What a year it has been for the youngest member of his football family. He ranked sixth in the nation, finishing second in the Pac-12 Conference with 149 tackles, as his 101 solo hits also pace the FBS ranks. He returned three interceptions for 58 yards and a score, made 11.5 stops behind the line of scrimmage and caused a fumble.
For his efforts, the redshirt senior became UCLA’s fi rst winner of the Butkus Award and second straight winner of the Lott Trophy. With 11 tackles vs. Stanford, he moved past Jerry Robinson’s school mark 468 tackles to become UCLA’s all-time leading tackler (471). Against Arizona, he became the third Bruin to record three straight 100-tackle seasons (Don Rogers (1981-83); Jerry Robinson (1976-78).
The third member of his family to play in the Pac-10/12, his father, Marv starred at UCLA and in the CFL and his older brother, Mychal was a linebacker at California and is starting for Philadelphia.
Eric Kendricks lacks height, but is a thick, shorter compact, backer who explodes through contact and is a real violent striker. He finds the ball quickly vs. the run and has the range to make plays in pursuit. Size issues occur when he tries to stack and shed and he is still just a two-down performer, as he lacks a great feel in zone. However, as a thumper inside with the potential to get into the backfield as a blitzer, he should get plenty of looks from 3-4 teams in need of a versatile, high-motor weak-side inside ‘backer.
The Bruin shows good balance and turning motion coming out of his backpedal and is sort of like a safety with the depth he gets in his pass drops. The reason I feel he could be more productive as a weak-side linebacker is that Kendricks is at his best playing side to side and flowing to the football. He makes most of his tackles outside the box and shows fluid lateral agility. He has the change-of-direction agility to clear trash and make plays down the line, but does get in trouble when he attempts to engage and overpower the blocker.
Kendricks is a sparkplug on the field. He plays with reckless abandon, but also has a good feel and vision for plays developing in front of him. He is quick reacting to keys and fights hard through trash to make the play. He will get out of control too much, but when he plays within his element, he will not be fooled by play action or misdirection. Because of size issues, he needs to be on the move, as he does not show great ability to locate the ball in a crowd.
He is the type that makes quick and decisive reads, sort of reminding me of the Jets’ David Harris for his ability to easily flow to the ball (but only when he does not try to out-battle blockers at the Xs). Kendricks is better playing on the move, as he can flow to the ball and not have to get into one-on-one battles in the trenches.
When he shoots his hands and keeps them inside his frame, he is capable of stunning the interior blocker executing the blitz. He has the speed and explosive burst to close on the play, but despite his weight room strength, Kendricks gets pushed around quite a bit trying to sift through trash.
The Bruin needs to use his hands better to protect himself from low blocks and when he leaves his chest exposed, a hungry offensive lineman is quick to lock on and control him. He also needs to do a better job of playing off double teams, as the opponents do a good job of attacking his feet.
Kendricks compensates for a lack of size and bulk by closing on plays in front of him with good urgency. In a Cover-2 alignment, his speed, change-of-direction agility and nimble feet could see him shift to weak-side linebacker at the next level. He is sort of like a bull in a china shop though, as he lacks a good concept for taking angles, resulting in him simply over-running plays.
On the move, he makes physical tackles, as he stays low in his pads, drives hard with his legs and extends his arms to wrap and secure. He is better when working on the run, as he has the motor and quickness to get to the football. He is an effective blow-up type when tackling along the corners, but tends to be a drag-down type who will occasionally overrun the play to avoid blocks when working near the line of scrimmage.
Kendricks is very good at dropping back in pass coverage, as he has the nimble feet to come out cleanly from his breaks. He is not the type that will get fooled out of his backpedal too early by a receiver trying to sell and con on the route. Unlike most linebackers, he appears better in the zone or in deep coverage, as he tends to leave too much cushion, which lets tight ends and backs have good success catching the ball underneath.