Q: for Fox Sports, I'm Annabel Stephan, out here at Spaulding Field, alongside defensive back Dietrich Riley.
Dietrich, it's been a long season. You've been recovering. How has that process being going for you?
DR: it's definitely going by fast. Just having to be out here, be a part of the scout team, and just give a great look to help our offense for Saturday. But it's gone by faster than I expected. A lot of people were telling me that there'd be those days when you'd to be down on yourself. But I definitely developed a great mental aspect of the game and just stay positive just knowing that my time will come.
Q: what has your rehab process been like?
DR: during rehab, 2 times a week, I was in the training room. Just building my neck strength. Also my shoulder. My core. Just doing a lot of stuff in the weight room. Coach [Sal] Alosi [strength and conditioning coordinator] just started from the ground up. Finally doing great things in the weight room. My numbers are increasing. Feels great to be back with the team.
Q: and you're on the field a little bit, practicing with the guys, what is it like to be back?
DR: it's amazing. I didn't know it was going to be this soon. I was expecting to maybe doing conditioning drills on the side with Coach Alosi. But Coach [Demetrice] Martin [passing game coordinator/defensive backs], he came up to me during the week of Arizona State and said, "Hey, it's your time now, make the most of it now. Go on the scout team and give us a good look." But I just didn't know it'd be this soon. I'm just anxious for spring ball and actually being part of the contact drills.
Q: you did have quite a difficult process. That was a really bad accident. What did it really help you learn about both yourself and about you playing football?
DR: well, I just learned to really take it one play at a time. You don't really know if it's going to be your last play. I also learned about technique. And not leading with my head down. Just the little things like that. Just have to correct my technique when I get back in spring ball. Just learn have patience and let plays come to me and don't rush it.
Q: the coaches, your teammates and Bruins nation, all the fans, they've all been supporting you through this. What does it mean to you to have their support?
DR: it means a lot. That's why I came to UCLA. Because of the support here. I just felt like everyone, they're always behind you 100%. Even when you have those moments when you're down. But the fans are always uplifting and just sending their great spirits. I'm just happy to be a part of it.
Q: you had a little bit of a different experience this year, not being able to be on the field, but you're still part of all the success that's been going on with this team. What's really been the biggest difference maker this year versus previous years?
DR: just practices itself. We're out here for a short amount of time but just the energy itself. Guys are just always coming out here and treating it as a game. Having a different approach. The energy from the coaches. They have that young spirit. They've all been in the NFL. They also played at the big stage. They just always harp on us to have energy and tempo and have great technique and just playing fast. So if you're making a mistake, make it a 110%. Just the practices itself. You're always looking forward to it. And just to get better and to compete. The competition level. The guys… their talent level is just elevated. That's good for this program. You're going to see great things happen in the future.
Q: to make it to the PAC-12 championship game, to go 9-4 this season, you guys obviously exceeded the expectations of pretty much everybody in the college football world, what does it mean to you to be a part of that?
DR: it means a lot. It's my second PAC-12 championship I missed in a row. But the guys… we're not satisfied with just being PAC-12 South champions. We want to obviously win it for the seniors. But that's great for the program. But we want to be BCS contenders and bring national championships to this program.
Q: so the program's losing a couple of guys in the secondary next year, they're graduating… how are you guys going to come up and step up?
DR: it's all going to start in the offseason. Actually, right now in the bowl preparation, that's why we have that scrimmage at the end, just to get the guys get that feeling back of tackling, getting after… but it's going to start in the offseason, just getting after and guys stepping up and playing different roles. We'll see what happens.
Q: well, we look forward to seeing you hit the field soon.
Keep it here at Fox Sports for all the latest on your UCLA Bruins. Alongside Dietrich Riley, I'm Annabel Stephan, Fox Sports.