Meet UCLA's dominant front seven
Even with the loss of a pair of early rounders in last year’s draft, DE Owamagbe Odighizuwa and LB Eric Kendricks, the UCLA defense is loaded in the front seven heading into 2015. It starts with linebacker Myles Jack, the nation’s top coverage linebacker with a 91.5 grade and No. 4 overall linebacker at 86.1. He’s one of the most exciting players in the country, whether dropping into coverage or stiff-arming defenders as a running back.
Up front, UCLA boasts a pair of strong, run-stopping defensive tackles in Kenny Clark and Eddie Vanderdoes. Clark has the third-highest rating against the run among the nation’s interior defensive linemen at 89.6, while Vanderdoes ranks in the top 20 at 82.6. Neither excels as a pass-rusher, but that’s where rush linebacker Deon Hollins comes in. Though undersized at a listed 6-foot, 235 pounts, Hollins was one of the most productive edge rushers in the country last year, and he comes into the year with the fifth-best pass-rush rating in the FBS at 87.4.
One other player to keep an eye on is junior edge rusher Takkarist McKinley. Though he only played 141 snaps a year ago, he flashed some ability as a pass-rusher, picking up three sacks, two hits, and 11 hurries on his 74 rushes. He appears to have the frame and athleticism to make an impact this season.
UCLA’s front seven stacks up as one of the strongest in the country, and they’ll be the catalyst if the Bruins are to make a run at the College Football Playoff.