Eric Kendricks and Cameron Judge have missed UCLA's spring practice while recovering from shoulder surgeries. Isaako Savaiinaea sat out a week with a shoulder injury.
It left the Bruins thin at the middle linebacker spots.
Jayon Brown has made use of that opportunity
"He got more raps and he went out there and messed it up and learned from it," defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich said. "There is no doubt it has helped his development."
Brown, who will be a sophomore, played in all 13 games last season, though relegated mostly to special teams. He excelled in that role and was named the Pac-12 special teams player of the week after forcing one fumble and recovering another against Colorado.
But his size -- 6 feet, 220 pounds -- made him a 'tweener. Coaches gave Brown a try as a safety before moving him back to linebacker last fall. Spring is here and he has shown that is where he belongs.
"Miami had those type of linebackers in the 1980s and '90s, who were undersized, but unbelievable athletes," Ulbrich said. "Guys who played with a chip on their shoulder and seemed bigger than they were."
Brown, who played at Long Beach Poly High, knew he needed to show he could compensate.
"It's a mind-set, knowing that I'm not the biggest linebacker, so you have to be more physical, got to be more elusive," Brown said.
He has accomplished that.
"He's a little bit of a pain out there, hitting people late, running around with that attitude," Ulbrich said. "He is one of our most physical guys, even though he's undersized."