NFL Scouting's detailed breakdowns, which are provided to teams for their draft preparation, we present the players who are possibilities for the Green Bay Packers with the 32nd pick of the first round. Get to know UCLA's Akeem Ayers, the seventh player in our series.

Akeem Ayers

Outside Linebacker/Defensive End

University of California, Los Angeles Bruins

No. 10

6-foot-3 3/8, 255 pounds

Los Angeles, Calif: Verbum Dei High School

A rare physical talent, Ayers has provided the Bruins with a dynamic playmaker at linebacker capable of changing a game's momentum in an instant. The junior possesses superb athletic ability and regularly made plays worthy of any highlight reel during his tenure at UCLA.

Ayers arrived at UCLA as a heralded prep recruit, so it came as a bit of a disappointment when he redshirted his first season. But he made his collegiate debut a year later in the 2008 season opener vs. Tennessee, and provided the Bruins faithful with a glimpse of his ability when he blocked a punt that was returned for a touchdown by a teammate.

Ayers took over a starting role as a sophomore in 2009 and made "splash plays" a regular occurrence. Against Oregon, the linebacker provided pressure on Nate Costa and forced the quarterback to retreat into the end zone. Costa attempted to get rid of the ball, but Ayers leaped into the air, snared the pass and tapped his toes in the end zone for a touchdown as he landed.

Ayers provided a similar eye-popping play a few months later in the EagleBank Bowl vs. Temple. With the Bruins trailing by a score, Temple quarterback Vaughn Charlton handled a shotgun snap on third-down. Despite slipping off the snap of the ball, Ayers, who had lined up at right defensive end, regained his footing and jumped in front of a screen pass. With the ball in his hands, the linebacker proceeded two yards to the end zone for the game-winning score.

It's this rare athleticism that grabs the attention of National Football League teams, as Ayers has seemingly unlimited potential with the versatility to play in a variety of schemes at the next level. Although he has started 28 games as a 4-3 strong-side linebacker, the Bruins would often line him up at defensive end in third-down situations to take advantage of his edge-rushing ability.

Ayers collected 14 sacks for minus 85 yards and 29.5 stops for losses totaling 135 yards in his collegiate career, and pro franchises employing 3-4 defenses could also install him as a pass rushing outside linebacker.

Ayers was a Prep Star and Super Prep All-American as a senior at Verbum Dei High School. He was named the CIF-Southern Section Mid Valley Defensive Player of the Year despite missing half the season due to injury. He registered 44 tackles with two sacks and a fumble recovery while leading his Eagles squad to an 11-3 record and the CIF Mid-Valley Championship title.

He was also an All-State first-team choice (small schools) by Cal-Hi Sports and added Best in the West first-team honors by the Long Beach Press-Telegram. Ayers' exploits on the gridiron made him one of the most coveted recruits in the nation. He was rated a four-star prospect by recruiting service Rivals.com, who listed him as the ninth outside linebacker in the country and the 24th recruit from the state of California.

Scout.com rated him a four-star defensive end, ranking him as the 12th-best prospect in the nation at that position. The standout prep was offered football scholarships from numerous universities across the country. His main suitors included UCLA, Arizona State, California, Colorado, Michigan, Nebraska, Oregon, Southern California and Washington State.

"UCLA is where I felt most comfortable," said Ayers. "I could see myself there for four to five years. It is a great school and a great football program. I think (former head coach) Karl Dorrell is a good head coach and a nice person."

Ayers enrolled at UCLA in 2007 and retained eligibility by redshirting his true freshman year. The following season, he played in all 12 games as a backup to starting strong-side linebacker John Hale and even managed to earn three starts at the position.

Ayers emerged as a playmaker, earning All-Pac-10 Conference honorable mention while being named UCLA's defensive co-winner of the John Boncheff, Jr. Memorial Award for Rookie of the Year. On the season, the second-year freshman delivered 40 tackles (28 solos) with four sacks for minus 38 yards, five stops for losses totaling 43 yards, three pass deflections, a forced fumble and a blocked punt.

