The college football regular season starts next week, which means the debut of freshman players whom most of the country hasn’t seen play.
UCLA tends to use more first-year players than most, but one Bruins freshman in particular will be watched more closely than the others.
Linebacker Kenny Young was one of UCLA’s highest-rated recruits, and he has spent most of training camp with the first-team defense. Young is expected to be a starter when UCLA opens at Virginia on Aug. 30.
“I will say I wouldn’t be scared, but it will be 10 emotions in one,” Young said. “It’s my first college football game, so I’m excited. A little bit anxious, a little bit nervous, but I just have to go out there and stay focused.”
Defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich, who played 10 years in the NFL at linebacker, couldn’t come up with a player he would compare to Young. He’s just excited to see how Young handles his first game after how he has performed in his first training camp.
“We all know what freshmen can be like at times, and it can be a little overwhelming,” Ulbrich said. “But I’ve yet to see him overwhelmed, which is pretty cool.”
UCLA played 18 freshmen last season, which is one of the reasons Young chose to come to Westwood. He was intrigued by the opportunity to play early.
It also helped that Young saw what now-sophomore Myles Jack was able to accomplish in his first season, when he started 11 games at linebacker and was named the Pac-12 Conference’s freshman of the year on both offense and defense.
For Young, being a freshman is just a title.
“I’m just a freshman right now but I don’t want to think like a freshman, I don’t want to believe that I’m a freshman, and my mind-set is way beyond being a freshman,” Young said. “That’s just my approach from here until I get out of UCLA.”
More than a leader
Much has been made during training camp of Brett Hundley’s improvement as a leader. That’s not the only category the quarterback has made progress, according to his position coach, Taylor Mazzone.
“Brett, being his third year, his vision and eyes, he’s definitely seeing more things quicker than he had before,” Mazzone said. “He’s definitely taken note on what he needed to improve on and brought it into camp. He circled the things he needed to get done.”
Follow Everett Cook on Twitter @everettcook