After the debacle that was the UCLA Bruins defense in 2017, it’s really tough to look at the defense and find any bright spots. Kenny Young was definitely one of those bright spots on many different levels.
Kenny Young had the distinct honor of being the last Bruin to ever wear the number 42 as the school announced in 2014 it would be retired across all sports in honor of Jackie Robinson. Fittingly, UCLA couldn’t have picked a better player, as Kenny Young understood and embraced the honor.
On the field for UCLA, Young was a four year starter, and in 2017 he was selected first-team All-Pac-12 Conference by the coaches. Young started in all 12 games he appeared in during the 2017 campaign and went over the 100 tackle mark for the first time in his career and led the team with 110 tackles. Young was also named Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week after the UC Berkeley game as he had a 15-tackle performance. Young also finished second in the Pac-12 in tackles per game (9.2).
Kenny Young is a player! He plays football the way it is supposed to be played with intelligence, heart and effort. Young checks all the boxes when it comes to the particulars for a linebacker. He has good size, speed and is fundamentally sound when it comes to making plays. When you watch film on Young, his heart translates into a non-stop motor which is something that cannot be coached. Young is a good tackler and once his hands get on you, you’re usually going down.
Young is a team player that sets an example for others to follow. He’s the type of player that is going to get to the next level and not have another player work harder than him.
I like writing my own weaknesses before I look at what NFL.com has to say, and while Young’s game improved this year, I was just expecting an even bigger season from Young and all of our linebackers for that matter. Multiple games this year showed our linebackers taking horrible angles, and Young was one of those players. NFL.com agreed and stated, “Instincts and play recognition seemed to take a step backward on tape...Was very slow to diagnose and trigger at times.”
I also like linebackers that make OMG plays. Plays that make you shake your head, hits that you hear on TV, etc. Young was not that type of linebacker.
Ok, before I do an NFL player comparison, let’s do another comparison. There was a linebacker that was coming out of UCLA last year, unheralded and projected to be a late pick in the draft, maybe even an UDFA. That UCLA linebacker was Jayon Brown. Well, Brown ended up being drafted in the fifth round and the rest is history as Brown had a solid season with the Tennessee Titans.
Young can only hope to follow a similar path. Young has similar size to Brown and actually had better combine numbers than Brown.
If I were to make a NFL comparison, Kenny Young reminds me of ex-Dallas Cowboys player, Dexter Coakley. Coakley was one of those players that just played and maximized every last drop of his potential as a player. NFL.com makes a current comparison to D.J. Alexander. Alexander was a 5th round draft pick of the Kansas City Chiefs in the 2015 NFL Draft.
Anthony Barr, Eric Kendricks, Aaron Wallace, Myles Jack, and Jayon Brown. Those are recent UCLA linebackers that have gone to the NFL and made a name for themselves. Young has that pedigree going for him as he enters the 2018 NFL Draft. Most projections have him lasting until the end of the draft, rounds six or seven. I am going to project that recent UCLA linebacker success will get him picked in the fifth round. Even though Jedd Fisch coached on the offensive side of the ball, having him with the Los Angeles Rams might create a fit as well.