UCLA’s Best Five Of The Decade

Best Five Of The Decade, Damian Sellers
File photo. A UCLA helmet on the sidelines during a college football game between the Washington Huskies and the UCLA Bruins on October 6, 2018 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA.(Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

We are all fishing around for any semblance of our regular college football existence. Since there is little known for the future, we are taking the opportunity to take a look back. In this case it is looking back at the 10-year decade just completed, and the best of the period. Today we are looking at the five best UCLA players over that 10 years. We could have done it by position or those on offense and those on defense. But we limited the list to five to make it more difficult. Out of the several hundred players that donned the UCLA uniform from 2010-2019, we found our way to the five highest performers. Presented in alphabetical order, here are UCLA’s Best Five Of The Decade.

Anthony Barr (2010-2013)

UCLA's Best Five Of The Decade
PASADENA, CA – NOVEMBER 17: Matt Barkley #7 of the USC Trojans is tackled by Anthony Barr #11 of the UCLA Bruins as he throws during a 28-38 loss at Rose Bowl. (Photo by Jonathan Moore/Getty Images)

Barr was a four-star recruit despite missing most of his senior season at Loyola High School with the broken ankle. He had been all-CIF as a junior running back and linebacker.

After choosing UCLA over Notre Dame, Barr came into UCLA as a hybrid running back who also was used as a slot receiver and a tight end. But with the likes of Jonathan Franklin already in the backfield, the carries for Barr were limited. Even though he saw action in 12 games he had only 15 carries in his first two seasons, and 12 receptions.

When Jim Mora took over as head coach after the 2011 season, he converted Barr to a linebacker. We think it worked out ok. In his junior season Barr had 82 tackles and was second in the nation in sacks with 13.5. He also had 21.5 tackles for loss.

Despite being a likely first round NFL draft pick, he came back for his senior season. His stats went down a little, as he was joined in the linebacking corps by some “young up and comers” named Eric Kendricks and Myles Jack, in what was clearly one of the most talented groups in the country. Barr had 66 tackles, including 20 for loss and 10 sacks. He was named the winner of the Lott IMPACT Award.

Barr remains sixth all time in school history for tackles for loss, (41.5) and is tied for sixth in sacks, (23.5).

He was drafted ninth overall in 2014 by the Minnesota Vikings, where he remains today.

Jonathan Franklin (2009-2012)

Best Five Of The Decade
PASADENA, CA – NOVEMBER 17: Johnathan Franklin #23 of the UCLA Bruins turns the corner as he is chased by Morgan Breslin #91 of the USC Trojans during the third quarter at Rose Bowl. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

He did not start in the decade under consideration but he certainly finished in it and played most of his college career in it, so we include him.

Franklin was both a track and football star at Dorsey High. While a four-star recruit on the 247Sports composite, he had only three offers coming out of Dorsey, (UCLA, Cal, and ASU). He joined a UCLA roster in 2009 that was deep in numbers at running back, (nine including Franklin), but had no singular standout talent. As a result, he was able to get ample playing time right away. As a freshman he played in all 13 games, carrying the ball 126 times for 566 yards and five touchdowns. That was clearly a sign of the things to come.

He had a thousand-yard rushing season as a sophomore and 976 yards in the ground his junior year. Then in 2012, he had the end-all, beat-all season. In 14 games, he rushed for 1,734 yards and 13 touchdowns. He averaged six yards per carry and 133.4 yards per game. Franklin also had 323 yards receiving out of the backfield and an additional two touchdowns.

For his achievements he was a First Team All American FWAA selection. In the weirdness that tends to be the norm of Pac 12 voting, despite being an All American, he was only second team all-conference.

His 4,403 places him as the all-time leading rusher in UCLA history.

He was drafted in the fourth round by the Green Packers, but his career was cut short by a neck injury that could have led to paralysis if he continued to play. He is currently in the front office of the Los Angeles Rams.

Brett Hundley (2012-2014)

Best Five Of The Decade
PASADENA, CA – NOVEMBER 22: Quarterback Brett Hundley #17 of the UCLA Bruins throws a pass against the USC Trojans at the Rose Bowl. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

Hundley got on the national recruiting radar after his high school junior year in Chandler, AZ. He had a 63% completion rate in throwing for 1,517 yards and 16 touchdowns with only two interceptions. By the end of his senior year in Chandler he was listed as the #2 dual threat quarterback recruit in the country.

He redshirted his freshman year, 2011, coinciding with the last year of the coach who recruited him, Rick Neuheisel.

He was the starter the next season, coming out of camp, for new head coach Jim Mora. His very fist play from scrimmage in a college football game was an electric 72-yard touchdown run at Rice. He threw for 3,740 yards and 29 touchdowns that year, but also had 11 interceptions. He also had nine rushing touchdowns to go with 355 yards on the ground.

