Monday, 19 August 2013

40 Players in 40 Days: Number 10 Eric Kendricks

Gary A. Vasquez - US Presswire
Would you look at this, we made it to the Top 10 and I didn't quit on this idea. More importantly, I hope you all realize that we are now 10 freaking days away from college football!!!!1!!1!!! AHHHHHHHH!!!!1!!!1!!!!!111 jdfjdfkjsdnbbsdngbdfgbga.

Okay, now that I have that out of my system, let's talk about the most productive defender in the Pac-12 and a young man who is starting to step out of the shadow of his older brother and create his own star. This player had an incredible breakout season last year and was jobbed out of being an All-Pac-12 selection. He may have been unfairly overlooked at hardware time, but I'm not about to make the same mistake. The 10th best player in the Pac-12 for 2013 is UCLA junior linebacker Eric Kendricks. Just because we're in the top ten, doesn't mean the usual drill is going to change. Here are the first 30 players to be revealed on this countdown:

40. WR Chris Harper, Cal
39. OLB/S Dion Bailey, USC
38. S Alden Darby, Arizona State
37. OT Tyler Johnstone, Oregon
36. DE Chidera Uzo-Diribe, Colorado
35. S Deon Bucannon, Washington State
34. LB Shaq Thompson, Washington
33. DE Taylor Hart, Oregon
32. DT DeAndre Coleman, Cal
31. CB Terrance Mitchell, Oregon
30. C Hroniss Grassu, Oregon
29. DL Henry Anderson, Stanford
28. QB Kevin Hogan, Stanford
27. LB Carl Bradford, Arizona State
26. RB Storm Woods, Oregon State
25. QB Taylor Kelly, Arizona State
24. DL Cassius Marsh, UCLA
23. S Ed Reynolds, Stanford
22. OT Jeremiah Poutasi, Utah
21. TE Colt Lyerla, Oregon
20. RB Bishop Sankey, Washington
19. DT Leonard Williams, USC 
18. WR Brandin Cooks, Oregon State 
17. OL Xavier Su'a-Filo, UCLA
16. OLB/DL Trent Murphy, Stanford
15. OL David Yankey, Stanford
14. TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Washington
13. LB Shayne Skov, Stanford
12. DE Scott Crichton, Oregon State
11. RB Marion Grice, Arizona State
I know from experience that it isn't easy being the younger brother. You always have to wear hand-me-downs, you're older siblings get to ride all the cool roller coasters while you're stuck on the merry-go-round, they get bigger portions at dinner, they get to go on the cooler field trips at school, and of course, they beat you up whenever they feel like it.Being the younger brother can be rough sometimes. It can be especially rough when you're older brother is lighting up the Pac-12 and winning Defensive Player of the Year honors in the conference at Cal while you are struggling to gain recognition at UCLA. That's the situation that Eric Kendricks found himself in during the 2011 season when his older brother Mychal Kendricks was a star and he was barely staying afloat in UCLA's lineup.
After Mychal was drafted into the NFL in the second round and Jim L. Mora brought a new attitude and a defensive scheme to UCLA, Kendricks took it and ran. I like stats and I use them to build my case with these posts but this guy's numbers really take the cake. How does a Pac-12 best 149 tackles sound? Want to know how many tackles the second most productive linebacker had? 119 by Arizona's Jake Fischer. Kendricks had 30 more tackles than second place finisher in the conference and averaged a full tackle per game more than Fischer. Kendricks had 91 solo tackles, the most not only in the Pac-12 but all of college football. His other numbers weren't bad either as he tallied six TFLs, a pair of sacks, one interception, two forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries, and he even scored two touchdowns.

Kendricks is definitely undersized at 6'0" (which might be a little generous, he looks like he could be an inch or two shorter than that) and 228 pounds. I don't think he has the same freakish sideline to sideline speed that Mychal possesses but I do think he runs very well and tracks down the ball almost as well as his older brother. I do think Eric is a better tackler than Mychal and it's not just because of Eric's increased production. Mychal had a tendency to sell out for big hits every now and then and he didn't always take the best angle to the ball. Kendricks is a better fundamental tackler and although he struggled with angles at times last year, he seemed to get better as the year went along. Unfortunately there isn't much Kendricks film on YouTube. I couldn't even find any video of either of his touchdowns. I did find this video below though. It's meant as a combo film of Kendricks and UCLA's other inside backer Jordan Zumwalt (who is a very good player in his own right) but just pay attention to Kendricks (representing by the white square) and I'll try to walk you through it.

I'm a little disappointed that this is the only extended scouting film of Kendricks that I could find. Kendricks did not play particularly well in this Stanford game and I would have much rather found video of his 17 tackle performance against ASU, his 13 tackle, two sack outing against Arizona, or his 15 tackles and a touchdown showing against Wazzou. However, he did make a couple fine tackles in this game that show his high ability level.

He makes a really fine play at 2:52 as he reads the iso run play and shoots the gap but gets blocked by a big offensive linemen. this would normally be death for an undersized linebacker but Kendricks skillfully sheds the block and tackles the Stanford running back at the same time and holds the play to a five yard gain when it could have gone for 10-15 yards had he not gotten off that block. I also love the way he plays shallow pass coverage and how he closes in on check down receivers. he makes a fine play to track down Zach Ertz for no gain early in this clip but he really flashes some ability at 3:13. He's playing the middle of the field and "spying" the quarterback meaning he isn't directly responsible for anyone receiver but his job is to prevent Stanford's QB from scrambling and making plays out of the pocket. He reads a check down throw coming and runs about 20 yards from the middle of the field to the sideline, wraps up the receiver, pulls him back a few yards, and then shows the tenacious attitude he plays with as he throws him to the ground.

Look I admit I had a pretty significant man crush on Mychal Kendricks when he was tearing it up in Berkeley. I admit I might be guilty of seeing a little too much of Mychal in Eric. But then again, how can you look at the numbers Eric produced and discredit him? I know part of his success comes from opposing defenses focusing their attention on guys like Anthony Barr and Datone Jones but at some point, a guy is so productive and so far ahead of everyone else that you have to credit his own ability and ignore his teammates making him look good. Kendricks is just always around the ball. he has great instincts and marries that with great athleticism. That combination makes him a force to be reckoned. He's still just 21 years old (although he's only had four birthdays, he was born on February 29) and he still has plenty of time to get even bigger and stronger. When that happens, look out because there won't be a damn thing that can stop him.

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