Finally Eligible, Westerman Awaits ASU Debut

Sun Devil fans have waited three years to see Valley native Christian Westerman suit up in the maroon and gold. Now, following a brief stint at Auburn, being forced to sit out for a year following his transfer, the former five-star Chandler Hamilton offensive lineman is poised to make his Arizona State debut in the team's upcoming Holiday Bowl showdown against Texas Tech.

As a senior at Chandler Hamilton High School, Christian Westerman was easily one of the most decorated and sought after talents in the entire 2011 recruiting class. Rated as the nation's top offensive guard and the 17th overall prospect by Scout, he helped lead the Huskies to three state championships, including back-to-back undefeated season as a junior and a senior where he played alongside current Sun Devil teammates Jaxon Hood and Anthony Jones.

Despite being heavily recruited by Arizona State and former Head Coach Dennis Erickson, Westerman ultimately opted to sign with Auburn following their BCS championship run in 2010 and was one of 11 offensive linemen signed by the Tigers in the two recruiting classes following their championship season.

Westerman redshirted in 2011 before earning one of the starting guard positions heading into the 2012 season. Unfortunately, he suffered a broken leg and was limited to just three games as the Tigers stumbled to a disappointing 3-9 season which resulted in the firing of Head Coach Gene Chizik.

Shortly thereafter, Westerman made it known that he wished to transfer out of the program and reached out to Arizona State Head Coach Todd Graham, paving the way for his return to the Valley. Westerman enrolled at ASU last December which allowed his to participate in both spring and fall camp with the Sun Devils, but due to NCAA regulations, he did have to sit out a full year from the date of his transfer, relegating him to the scout team duties throughout the season.

However, Christmas came early for the Sun Devils as it was reported last week that Westerman had been cleared to play in the team's upcoming bowl game, allowing the lineman to return to the field a few months earlier than originally expected.

No longer with the scout team, Westerman has joined the second team offense this week in practice as he prepares to make his Sun Devil debut on December 30th when the Arizona State (10-3) faces Texas Tech (7-5) in the National University Holiday Bowl in San Diego.

"I'm really excited," he said on Wednesday after practice. "I get to come out here and watch the first team offense and go with the second team and get some good work in and work on my fundamentals even more. When you're with the scout team, you're running other teams' offenses and schemes, but now I get to really focus on our plays and our playbook, and focus on our schemes and my blocking techniques and really just up my game in those areas.

"I'm really comfortable with the offense. There are definitely a few things that I still need to work on. It's been awhile since I ran this offense but it's all coming together, slowly but surely. I feel like everyday I'm learning a lot more plays, a lot more about my techniques. Coach Thomsen teaches me something new every single day and then I just try to grow from that."

The 6'4" 298 pound redshirt sophomore adds immediate depth to the Sun Devil offensive line and, with the departures of seniors Evan Finkenberg and Kody Koebensky from this year's unit, figures to be a candidate for one of the starting positions heading into next year.

Despite sitting out a full year, Westerman credits Offensive Line Coach Chris Thomsen with keeping him involved and well-prepared to step in on short notice by constantly feeding him new information throughout the season and helping him develop his techniques to match the fast-pace Sun Devil offense.

"I love the way Coach Thomsen coaches," said Westerman. "He really lets you know what you need to learn. He knows what guys need to learn and what they don't need to learn and he definitely coaches you on the things you need to do. Once he tells me something, it's like, it's done and I know it.

"A lot of the time, when coaches scream at you and stuff, you might miss out on the important part of what they're trying to coach you, but he gets down to the basics of what he's trying to teach you and makes learning it a lot easier than some others in the past."

Another benefit to Westerman has been the guidance of Strength and Conditioning Coach Shawn Griswold. Not only did his December transfer allow him to participate in both camps with Sun Devils, but it also allowed Westerman to get a full year of training with Griswold under his belt before setting foot on the field again, something he's already feeling the effects from.

"Coach Gris is awesome," he remarked. "He's definitely gotten me a lot stronger. His program is insane. He gets you so much better and so much stronger. After going through what I did in the winter and the summer, I can definitely tell that what he did in the weight transferred over to the field for me.

"I've been a part of a couple programs where you might get a little lift in, a little leg workout in, some chest. But here, he doesn't kill you, but he helps you maintain your strength throughout the season, which I think is incredibly smart. You have guys now who are on the field with the same strength that they had at the beginning of the season, and that's definitely an advantage over some other teams who are just doing the minimal amount of lifting during the season."

While his Sun Devil debut may be at the forefront of his mind now, Westerman already has his eyes set on goals to accomplish during the upcoming offseason in order to better prepare himself to compete for a starting role in 2014.

"I definitely planning to work on all the little things, really," he said. "Pass protection techniques, my run blocking techniques; just staying low coming off the ball, low pad level shooting the hands. I'm definitely going to get a lot of these guys in the weight room with me and try to up their strength, as well as mine because I want the offensive line next year to be dominant.

"I want us to be the strongest guys on the field at all times. I don't even want it to be a factor when we step on the field. If we're trying to get one yard on the goal line to win the game, I'm going to make sure we do it."

To this day, Westerman is still the highest rated player to come out of the state of Arizona since 2002 and one of the highest rated recruits to ever play at Arizona State. And while the road back may have taken some unexpected twists and turns, Westerman insists he's happy to be back home and glad to finally suit up for the Sun Devils.

"I'm definitely happy with my decision," Westerman stated. "I've never loved football so much as being here and being around the guys I played with before, so it's awesome. And I got dad cooking steaks 10 minutes down the road - you can't beat that."

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