UCLA Football: 3 Players Who Have Surprised Us in 2013
There are multiple players that have been instrumental in the No. 13 UCLA Bruins starting the season with a 3-0 record.
Anthony Barr and Brett Hundley are obvious linchpins. The duo account for perhaps the most recognizable members of the team from a national perspective. Hundley has performed at a considerably high level thus far in the 2013 campaign, and Barr has been productive rushing off of the edge.
However, there are a couple players who've surprised early in the season. One has effectively cemented himself as the top option in the backfield for the Bruins. The other two have made big impacts on the defense side of the ball.
Here are the three biggest surprises for the UCLA Bruins up to this point in the season.
Defensive end Keenan Graham has been more than a pleasant surprise for the Bruins through the first three games.
Graham had been playing at outside linebacker, before being switched to defensive end this past spring. Thus far, the transition has been seamless. The Las Vegas native currently leads the team in sacks with three.
It was expected that much ballyhooed Eddie Vanderdoes would perhaps take Graham's spot. While Vanderdoes has played extensively, Graham has held onto the starting job.
The redshirt senior is undersized for the position at 6'1", 255 pounds. However, Graham's effort level has been apparent, as has his quickness and agility off the edge.
Myles Jack was rated as a 4-star prospect out of high school, per Scout. Conventional wisdom suggested that Jack would play in a reserve role as a true freshman.
I'm not sure anyone guessed that Jack would be this good, this quick. The Bellevue, Wash. native has been a revelation for UCLA's defense. He's fourth on the team in tackles with 14. Unsurprisingly, he usurped a starting job from Aaron Wallace after the first game of the season.
Jack's athleticism has been nothing short of supreme. The outside linebacker has been literally flying all over the field, making tackles and playing with immense physicality. Jim Mora told Chris Foster of the Los Angeles Times that "our offensive guys think he's a freak."
Should Jack continue on this trajectory, there's no telling how good he truly can be.
Perhaps the biggest question heading into the season involved Jordon James.
No one truly knew who was going to take over the starting spot that Johnathan Franklin left vacant. James was one of many vying for the job. After the first three games, there's no question that James is the top option at the running back position.
Last season, James looked tentative hitting the hole. He rushed for 215 yards on 61 carries in 2012. This season, he's already rushed for 424 yards on 62 carries. He's currently ranked as one of the top rushers in the entire country.
James' electric ability in space has been on full display. He's demonstrated the willingness to juke and spin away from defenders, as evidenced by this run against New Mexico State.
The biggest surprise thus far early in the season has been the solidifying of the position by James.