The Man Who Will Change The Culture Of UCLA Football – Zach Charbonnet

Will Decker
UCLA Bruins Running Back Zach Charbonnet. Photo Credit: Scott Chandler | UCLA Athletics
UCLA Bruins Running Back Zach Charbonnet. Photo Credit: Scott Chandler | UCLA Athletics

The Man Who Will Change The Culture Of UCLA Football

Being a running back at UCLA has turned into a precursor for something very special within college football: A real opportunity to play at the next level in the NFL. This has been a position group that has turned out some of the most talent for UCLA Football for more than 2 decades, as it has produced eight players since 1998 to get drafted at the position (Skip Hicks 1998, Deshaun Foster 2002, Manuel White 2005, Maurice Jones-Drew 2006, Johnathan Franklin 2013, Paul Perkins 2016, Joshua Kelley 2020, Demetric Felton 2021, and Brittain Brown 2022). A very impressive bunch of runners that had legendary Bruin careers, but the guy currently starting for UCLA at tailback has the talent and skill level to be the best of them all. 

Please, let me explain. A year ago UCLA Football fans were relatively unfamiliar with Zach Charbonnet, a player that opted to transfer back close to home after playing his high school ball at local power Oaks Christian. Charbonnet a former 5-star talent had gone to Michigan to play for Jim Harbaugh. Despite a promising Freshman campaign (149 ATT, 726 Yards, 11 TDs), Charbonnet completely fell out of the rotation for the Wolverines in 2020 only taking 19 total carries in 6 total games, opting to enter his name in the transfer portal. 

We have seen this many times as fans in LA for both USC and UCLA, top-rated recruits, or can’t miss prospects that come to campus hailed as can’t fail prospects. Players such as Joe McKnight (may he Rest In Peace), Ben Olson, Dillon Baxter, Malcolm Jones, Max Browne, JT Daniels, etc.

I think UCLA fans as a whole feel like despite some solid production and a top 10 draft pick, Josh “Chosen” Rosen was ultimately a disappointment after being hailed as the guy to take UCLA back to the national spotlight and compete for PAC-12 championships. It took Charbonnet, however, less than one half for Bruins fans to fall in love with the guy his teammates affectionately refer to as “The Terminator”.

Who Is The Terminator?

In the opener against Hawaii, he had three rushing TDs of 20 + yards with 11:33 left in the 2nd quarter (LOL) finishing the game with 106 yards on 6 carries. Fans cheered him on throughout the season as he rushed for 100 plus yards against LSU and showed out against cross-town rival USC for a monster game of 167 yards on the ground and a score. 

His combination of size (6 foot 1, 220 pounds) and impressively quick feet bring to mind how Kanye can rap on the track of the beat he made or Drake singing the chorus to his own raps…unfair advantages that, love or hate, those two have kept them at the top of the rap profession for more than a decade. Charbonnet finished the year with 1,137 yards and 13 TDs averaging 5.6 yards a carry. According to PFF, he ranked 1st in the PAC-12 in overall rushing grade (91.9) and forced missed tackles (69). Almost all assumed he would opt for the draft as it looked like he would not get past the 2nd round, but to everyone’s surprise, Charbonnet returned to Westwood to try to make a lasting mark in college football.  

If nobody is saying this let me, Zach Charbonnet is, for my money, the best running back in the PAC this year, and if healthy, should compete for the Doak Walker and maybe a Heisman (Not a typo, you read that last part correctly). His return to UCLA signifies something bigger than words can express for the program: Potential and a chance for success the program hasn’t seen in decades. 

UCLA has longed to make a national impact at the college football level since the 90s, failing to make a New Year’s Day Rose Bowl appearance since the 90s. Charbonnet returning provides the talent level, consistency, and excitement to maybe end that streak with a successful campaign. Add that longtime starter, and potential star in 2022 in his own right, DTR returning, and there’s something in the air with this UCLA team and maybe, just maybe, the smell of roses.

UCLA Bruins Running Back Zach Charbonnet. Photo Credit: Scott Chandler | UCLA Athletics

UCLA Bruins Running Back Zach Charbonnet. Photo Credit: Scott Chandler | UCLA Athletics