Jaguars' 2020 Defense Will Feature a UCLA Bruins Reunion
In 2013, the UCLA Bruins football team had a number of versatile, athletic players who were able to make an impact on both sides of the ball. It isn't common to see a major program use a top player to contribute on offense and defense, let alone multiple players, but that was the Bruins' identity.
The catalyst to that identity? Freshman linebacker Myles Jack. Jack won Pac-12 Offensive and Defensive Freshman of the Year after recording 76 tackles, two interceptions, two fumble recoveries, and a forced fumble, along with a dominating stat line on offense as running back via 38 carries for 267 yards (7.0 yards per carry) and seven touchdowns.
In fact, Jack was even considered by the Jaguars as a possible option at running back during the 2018 season after injuries depleted the position.
"There was also a time last year when we were getting ready for him to play running back in certain situations because of our injury situation last year," head coach Doug Marrone said last August.
Eventually, Jack would get a helping hand at UCLA from some of his other fellow defenders, such as defensive end Cassius Marsh. Marsh was one of several Bruins defenders who contributed on offense in 2013, and he went on to catch a four-yard touchdown the same year Jack was lighting things up on offense and defense.
Now, after six years, the two versatile defenders are reunited on the Jacksonville Jaguars. Jack was drafted by Jacksonville in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft, while Marsh signed a one-year deal with the Jaguars as an unrestricted free agent.
The two will be asked to help transform a Jaguars' defense unit which failed to meet expectations last year. But what about playing both ways yet again? Maybe don't expect that, but Marsh and Jack can at least look forward to taking the field next to each other once again.
“I don’t see us moving to the other side of the ball," Marsh laughed during a video conference this week. "I think there is plenty of talent over there and they will manage without us.
"My time with Myles [at UCLA] was great. He was a super humble young guy who came in and contributed in a huge way playing on both sides of the ball. I loved his work ethic, his athleticism and his versatility. I love the kid, and I have been super happy to see his success since coming to the Jaguars."
While Marsh and Jack won't be playing both ways for the Jaguars like they did for the Bruins, Marsh can still reflect on how Jack's influence helped transform the UCLA program as a freshman.
Marsh would end up becoming a fourth-round pick in his own right in 2014 (pick No. 108 to Seattle) en route to his own NFL defensive career, but Jack's place at UCLA helped Marsh impact the game in more ways than an average college defensive end.
"It was really cool because when he came in, he was kind of the reason we created that defense package on offense. He was the running back, I played tight end along with another defensive end and then we would have defensive tackles play [offense]," Marsh said. "For the most part, we would just pound the ball to Myles and he would go nuts. I had a couple touchdowns, that was cool. It was a ton of fun playing with Myles, and I’m looking forward to playing some games with him [in the NFL].”