Havner: "Always Underdog"

The Pac-10 freshman defensive player of the year a season ago, <b>Spencer Havner</b> says he's always been discounted -- especially coming out of high school with other west coast linebacker prospects rated better. He talks about it, and about the upcoming season...

After an exceptional freshman year that culminated in being named the Pac-10 Freshman Defensive Player of the Year, and a consensus Freshman All-American, linebacker Spencer Havner is back and in even better shape for his sophomore campaign.

BRO: Last year you were just trying to earn a spot on the depth chart. Now you are firmly entrenched as the starter. What's been the difference for you from last year to this year?

Havner: "I'm a lot more confident. I am confident on every play. I want to dominate even more on every play, and I am just continuing to work hard."

BRO: How has it been learning the system of new defensive coordinator Larry Kerr?

Havner: "There are a lot of similarities between my role this year and last year. In spring, Coach Kerr talked with me and Brandon (Chillar) about us switching positions, and in practice we did, so now I am playing strongside linebacker, and Brandon moved to weakside. I knew the Sam, so now I am learning the Will."

BRO: How does this linebacking corps compare to last year, or your first season?

Havner: "We were pretty good the last two years, with Robert (Thomas), Ryan (Nece) and Marcus (Reese) so now it's our turn to make a name for it. Me and Brandon both are bigger, quieter players, while Justin is a smaller, but more vocal guy."

BRO: Coming into last season, did you ever imaging having a year where you would be named the best defensive freshman in the conference, a Freshman all-American, and have the stats you did?

Havner: "When I went into it, I just wanted to make plays and show what I could do. I didn't know it would come to the kind of season I ended with. But it was pretty rewarding."

BRO: Which has to be great, considering your senior year, you were at best, the 4th highest-ranked linebacker in the state behind Marvin Simmons, Kevin Simon and Michael Craven.

Havner: "I've always been the underdog. When we would be at camps, all four of us, everyone catered to them, all the coaches would be watching them, talking to them. I just went out, kept quiet and did what I could do."

BRO: And it showed last season, because you had more tackles last year than the three of them combined, you're a sure thing starter, and had all the awards.

Havner: "Yeah, it's been pretty cool. I had a good year, and I think I let people know that I was just as good as them."

BRO: Looking at the defense, it has the potential to be as good as any at UCLA in a long time. Does that add more pressure to you?

Havner: "No it really doesn't. We want the pressure. We have come along faster, learning the system, which helps us during camp. We are faster, stronger, running to the ball. You saw Notre Dame last year win a lot of games because of their defense, so if we have to, we can do it. When the offense gets it down, though, we could be tough."

BRO: You had four picks last year, and scored a couple of touchdowns, which you were known for in high school. Ever ask the coaches if you can play some offense?

Havner: (laughing) "Yeah, I try to ask them every once in a while if I can play fullback or tight end, catch some passes. I know I can catch and get them into the end zone. I'll play wide receiver, too. But I think the coaches want me to stay on defense."

BRO: Colorado made things tough on you last year. Has Coach Bieniemy or Coach Embree reminded you (the defense) of that?

Havner: "We know how important that game is. It's our opener, and we want to get off on the right foot. But they embarrassed us last year. Coach Bieniemy and Coach Embree don't need to remind us. We know what happened. But I am sure game week they'll say something."

BRO: You're in your third year, your second coaching staff, while at UCLA. Technically, you could leave for the NFL after this season. Any thoughts?

Havner: "No. I am learning football more and more, and the older I get, the easier the systems are becoming. It's been a good experience for me. I am just looking to put my name out there with the great linebackers here. We still have a lot of work to put in, and I myself have a lot of work to do. I'm having a good time."

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