UCLA LB/RB Myles Jack used only on offense in loss

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UCLA freshman Myles Jack insisted he was a linebacker. Head coach Jim Mora laid out all the reasons it was impractical to use Jack at running back in a featured role this season. And so, of course, Jack played only on offense Saturday in UCLA's 38-33 loss to Arizona State.

Jack was solid, rushing for 86 yards and one touchdown on a career-high 16 carries. But he was stuffed at the goal line in the second quarter and his effectiveness wore off in the second half (six carries for 13 yards).

Just as critical was Jack's absence on the other side of the ball as the Sun Devils built up a 35-13 lead at the half, shredding UCLA with precision passing and a balanced approach. With UCLA using its nickel defense almost exclusively against the ASU spread, Mora decided the previous Saturday to use Jack on offense.

"When we determined his value playing nickel linebacker, compared to having Erick Kendricks and Jordan Zumwalt in there, it made sense to get our best players on the field as much as we could," Mora told the Los Angeles Times. "We are hurting at running back. We felt like we needed him there."

Starting running back Jordon James managed just one play because of an ankle injury, while two other contributors did not play at all because of injury. Paul Perkins played well in a complimentary role, rushing for 60 yards and one touchdown on eight carries and adding 20 yards on one reception.

However, Jack (6-feet, 225 pounds) would have seemed to be the best athlete on defense to contain dual-threat quarterback Taylor Kelly, running back Marion Grice and a solid crop of wide receivers. Even after not playing defense against ASU, Jack still ranks third on the team in tackles, fifth in tackles for loss, and has a team-high 10 pass breakups.

Mora insisted not using Jack as a two-way player was not the reason UCLA gave up 357 yards in the first half, including 208 on the ground.

"Myles not playing defense wasn't the problem today," Mora told the Daily News. "That wasn't the problem."

In the end, however, Mora may have exposed the reason it could be impossible to try and juggle Jack as both a running back and linebacker.

"He hadn't worked on defense all week," Mora said. "I think it would have been unfair to put him in."

How can Jack master the game plan, let alone the nuances of his craft, shuffling back and forth on the practice field? How can he play both positions while only working at one?

Jack is a fantastic player and gifted athlete with an outstanding future, but he and UCLA might be better served focusing on one position.

Follow Dan Greenspan on Twitter @DanGreenspan.

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