The UCLA football team has to replace six starters on defense (three on the line, two linebackers and one in the secondary). After seeing most of his time on special teams the last two seasons, rising junior Sean Westgate is a candidate to fill one of the holes at linebacker. He's had an impressive spring so far.
Blair Angulo: What's it feel like to be getting most of your reps with the first unit this spring?
Sean Westgate: The last two years I've been primarily trying to make sure that I was in the right spot, not trying to mess up or going for big plays. Now that I've got a shot to start I'm trying to show my strengths.
Angulo: What do you feel your biggest strengths are?Maya Sugarman/Daily Bruin
Sean Westgate (11) is primed to start at outside linebacker next season after standing out on special teams the first two years.
Westgate: Speed and quickness.
Angulo: In what way does speed help you?
Westgate: Well, you can ask our linemen -- they've been having a tough time blocking me. But I mean, they're good and the new offense is letting me run a little bit more and giving me more space to work with. I'm really good in space.
Angulo: With that said, has defensive coordinator Chuck Bullough given you more liberty to roam?
Westgate: No (laughs). Absolutely not. We have a very disciplined defense and gap-oriented to make sure you're in your spot. He's given us certain situations where we get a choice. We do have some liberty but if you take a chance you have to make the play.
Angulo: Do you have a preference between playing linebacker or special teams?
Westgate: I love defense. I'm here to help the team in any way possible and I've had a lot of fun on special teams, but defense is where I wanted to be. I'm getting a shot now and I'm just going to make the best of it.
Angulo: You made a splash in your first game as a freshman by recovering a punt for a touchdown at the Rose Bowl. How far have you come since then?
Westgate: Coming in as a scared little freshman against Tennessee, I had no idea. On the first kickoff, the ground was shaking and I was like, 'Oh man, it's real.' There was 70 thousand people and it was very, very ground-breaking. Since I've been here it's been humbling -- I've been beat up, thrown down, everything. The chances I've had to play with the first unit -- even in practice -- has made me so experienced to where I feel like I can step up and assume a role as a starter without any real skip.
Angulo: You talk about the 70 thousand at the Rose Bowl, how was 100 thousand in Knoxville last season? Could you even hear yourself think?
Westgate: I couldn't hear out there. Coming out with a win in Knoxville was crazy.
Angulo: In your opinion, what makes a good season? What kind of role will the defense play in that?
Westgate: Primarily, our school has been a defensive school but with these guys we have coming in on offense and even the guys from last year that are coming back with experience, we're going to be a very balanced team this year. I feel like our defense just needs to keep doing what it's been doing. As far as a successful season, we don't consider it successful unless it is Rose Bowl or better. We're not going to settle for anything less.