With Hale's graduation in 2009, Ayers stepped into the starting strong-side linebacker role as a sophomore and enjoyed a breakout campaign. He started all 13 contests and ranked third on the team with 75 tackles (55 solos), including six sacks for minus 34 yards and 14.5 stops for losses totaling 56 yards. He also deflected three passes and intercepted four others for 10 yards and two touchdowns in returns. He added four forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries for nine yards and another score.

Ayers finished fourth in the conference in interceptions (0.31 per game), fifth in tackles-for-loss (1.12 tpg) and tied for 10th in sacks (0.46 spg). He was an honorable mention All-Pac-10 choice for the second-straight season and earned defensive player of the week honors on one occasion (vs. Washington State). He was also the co-defensive recipient of the Bruins' Captain Don Brown Memorial Award for Most Improved Player.


Akeem Ayers
Harry How/Getty Images
Ayers was named a team captain entering his junior season. He started all 12 games and ranked fourth on the team with 68 tackles (45 solos), including four sacks for minus 13 yards, 10 stops for losses totaling 36 yards, two fumble recoveries and four pass deflections. He also intercepted two passes, returning them for a 90 yards combined.

Ayers was one of the nation's most decorated defenders. He was selected as a second-team All-American by the Walter Camp Football Foundation and was a third-team choice by the Associated Press. He was also named to Watch Lists for the Bednarik (top college defender), Bronko Nagurski (top collegiate defender) and Rotary Lombardi (top collegiate lineman) Awards.

Ayers finished third in voting for the Butkus Award (top collegiate linebacker). He was a quarter-finalist for the Lott IMPACT Trophy (top collegiate defender). The first-team All-Pac 10 Conference linebacker was the defensive co-winner of UCLA's Henry R. "Red" Sanders Award for Most Valuable Player.

At the conclusion of his junior season, Ayers elected to forgo his final year of eligibility and declared for the NFL Draft. "Akeem has been a big-play performer throughout his career at UCLA and we support his decision to move to the next level," said head coach Rick Neuheisel. "Who will ever forget his interceptions against Oregon and Temple that he turned into touchdowns or his many sacks? We will miss Akeem, but we look forward to watching him make those same types of plays on Sundays in the NFL."

Career notes

Ayers started 28-of-37 games at strong-side linebacker, recording 183 tackles (128 solos) with 14.0 sacks for minus 85 yards and 29.5 stops for losses totaling 135 yards…Caused seven fumbles and recovered four others for nine yards and one touchdown…Intercepted six passes for 100 yards (16.67 avg) and two touchdowns, adding 10 pass deflections and one blocked punt…Rushed once for seven yards and returned one punt for 20 yards.

2010 season

All-American second-team selection by the Walter Camp Football Foundation and third-team choice by The NFL Draft Report and the Associated Press…All-Pacific 10 Conference first-team selection by the league's coaches…Defensive co-winner of UCLA's Henry R. "Red" Sanders Award for Most Valuable Player…Finished third in voting for the Butkus Award (top collegiate linebacker) and quarterfinalist for the Lott IMPACT Trophy (top collegiate defender)…Member of Watch Lists for the Bednarik (top collegiate defender), Bronko Nagurski (top collegiate defender) and Rotary Lombardi (top collegiate lineman) Awards…The team captain started all 12 games at strong-side linebacker and ranked fourth among Bruins defenders with 68 tackles (45 solos), including four sacks for minus 13 yards and 10 stops for losses totaling 36 yards…Tied for 17th in the conference in tackles-for-loss (0.83 tpg) and 22nd in sacks (0.33 spg)…Recovered two fumbles and caused two others…Made 56 plays vs. the ground game, holding those ball carriers to 178 yards (3.18 ypc), as the defender limited those runners to six first downs while producing seven third-down stops and another on fourth-down…Delivered four tackles that brought down ball carriers at the line of scrimmage for no gain…Made 11 stops vs. the aerial attack, limiting receivers to 57 yards (5.18 ypc) and two first downs on those receptions, as he made two third-down stops…Returned two interceptions for 90 yards and deflected four pass, including one on third-down…Delivered 11 of his tackles inside the red zone, including six on goal-line plays, as he posted 12 total stops (assists/solos) for loss.

