@UCLAFootball tweeted the below image of UCLA Bruins linebackers coach Jeff Ulbrich, with a message that might raise a few eyebrows.
“Linebacker U.” is a moniker most famously associated with the Penn State Nittany Lions, dating back nearly five decades to College Football Hall of Famer Dennis Onkotz. Happy Valley has been home to one great linebacker after another, including Lavar Arrington and 2005 Butkus Award winner Paul Posluszny.
Most recently, Michael Mauti earned All-Big Ten and All-American honors in leading the nation’s No. 16 ranked scoring defense with 95 tackles.
Never content to allow other conferences claim to anything, the SEC’s Alabama Crimson Tide make the case for the modern day Linebacker U. C.J. Mosley heads up the Tide’s 2013 group, continuing an impressive run under Nick Saban that has produced Dont’a Hightower, Courtney Upshaw and Rolando McClain — just to name a few.
For what it’s worth, UCLA tops the SaturdayBlitz.com Pac-12 preseason rankings of linebackers, a noteworthy accomplishment considering the strength of conference rival Stanford at the position. Backfield menace Anthony Barr is arguably the best pass-rush linebacker in college football, while teammates Jordan Zumwalt and Eric Kendricks are both outstanding in pursuit.
But as good as the 2013 Bruin linebacker unit is — and it’s one of college football’s best — a self-proclaimed stake at Linebacker U. is sure to ruffle feathers. That might be intentional, considering another program that can make a similar claim is crosstown rival USC.
The Trojans are proud of their linebacker history, and have a famous tradition specifically tied to it. Junior Seau began Club 55, an honor bestowed on top USC linebackers like Keith Rivers and Willie McGinnest.
USC has also produced plenty of outstanding linebackers never to don the double-nickels, like Clay Matthews, Brian Cushing, Rey Maualuga…this just scratches the surface.
The subtle jabs UCLA and USC exchange add to the already-intense rivalry between the two. Perhaps this is another low-key reminder from Bruin football that the past is done, but the future is still taking shape.
To that end, kudos to UCLA for touting its present corps and appealing to future linebacker recruits. The disappointing aspect is the sheer lack of originality. With so many programs having more legitimate historical claims to Linebacker U — and the title being a little played out as it is — why not craft something original?
AB. That’s branding wizardry, right there. And I didn’t even attend the UCLA Anderson School of Management.