With spring practice well underway, and the annual spring showcase fast approaching this Saturday April 26th. UCLA Football looks to be ironing out the kinks and polishing and priming the new replacements to last year’s standouts for their big coming out party.
With a myriad of players stepping into prominent roles left vacant by top notch talent that made the jump to the NFL this next season, the Bruins look to make the transition as seamless as possible. One such talent that hasn’t missed a beat comes in the form of true freshman inside linebacker Zach Whitley.
Whitley hails from Houston Texas and North Shore High School. Whitley looked to be on the inside track to be playing downs under Coach Nick Saban down at Alabama after his verbal, but made a very late switch to bring his talents to Pasadena, much to the delight of Coach Mora and the Bruin faithful. Whitley was recruited as a four star and holds the ranking of number 192 on the ESPN 300 list.
His comparisons have him similar to that of Myles Jack, lofty as they might seem, and Jack seems to agree as he said he believes Whitley could be even more impressive and productive than himself last year. High praise from a player who was both the Offensive and Defensive freshman of the year in 2013 for the Bruins.
At 6-foot-2, 220 pounds, Whitley possesses an athletic and long frame which suits the position of linebacker quite well. His speed and explosiveness through the gaps made running backs think twice about running inside to meet pads with this athletic specimen. He absolutely passes the eye test. Defensive Coordinator Jeff Ulbrich had tried experimenting with Whitley this spring by trying his hand and both inside and outside linebacker, potentially filling the gaping Anthony Barr void, but soon realized that the inside linebacker position is his natural position.
Based on Whitley’s date of birth, he should actually be a senior in High School this year, but instead is an early enrollee to get started on his UCLA Football career. He’s young, and raw, but the kid is special, and flashes are seen on a daily basis. Attendees of spring practice almost always have something to say about Whitley upon watching his output. His instincts need to improve a little but with the players he has to learn from in Eric Kendricks and Myles Jack, there aren’t many better examples in college football to try and model your game after.
Grab some tickets and come on out this Saturday to UCLA’s Spring Showcase game, I for one am to see the team and the new additions. If Zach Whitley is everything he has been talked about being and can mature enough to find himself in that starting spot, we might just have another feather to add to that Linebacker U cap that the Bruins have worn. That being the case, good luck opposing offenses, better strap your helmet on tight.