His passing yardage dropped his sophomore season to 3,071. He had 24 touchdown passes and nine interceptions. As his rushing yards more than doubled, he took a lot of criticism for running too much. Facts don’t lie though as he had just as many rushing attempts in his sophomore season as he did the previous year.

As he stayed in the pocket longer in the first few games of his third season, people who thought they knew the game well enough, theorized that the criticism had gotten to Hundley and that was why he was not running as much. His season rushing attempt totals for 2014 were exactly 1 fewer than each of the previous two seasons. In terms of his passing stats, he had his second-best passing season of his UCLA career with 3,155 yards, to go with 22 touchdowns and only five interceptions.

In just the three years, Hundley owns the record for touchdown passes in school history, (surpassing Cade McNown’s four year totals), with 75. He also had 30 rushing touchdowns. Hundley is also the all-time leader in total offense with 11,713 yards.

Two other stats stand out just as much. Over his three years, his completion percentage never dropped below 65%, (66%, 67%, 69%). And more important for UCLA fans, he was 3-0 versus USC.

Hundley was drafted in the fifth round in 2015 by the Green Bay Backers, where he spent a few years as the back-up. He also spent one season in Seattle and for now is with the Arizona Cardinals as a back-up.

Myles Jack (2013-2015)

Best Five Of The Decade
SEATTLE, WA – NOVEMBER 08: Linebacker Myles Jack #30 of the UCLA Bruins defends as James Atoe #70 of the Washington Huskies blocks. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

Another player who left an indelible impact in three years, even though he really only played in two full seasons.

The 6-2, 218 pound Jack played both running back and linebacker in high school in Bellevue, WA. He came out with 15 scholarship offers, including from most of the Pac 12, as well as South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida State.

As a true freshman in 2013, Jack played in 13 games, starting 12 at linebacker and one at running back. He finished the season with 75 tackles, the second-most ever by a UCLA true freshman behind Kenny Easley’s 93 in 1977. He also had two interceptions and one touchdown on defense. As a running back, he had 267 rushing yards on 38 carries, averaging more than seven yards per carry. He ran for a team-leading seven touchdowns in five games on offense.

Using him as a running back at first seemed like a gimmicky use of his athleticism. But as the running back position got thinned out due to injuries, Jack came back in 2014 with another 28 carries for 113 yards and three touchdowns, in addition to his defensive stats. As a linebacker, he had 87 tackles, including eight for a loss. He also had one interception.

His college career came to an abrupt end at practice in September of 2016. Having already played in three games, Jack tore the meniscus in his knee. He was going to miss significant time so was immediately declared out for the season. The current redshirt rules did not exist then, and having played in three games, Jack was immediately free to claim the year as part of his eligibility. With the three years under his belt, he left school before the quarter started and declared for the NFL draft.

He spent the rest of the time rehabbing the knee. Jack could not compete in on-field drills at the NFL combine, and was limited during UCLA pro day, so someone who was a sure top 10 pick after his sophomore year, dropped to the second round for Jacksonville. He has spent all of his four years there, missing the last month of 2019 due to a knee injury.

Erick Kendricks (2010-2014)

JAN 02 2015: UCLA Bruins linebacker Eric Kendricks (6) during the 2015 Alamobowl in the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas. (Photo by John Albright/Icon Sportswire/Corbis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Kendricks was a three star recruit out of Hoover High in Fresno, CA. Over his three-year varsity career at Hoover, he played linebacker, quarterback, running back, and even punter. He was also a varsity basketball player.

He came to UCLA as a linebacker and redshirted his first year. In his redshirt freshman year in 2011, he was second on the team in tackles with 76. He also had four-and-a-half sacks. He earned Honorable Mention status on the College Football News Freshman All American team.

As a sophomore, he again started 14 games. He led the Pac-12 in tackles with an average of 10.64, which ranked him 11th in the nation. Kendricks also returned two fumbles for touchdowns, blocked a punt (versus USC) and made his first career interception (versus USC). His total of 149 total tackles was the most in a season by a Bruin player since Jerry Robinson set a school-record with 161 in 1978.

In Kendricks’ junior year in 2013, he led the team in tackles for the second straight season with 105. He averaged just under nine tackles per game. It was also his third consecutive year as honorable mention All-conference academic team.

In 2014 he led the nation with 101 solo tackles, and had 145 total. He set the UCLA record for career tackles with 481, breaking the previous mark of 468 set by Jerry Robinson (1976–1978). In the Bruins’ 40–35 win over Kansas State in the Alamo Bowl, Kendricks was named the game’s defensive most valuable player. He had 10 tackles, including three tackles for loss.

At the end of the year, he was given the Butkus as the nation’s top linebacker. He also won the Lott IMPACT Award.

He was the 45th overall pick in the 2015 NFL draft by the Minnesota Vikings where he plays alongside former Bruin Anthony Barr, just like the old days in Westwood.

 

 

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