No place like home for Westerman

In years past Arizona State struggled to keep elite local recruits from leaving the state, and five-star offensive lineman Christian Westerman was another painful example of that trend. The perception of the Sun Devil program has changed dramatically under first-year head coach Todd Graham, and is one reason why Westerman has now officially transferred from Auburn to become a Sun Devil.

With former Chandler Hamilton High School standout Christian Westerman now in the fold with Arizona State, we reached out to his father, Chris Westerman, to discuss the events that have led his son to return back to his old stomping grounds.

"Two years ago with Arizona State it was just a different feel," Westerman recalled. "My son and I were never impressed with their recruiting, they rarely came around Hamilton, and they didn't have a good relationship with the (Hamilton Head Coach) Coach Belles. They just didn't do a good job building a relationship with my son. I also didn't like the way the program was going at the time and I felt like the inmates were running the asylum there.

"Christian had other opportunities and we thought the grass look greener elsewhere. It obviously helped that Auburn just won a national championship. The Auburn connection was always about my wife and her family who lived in that area so that was a draw. The landscape was just different then."

In the ever changing world of college football, the environment that once looked extremely attractive for the lineman had dramatically reversed in two years time to one that prompted him to seriously contemplate a transfer.

"The team obviously struggled a lot being 3-9 and 0-8 in the SEC," Westerman described. "They fired the coaching staff, they may have NCAA sanctions coming, and had a lot of turmoil in the program with kids getting into trouble. Christian told me that he just didn't like the vibe and almost lost his passion to play football. He just had enough. I asked him what would get his passion back and he said that he just needed to get out of here. He said he missed his hometown and the people he knows. After the coaching staff was fired that really solidified his decision to leave.

"And what we saw on the other side at ASU was Todd Graham coming in and really taking the program back, breed in some discipline. My son talked to former Hamilton players like Jaxon Hood and Anthony Jones, he's good friends with Mo Latu…so he knows what was going on here with Graham. We just saw a complete turnaround and respect what Todd has going there. I like everything that he's about which is hard work and accountability, stuff that Christian is used to. Graham isn't allowing the players to act like thugs and just demanding a lot more respect, wanting the kids to be leaders on and off the field. That was a big draw and really a no brainer for us."

Westerman, who redshirted for the Tigers in 2011, started in one game this past season (and played in two others) at left guard due to a high ankle sprain that has nagged him ever since fall camp. Ultimately his season was cut short.

"The time off being off the leg and rehabbing has really helped him," Westerman remarked. "He should be completely ready to go in the spring. He's ready to start contributing and be part of this ASU team. He doesn't need surgery or anything like that."

Westerman said that his son was welcomed in the Auburn community, but at the same time the lineman knew that the respect and admiration he received there would never match the level he would receive back home in Chandler.

"He never felt the love there," Westerman said, "and he comes back here going to restaurants with his friends…people know that he may be transferring and they are high fiving him, shaking his hand and hugging him…he felt more love in three days back home than he did for two years in Auburn.

"He said that the respect and love he's getting here is helping him get his passion back."

The lineman measured 6-4 303-pounds during his ASU physical, a frame that the Sun Devil coaches feel can give Westerman the flexibility to play guard or tackle on ASU's front five. Furthermore, these are physical attributes that will allow Westerman to do what he does best.

"We spent time with (offensive line) Coach Connelly," Westerman said. "And what we heard from him and saw on film is that the ASU offense is all about physical football and running downhill. Getting off the ball and driving people off the line of scrimmage. Not just making blocks but finishing them. Christian is all about that. We watched ASU on TV all the time and we liked their physicality.

"Auburn was a very finesse offense with a lot of wall schemes. I use the analogy that when they were blocking it was like setting picks in basketball. Christian came from a high school where he was coached to be very physical. He didn't feel like he blocked you until he really knocked you down and rolled on top of you. That to him was a successful block."

As it stands right now, the former Hamilton star will be eligible to play only in 2014.Westerman said that his son if fully prepared for the scenario of a hiatus this coming season and ultimately having just two seasons to play in Tempe.

"I think it will be easier to swallow because he's back home," Westerman said of the possible hiatus his son would have to endure. "We talked a lot about that and that was the hardest part of the transfer, potentially giving up a year. But for him is worth being back in his hometown and being around his friends.

"I told him that one season is just a blink of an eye, and that you will be even more prepared mentally and physically and know the system. He will be ready to go when it's time to play. And when he doesn't play he will still encourage his teammates to work hard in the weight room and be a catalyst that way. He's a weight room junkie."

Westerman said that he and his son have no regrets about everything that has transpired in the last three years and that the lineman isn't only ready to be part of the Sun Devils' squad, but also do everything he can to enhance the program that much more.

"Everything happens for a reason and it's just a different landscape at ASU now," Westerman explained. "We're excited to be back home and be part of the Sun Devil nation. The momentum of this program is unbelievable. To be potentially 8-5 under a first-year head coach, win the Territorial Cup, and go to a bowl game…that is a darn good start.

"Christian told me that now that ASU is his future that he wants to get the best kids here. He is going to start talking to kids at Hamilton and around the state, to get them to come to ASU and to win. He wants to be spokesperson for ASU and have kids come home and stay home. We are All In."

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