2010 game analysis

Kansas State…Ayers opened the season with a career-high 11 tackles (6 solos) including one sack, as he added two fumble recoveries and a pass deflection…In the first quarter, the linebacker pounced one fumble by Daniel Thomas at the opponent's 39, but UCLA was forced to punt on the ensuing possession…In the second frame, quarterback Carson Coffman lost the ball and Ayers again recovered, this time at the opponent's 11. The Bruins were able to convert the turnover into a touchdown a play later…The junior held the opposition to three-&-out later in the second quarter by deflecting a pass by Coffman on third-&-6, and again in the final quarter when he sacked Collin Klein three-yard loss on third-&-7…Ayers Defensive Impact-The defender registered 10 stops vs. the ground game, holding runners to 53 yards and two first downs, as he made one third-down stop and took down one ball carrier at the line of scrimmage for no gain…Made one stop vs. the aerial attack, limiting the receiver to four yards on that reception, as he deflected one third-down pass attempt…Part of a defense that allowed 313 yards rushing with three touchdowns on 54 carries (5.8 ypc) and 377 yards in total offense on 71 snaps (5.3 avg).

Stanford…The linebacker stopped Stepfan Taylor in the backfield for a one-yard loss during a first quarter possession…In the second period, he held the opposition to three-and-out when he tackled Ryan Whalen short of a conversion following a reception on third-&-10…Ayers finished with seven tackles (four solos), including one assisted stop for loss and a pass deflection…Ayers Defensive Impact-The defender registered five stops vs. the ground game, holding runners to 11 yards…Made one stop vs. the aerial attack, limiting the receiver to nine yards on that reception, as he made one third-down stop…

Added one tackle on the punt coverage unit…Part of a defense that allowed 211 yards rushing with one touchdown on 49 carries (4.3 ypc) and 362 yards in total offense on 73 snaps (5.0 avg).

Houston…Ayers made five solo tackles, including two stops for loss and an interception… The linebacker picked off a pass attempt by Case Keenum in the end zone during a second quarter drive and returned it 77 yards to the opponent's 23, but the Bruins turned the ball over on the ensuing possession…He helped hold the opposition to three-and-out during a third quarter series by tackling Cotton Turner in the backfield for a 14-yard loss…Ayers added a two-yard stop for loss after a reception by Patrick Edwards in the final period… Ayers Defensive Impact-The defender registered four stops vs. the ground game, holding runners to minus 11 yards, as he took down one ball carrier at the line of scrimmage for no gain…Made one stop vs. the aerial attack, limiting the receiver to minus two yards on that reception…Part of a defense that allowed 108 yards rushing with no touchdowns on 3- carries (3.6 ypc) and 360 yards in total offense on 68 snaps (5.3 avg).

Texas…Ayers had another strong showing, as he posted six tackles (five solos) with one sack, two stops for loss, a forced fumble and an interception…He forced the opposition to punt on the game's opening drive by tackling Foswhitt Whittaker short of a conversion on a third-down reception…On a later first quarter third-&-7 attempt, Ayers sacked Garret Gilbert for a six-yard loss and jarred the ball loose. Cassius Marsh recovered the fumble for UCLA, but the ensuing drive ended in a missed field goal…In the second frame, he intercepted a pass attempt by Gilbert and returned it 13 yards to the opponent's 42, but the Bruins turned the ball over on a fumble during the ensuing possession…Ayers added a three-yard stop for loss on Whittaker during a third quarter series…Ayers Defensive Impact-The defender registered five stops vs. the ground game, holding runners to nine yards and one first down, as he made one third-down stop…Made one stop vs. the aerial attack, limiting the receiver to three yards on that reception, as he made one third-down stop…Part of a defense that allowed 85 yards rushing with no touchdowns on 23 carries (3.7 ypc) and 349 yards in total offense on 68 snaps (5.1 avg).

