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Dr. Saturday

UCLA declares itself Linebacker U, confusion follows

Dr. Saturday

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UCLA linebacker Anthony Barr is quite good at football. (Richard Mackson/USA TODAY Sports)

When someone says “Linebacker U,” what is the first thing you think of?

Is it Penn State, the traditional answer, with legendary players at the position spanning from Jack Ham to Lavar Arrington to NaVorro Bowman? Or perhaps you’d take a program that’s had a lot of memorable names in the last decade-plus, like Miami (Ray Lewis, Jonathan Vilma) or USC (Clay Matthews, Rey Maualuga).

Would you say UCLA? No? Oh, they’d like you to consider it:

First question: Why is the “U” in quotation marks? Is it an ironic U? Is it simply playing off the last name of UCLA linebackers coach Jeff Ulbrich, who is featured on the image?

Second question: Should a school be proclaiming itself Linebacker U when their last game involved giving up 49 points? Teams with a nickname like that should probably be better at defense, no?

I would wager that the impetus of this campaign is to help hype pass rusher Anthony Barr, who notched 21 tackles for loss (13 sacks) last season and justifiably finds himself on every preseason All-American roll call, Heisman watch list and 2014 NFL mock draft. Returning inside linebacker Eric Kendricks had 149 tackles last year, and while that makes a very potent duo, it’s a long way from this kind of branding or nickname.

Penn State fans – who are sticklers for defending traditions – are handling this well, with their SBNation site simply responding:

UCLA has jumped the gun on this type of premature marketing before, taking out a full-page in the L.A. Times to declare that “The Football Monopoly in Los Angeles is Officially Over,” then losing the next four games to USC by a combined score of 134-28.

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