UCLA linebacker Myles Jack has placed himself firmly in the running for the 2014 Heisman Trophy.
If there was any doubt about it before, the freshman standout cast it all aside with his performance during the Bruins’ lopsided victory over Virginia Tech, 42-12, during Saturday’s Sun Bowl.
Jack played an all-around solid game on defense, making his presence felt all over the field. But the highlight of his day was easily the fourth-quarter interception off Hokies quarterback Mark Leal that he returned 24 yards for a touchdown.
Not only did that play give UCLA a pretty insurmountable 28-10 lead at the time, but as Footballscoop.com’s Zach Barnett noted, it also effectively started Jack’s 2014 Heisman campaign:
Myles Jack puts the Sun Bowl away with a pick six. If the 2014 Heisman campaign hasn't started yet, allow me to do the honors.— Zach Barnett (@zach_barnett) December 31, 2013
The hype is certainly deserved, as the Bellevue, Wash., native had quite the 2013 season—one in which he starred on both defense and offense.
Defensively, Jack recorded 71 tackles (5.0 for loss), 10 passes broken up, one forced fumble and two interceptions. Offensively, he stepped in for injured running back Jordon James, rushing for 267 yards and seven touchdowns on 37 carries.
For his performance, Jack brought home both the Pac-12 Offensive and Defensive Freshman of the Year awards, via Pac-12.com.
Sure, he’s one heck of a special college football player. However, in the Heisman Trophy’s 78-year history, only one defensive player—Michigan’s Charles Woodson—has ever brought home the award.
For the rest, it’s been close but no cigar.
|Manti Te'o||Notre Dame||2012||2 (1,706)|
|Ndamukong Suh||Nebraska||2009||4 (815)|
|Charles Woodson||Michigan||1997||1 (1,815)|
|Steve Emtman||Washington||1991||4 (357)|
|Gordon Lockbaum||Holy Cross||1987||3 (657)|
|Brian Bosworth||Oklahoma||1986||4 (395)|
|Hugh Green||Pittsburgh||1980||2 (861)|
But what Jack has going for him is his potential to be a genuine contributor on offense for the Bruins.
Ever since head coach Jim Mora first decided to use Jack in the running game back in Week 11, it’s been nothing but positive results.
How will Jack finish in the 2014 Heisman vote?
In that first game, he rushed for 120 yards and a touchdown on just six carries to help lead UCLA past Arizona, 31-26. Jack followed that up by finding the end zone four times in a 41-31 victory over Washington, rushing for 59 yards on 13 carries.
It all bares an eerie similarity to when Woodson won the award in 1997.
That year, he contributed to Michigan's offense by rushing for 41 yards and a touchdown on five carries while catching 12 passes for 238 yards and another two scores. Woodson also was a difference maker on special teams, returning 36 punts for 301 yards and a score.
Although it's still a long way until next December, that hasn’t stopped Jack from making an early case for college football's most coveted award.
And with another year under his belt, there's no doubt he's got what it takes.
All stats and rankings used in this article are courtesy of CFBstats.com.