That young star you can expect to see making plays for No. 7 UCLA Saturday at Virginia, and all season long, is Kenny Young.
A true freshman from New Orleans, Young was impressive enough at training camp to perhaps earn the starting job at inside linebacker for the Bruins' season opener Saturday at Virginia.
"What I've seen is a young man who is very serious about being an outstanding football player," UCLA head coach Jim Mora said on Tuesday's Pac-12 coaches teleconference call.
Young arrived at UCLA boasting an already impressive resume. Billed as a high 4-star recruit, he recorded a remarkable 122 tackles with four sacks for John Curtis High School in 2013, per 247Sports.
His outstanding play earned Young numerous national honors, including distinction as a U.S. Army All-American. Not content to rest on his prep accolades, Mora said Young is diligent in his preparation for the college game.
"He can't get enough film study. He works hard in practice," Mora said. "He's not what you imagine a typical 18-year-old is like. He's very mature and focused."
Mora attributes Young's maturity and focus to his prep background.
"There's a level of intensity with him you don't see in many young men his age," Mora said. "That comes from his background. I think it comes from playing at John Curtis and playing for that family, in that conference, in that environment."
Not coincidentally, "mature and focused" are two adjectives Mora also used to describe the Bruins' 2014 roster. To reach that point collectively, UCLA had to endure some growing pains.
Mora has not shied from playing true freshmen in his brief tenure at UCLA. Last season, 18 of them saw action for the Bruins.
The qualities that now define the team were shaped on the field a year ago.
And, while a rash of injuries thrust some of UCLA's first-year contributors into contributing roles ahead of schedule, others were prepared to immediately flourish.
UCLA landed three on the Football Writers Association of America's 2013 Freshman All-American Team. Offensive lineman Alex Redmond and defensive end Eddie Vanderdoes represented the Bruins in the trenches.
Young finds himself in a similar position to UCLA's third 2013 Freshman All-American, Myles Jack.
Jack immediately jumped into the starting rotation of a veteran linebacker corps last season and thrived. His exploits on offense that made Jack UCLA's leading ball-carrier by season's end are renowned, but he spent the two previous months wreaking havoc at outside linebacker.
Mora said there are consistent characteristics evident in freshmen like Jack and Young that better prepare to play immediately.
"First of all, it's a physical maturity. You have to have that physical maturity to hold up," he said. "I'm talking about strength and endurance, and probably some size and speed.
"But I think there's a mental toughness. Some guys have it innately," he continued. "Some guys learn it. Some guys never get it."
A portion of the true freshmen who played in 2013 fall into the category of having learned the mental toughness on the job. Young's quick acclimation suggests he's more that innately tough player.
Combine that with the experience he is about to gain, as his UCLA career begins in earnest Saturday, and Young has the pieces to be the Bruins' next star.
"He's a special young man," Mora said. "I'm excited to see him play on Saturday. I'm excited to see him develop through his time here at UCLA."
Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise cited. Recruiting rankings and information culled from 247Sports.com composite scores.
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