Washington State…Ayers deflected a pass attempt by Jeff Tuel during a first quarter possession…The linebacker sealed the victory late in the fourth quarter, as he sacked Tuel for a three-yard loss on third-&-19, caused a fumble and recovered the loose ball…He finished with four solo tackles…Ayers Defensive Impact-The defender registered four stops vs. the ground game, holding runners to five yards, as he made one third-down stop…Part of a defense that allowed 73 yards rushing with two touchdowns on 31 carries (2.4 ypc) and 384 yards in total offense on 68 snaps (5.6 avg).

California…The junior managed three tackles (one solo) and a pass deflection…He held the opposition to three-and-out during a first quarter drive by stopping Shane Vereen short of a conversion on a third-&-18 rushing attempt…In the fourth quarter, he tackled Isi Sofele short of a first down on another third-down run, leading to a turnover on downs…

Ayers Defensive Impact-The defender registered three stops vs. the ground game, holding runners to eight yards, as he made two third-down stops…Part of a defense that allowed 304 yards rushing with four touchdowns on 55 carries (5.5 ypc) and 387 yards in total offense on 71 snaps (5.5 avg).

Oregon…Ayers helped hold the opposition to a field goal during a first quarter drive by stopping LaMichael James in the backfield for a four-yard loss on a goal-line snap…In the third frame, he stopped James short of a conversion on a third-&-goal rushing attempt, leading to a turnover on downs…The linebacker finished with five tackles (one solo)…

Ayers Defensive Impact-The defender registered three stops vs. the ground game, holding runners to 12 yards, as he made one third-down stop…Made two stops vs. the aerial attack, limiting receivers to 10 yards and one first down on those receptions…Part of a defense that allowed 270 yards rushing with five touchdowns on 40 carries (6.8 ypc) and 582 yards in total offense on 73 snaps (8.0 avg).

Arizona…Ayers contributed four tackles (three solos), all of which came after short rushing attempts…Ayers Defensive Impact-The defender registered four stops vs. the ground game, holding runners to 15 yards…Part of a defense that allowed 264 yards rushing with two touchdowns on 52 carries (5.1 ypc) and 583 yards in total offense on 88 snaps (6.6 avg).

Oregon State…Ayers stopped Jacquizz Rodgers for a two-yard loss during a first quarter drive and sacked Ryan Katz for a one-yard loss in the third frame…He finished with six tackles (five solos)…Ayers Defensive Impact-The defender registered three stops vs. the ground game, holding runners to minus two yards…Made three stops vs. the aerial attack, limiting receivers to seven yards on those receptions…Part of a defense that allowed 103 yards rushing with one touchdown on 26 carries (4.0 ypc) and 267 yards in total offense on 52 snaps (5.1 avg).

Washington…The junior managed eight tackles (four solos) with one assisted stop for loss…In the first quarter, Ayers combined with Justin Edison on a two-yard tackle for loss on tailback Chris Polk…He held the opposition to three-and-out during a third quarter series by tackling Polk at the line of scrimmage for no gain on third-&-2…Ayers Defensive Impact-The defender registered eight stops vs. the ground game, holding runners to 50 yards and two first downs, as he made one third-down stop and took down two ball carriers behind the line of scrimmage…Part of a defense that allowed 253 yards rushing with two touchdowns on 41 carries (6/2 ypc) and 321 yards in total offense on 62 snaps (5.2 avg).

Arizona State…Ayers notched six tackles (five solos)…Ayers Defensive Impact-The defender registered four stops vs. the ground game, holding runners to 26 yards and one first down…Made two stops vs. the aerial attack, limiting receivers to 22 yards and one first down on those receptions…Part of a defense that allowed 211 yards rushing with two touchdowns on 32 carries (6.6 ypc) and 595 yards in total offense on 71 snaps (8.4 avg).

Southern California…The junior capped off the season with a three tackle (two solo) performance that included a one-yard stop for loss on tailback Marc Tyler on a first quarter fourth-&-1 rushing attempt…Ayers Defensive Impact-The defender registered three stops vs. the ground game, holding runners to two yards, as he made one fourth-down stop… Part of a defense that allowed 271 yards rushing with one touchdown on 40 carries (6.8 ypc) and 474 yards in total offense on 68 snaps (7.0 avg).

