Leading tackler Adarius Pickett brings energy, power to UCLA defense – Daily News

LOS ANGELES — Adarius Pickett’s signature headband is never out of place. The words “Pick Six,” written by his mother’s hand, are always centered on his forehead when he walks in front of reporters after practice. He has a blue headband, a black one, a white one and a gray one. He thanks them — and his mother’s expert craftsmanship — for his blazing start to the season.

“They’ve been working for me so far,” said Pickett, the Pac-12’s second-leading tackler with 12.2 stops per game. “I got my little special powers when I put the headband on.”

The redshirt senior was at his most powerful last weekend with a career-high 16 against Washington. It was the fourth time this season that Pickett tallied double-digit tackles in a game. He also grabbed an interception. The effort earned him a nomination for Lott Impact Trophy Player of the Week on Monday.

Pickett is just 0.1 tackles behind conference leader UW linebacker Ben Burr-Kirven entering Saturday’s game at Cal, which is an informal homecoming for Pickett, a Richmond native. He is on pace to become the first UCLA defensive back with 100 tackles in a season since Dennis Keyes in 2007.

“He brings a lot of energy, a lot of juice,” head coach Chip Kelly said of Pickett. “He’s a really, really smart football player. He helps get the whole group aligned over there, not only the secondary but the linebackers, so I’m really happy with how he’s played so far.”

Pickett turned down a chance at the NFL draft to lead a defense in flux. He credited secondary coach Paul Rhoads with helping him improve his tackling technique. They’ve focused on keeping his head up to avoid targeting penalties like the one that cost him a half against Stanford last year and correct arm placement. Although he lines up at free safety, Pickett eagerly crashes down to make plays in the running game.

“It’s always going to be a race to the football,” Pickett said. “It’s a race. … Everybody just do their job and who knows who’s going to make the tackle. I always want to be the first one, of course, but I just try to do my job out there.”

Between alternating road games at Stanford and Cal, Pickett makes a return to the Bay Area once a year during the conference schedule, but this weekend’s game will be his last college homecoming. It’ll be special. He’s still trying cobble together enough tickets for all of his family and friends so they can watch him in his full “Pick Six” form.

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Adam Jacob

Military veteran and medically trained.

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