Commentary

Jack again shows all-around skills

The true freshman linebacker repeated his do-it-all show with four rushing TDs

Updated: November 16, 2013, 3:32 AM ET
By Arash Markazi | ESPNLosAngeles.com

PASADENA, Calif. -- Myles Jack's name is not listed on UCLA's offensive depth chart.

The only position listed after his name on the roster is linebacker.

The Washington Huskies wished that were actually the case.

In addition to starting at outside linebacker, Jack rushed for four touchdowns in UCLA's 41-31 win over Washington on Friday.

It was the second consecutive week that UCLA's injury-riddled backfield leaned on Jack for support and the second week in a row the true freshman delivered. Last week, Jack rushed for 120 yards and a touchdown on six carries while recording eight tackles and a fumble recovery on defense. For his efforts, he became the first linebacker ever to win Pac-12 offensive player of the week honors.

[+] EnlargeMyles Jack
Kirby Lee/USA TODAY SportsFreshman Myles Jack, who has been playing linebacker most of the season, scored four rushing touchdowns for UCLA in its Friday night home win over Washington.

After becoming the first Bruin since Maurice Jones-Drew in 2004 to rush for four scores in a game, Jack might become the first defensive player to win the offensive award in consecutive weeks.

"He has some special qualities," UCLA coach Jim Mora said. "He's a 6-1, 225-pound kid who can run fast. You can see how hard he runs. He gets the extra yard. He had 12 carries tonight. You combine that with all the defensive snaps he played and that is hard. He's 18 [years old]. He recovers quick, and he has a big heart and he wants to win."

Mora has known Jack since he was a standout linebacker and running back at Bellevue High in Washington. Mora grew up in Bellevue as well, and Jack's younger brother, Jahlen, played with Jim's son, Ryder, on a youth football team.

Mora's recruiting pitch to Jack, however, didn't center on him being a two-way star as much as it did being the team's star linebacker.

Despite his recent success on offense, Jack contends he's still a defensive player at heart and that's where he sees himself playing in the future. His move to offense was born more out of necessity than Mora unleashing a secret weapon he's been waiting all season to unveil.

UCLA running backs Jordan James, Damien Thigpen and Steven Manfro have all been battling injuries that sidelined the trio on Friday, pushing Jack to have an expanded role in the offense.

"[Mora] hinted at it in the summer, but after the injuries with our running backs, he asked if I wanted to do it and I said, 'Sure,'" Jack said. "I really didn't expect to be playing running back. They just threw me back there and I'm playing it now. I love it. Third-and-1, I either go back on the field and play defense or I go get a shot of water. It's not that hard of a decision. I'll go get the first down and sit back down."

Jack didn't get many opportunities to sit down, as he not only played on offense and defense but special teams as well. In addition to running 13 times for 59 yards and four touchdowns, Jack had five tackles and one pass breakup. He walked slowly off the field after the game and sat down on a folding chair as he addressed reporters after the game.

"I'm definitely tired tonight, but I'll be fine," Jack said. "If they need me to get a first down and it's third-and-1, I feel more than confident in myself, my O-line and my quarterback that we can get the job done. When our other running backs get back, I'll step back, but until they get healthy and they need me to fill that void, I'm 100 percent on it."

Mora will have to decide how much he will continue to use Jack in UCLA's offense when those other backs get healthy, which might be as early as next week. Jack has shown over the past two weeks he's more than simply a stopgap in the backfield. He's a weapon that Mora can and will continue to use.

"It's tough. It's kind of a dance," Mora said. "You have to decide how much you can use him without hampering his ability to be effective. Tonight was a good mix. Getting Jordan James and Damien Thigpen back next week should really help us in the run game, but, you know, Myles is a weapon. You can just go crazy with it. The guy is an outstanding linebacker; he's as good as you'll find in America, especially for a freshman. That's where he loves to play, and that's where we want to play him, but we are going to continue to use him."

Some of Jack's teammates have nicknamed him "Boobie Miles" after the star tailback for the Permian High Panthers in "Friday Night Lights," and under the Friday night lights at the Rose Bowl with UCLA wearing its all-black uniforms, he certainly looked the part.

Jack actually fell two yards short of scoring five touchdowns in the game, but that drive resulted in Brett Hundley connecting with defensive lineman Cassius Marsh on a 2-yard touchdown. It was one of the six consecutive touchdowns scored by UCLA defensive players between last week's victory at Arizona and Friday's win -- five of which were accounted for by Jack.

"That kid is special, man," Marsh said of Jack. "This is a big claim, but I think, overall, he's the best player in the country. He does it on defense like I've never seen anybody else do it. On offense, he's showing everybody how explosive he can be. He's a great cover guy. I don't think there's anything that kid can't do."

Last week, Jack called his mother, La Sonjia, as soon as UCLA landed back in Los Angeles from Tucson, Ariz., at 3 a.m. She had watched the game from their Bellevue home with friends and family. Normally, she would take a break when the offense comes on the field and her son goes to the sidelines, but she rushed back when she saw Jack playing offense. She was in the stands Friday night at the Rose Bowl and hardly left her seat as her son hardly left the field.

"She makes it to as many games as she possibly can," Jack said. "When she does come to a game -- and especially one like this -- I feel like I have to put on a show and give her a reason to come. It's definitely a special night, and I can't wait to give her a hug."

Arash Markazi

ESPNLosAngeles.com

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