2009 season


Akeem Ayers — Aaron Sprecher/Getty Images

All-Pacific 10 Conference honorable mention…Earned Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Week honors vs. Washington State…Defensive co-winner of UCLA's Captain Don Brown Memorial Award for Most Improved Player…Started all 13 games at strong-side linebacker and ranked third on the team with 75 tackles (55 solos), including six sacks for minus 34 yards and 14.5 stops for losses totaling 56 yards…Placed fifth in the Pac-10 in tackles-for-loss (1.12 tpg) and tied for 10th in sacks (0.46 spg)…Forced four fumbles and recovered two others for nine yards and a touchdown…Tied for fourth in the league in interceptions (0.31 per game), as he totaled four interceptions for 10 yards and two more scores…Also deflected three other pass attempts.

2009 game highlights

Kansas State…Ayers sacked Carson Coffman for a six-yard loss during the game's opening possession and stopped Daniel Thomas for a one-yard loss in the third frame… He sacked Thomas for a six-yard loss during a fourth quarter drive and finished with five solo tackles.

Oregon…In the third quarter, Ayers leaped in front of a pass attempt by Nate Costa, intercepted it and landed in the end zone for a touchdown…He forced a punt in the second frame when he batted down another pass by Costa on a third-&-12 attempt and finished with four tackles (two solos).

Arizona…The junior posted eight tackles (six solos)…Ayers hit quarterback Nick Foles in the backfield for a three-yard loss in the third quarter and jarred the ball free. Tony Dye recovered the fumble for UCLA and returned it 28 yards to the end zone for a score.

Washington State…Ayers earned Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Week honors after posting four solo tackles with two sacks and two interceptions…On third-&-1 during the game's opening drive, Ayers picked off a pass attempt by Marshall Lobbestael and returned it three yards to the opponent's 27 to set up a Bruins touchdown…Two series later, the linebacker intercepted Lobbestael for a second time and gained five yards on the return, leading to another UCLA score…In the second quarter, he held the opposition to three-and-out by sacking Lobbestael for a six-yard loss on third-&-18…He sacked Lobbestael for a six-yard loss on third-&-8 in the third frame to hold the Cougars to another three-and-out.

Arizona State…Ayers forced a first quarter punt by deflecting a pass attempt by Samson Szakacsy on third-&-17…He held the opposition to three-and-out during a second quarter series by stopping Szakacsy at the line of scrimmage for no gain on third-&-1…The line-backer forced a fumble by Trevor Kohl a series later and then recovered a fumble by Szakacsy on the next drive, returning it nine yards to the end zone for a touchdown…He finished with eight tackles (seven solos).

Temple (EagleBank Bowl)…Ayers stopped Bernard Pierce in the backfield for a one-yard loss in the second quarter and hit James Nixon for three-yard loss a series later…He gave UCLA the lead in the final quarter when he intercepted a pass attempt by Vaughn Charlton on third-&-20 and returned it two yards for a touchdown…Finished with nine tackles (seven solo).

Other Notable Performances…Opened the season with two solo tackles vs. San Diego State…Delivered three solo stops vs. Tennessee…Had seven tackles (five solos) with a forced fumble vs. Stanford…Had four solo tackles vs. California…Posted eight tackles (five solos) with a four-yard tackle for loss vs. Oregon State…Managed four tackles (two solos) vs. Washington…Had nine tackles (three solos) with 2.5 stops for losses of nine yards with one pass deflection vs. Southern California.

2008 season

All-Pacific 10 Conference honorable mention…Defensive co-winner of UCLA's John Boncheff, Jr. Memorial Award for Rookie of the Year…Played in all 12 games with three starts and ranked eighth on the team with 40 tackles (28 solos), including four sacks for minus 38 yards and five stops for losses totaling 43 yards…Tied for 19th in the conference in sacks (0.33 spg)…Forced one fumble and blocked one punt…Deflected three pass attempts…Gained seven yards on one carry and 20 yards on a punt return.

2008 game highlights

Tennessee…Made his collegiate debut and blocked a punt attempt in the first quarter, as Sean Westgate returned the block 17 yards to the end zone for a touchdown…Added one solo tackle on the punt coverage unit.

Fresno State…The linebacker forced a second quarter punt by stopping Anthony Harding short of a conversion after a third-&-9 reception…In the final frame, he helped hold the opposition to a three-and-out by sacking Tom Brandstater for an 11-yard loss…He finished with three tackles (two solos).

Oregon…Ayers started for the second time in his career and delivered six tackles (four solos), including a 12-yard sack on Jeremiah Masoli on a first quarter third-&-six, holding the opposition to three-and-out.

Stanford…In the second quarter, Ayers stopped quarterback Alex Loukas for a five-yard loss on third-&-3 to force a punt by the opposition…He finished with four solo tackles.

Washington…Ayers sacked Ronnie Fouch for a six-yard loss on a third-&-12 attempt in the second quarter and caused the quarterback to fumble. Korey Bosworth recovered the loose ball and UCLA converted the turnover into a touchdown on the ensuing drive…In the fourth quarter, he tipped a pass attempt by Fouch and Jerzy Siewierski intercepted it for the Bruins, leading to a field goal…The linebacker added a nine-yard sack on Fouch a series later.

Other Notable Performances…Posted his first career start vs. Brigham Young and finished with five tackles (one solo)…Had three tackles (two solos) vs. Arizona…Deflected a pass and finished with three tackles (two solos) vs. Washington State…Assisted on two stops vs. California…Started for the third time vs. Oregon State and contributed four tackles (three solos) with a pass deflection…Had one solo tackle vs. Arizona…Collected six solo stops vs. Southern California.

2007 season

Redshirted as a freshman.

Injury report

2006 (High School Senior)…Missed half of his senior season due to a hand injury.

Campus agility tests

4.78 in the 40-yard dash…1.62 10-yard dash…2.71 20-yard dash…4.53 20-yard shuttle…

11.38 60-yard shuttle…7.43 three-cone drill…29-inch vertical jump…8'5" broad jump… Bench pressed 225 pounds 21 times.

High school

Attended Verbum Dei High School (Los Angeles, Cal.), lettering three years on the gridiron for head coach Kendrick Knox…Saw action at linebacker, defensive end and tight end… All-American selection by Prep Star and Super Prep…All-State first-team choice (small schools) by Cal-Hi Sports…Best in the West first-team honoree by the Long Beach Press-Telegram…Named CIF-Southern Section Mid Valley Defensive Player of the Year despite missing half the season with a hand injury…Led the Eagles to an 11-3 record and the CIF Mid-Valley title as a senior while registering 44 tackles with two sacks and a fumble recovery…Also caught 21 passes for 413 yards (19.67 ypc) with nine touchdowns and returned 20 kickoffs for 626 yards (31.30 avg)…All-State first-team choice (small schools) by Cal-Hi Sports and All-CIF-SS Division XI first-team choice as a junior…Posted 116 tackles with 23 sacks, 38 stops for loss, five fumble recoveries and an interception…

Also caught 19 passes for 441 yards (23.21 ypc) and seven touchdowns while leading Verbum Dei to a 9-3 overall record…Registered 87 tackles with 18 sacks and two blocked punts as a sophomore…Also caught four passes for 132 yards (33.0 ypc)…Rated a four-star prospect by recruiting service Rivals.com, who listed him as the ninth outside line-backer in the country and the 24th recruit from the state of California…Also given a four-star rating by Scout.com, as that recruiting service ranked him as the 12th defensive end in the nation…Chose to attend UCLA over scholarship offers by Arizona State, California, Colorado, Michigan, Nebraska, Oregon, Southern California and Washington State.

Personal

History major…Director's Honor Roll during Fall of 2007…Son of Latonya King…Has one brother (Kevin) and one sister (Jonnoe)…Born 7/10/89…Resides in Los Angeles.


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