Post-Spring Interview: <br>Ben Emanuel

Now a senior and trying to step up and fill a leadership role, safety <b>Ben Emanuel</b> talks about spring practice, the secondary, the NFL draft, and being a mentor for the young safeties on the roster...

With 27 starts the past three seasons, Ben Emanuel returns as the most experienced starter on the defense, and enters his third full season as the starting free safety for UCLA. He talks about the just-completed spring practice, the secondary, professional aspirations and his plans for the summer. BRO: Your fourth and final spring practice just finished. How'd you feel this one went for you?

Emanuel: "It went real good. I built on some things that I wanted to do. We learned some new coverages and new packages, and I think our defense is going to be a lot better because of that. Our confidence has been built a lot. As a team, personally, our workouts were great this winter."

BRO: You are one of only two seniors projected to start on defense (along with cornerback Matt Clark), but are the most experienced guy on defense. Have you had to take more of a leadership role because of that?

Emanuel: "Yeah I have. I'm fired up. This is my last go-around, so I am just trying to lead by example, try not to let up, not mess up, know my assignments, and hopefully the other guys will see that and follow that. I'm leading in that way. I'm a vocal leader and I try to set an example and the guys are following that and the guys are doing real good, getting stronger. Our defense is making some strides. There were some questions there with the people we lost, and some guys are stepping in there."

BRO: Without a pass rush, there is more pressure put on you guys in the secondary to do your jobs, and losing your defensive line, it could take some of that pass rush away because of the inexperience. How do you feel the defensive line did this spring?

Emanuel: "They made some real good progress. They started off, not as strong as last year, but they have really grown this spring. They got better every day. They enabled our defensive backfield to get better, and we like that because that's what we do. Those guys last year were getting their sacks and doing so good, because we (the secondary) were doing our job, and we just got to keep that up."

BRO: You've spent the past two years basically glued to Jarrad Page as a safety tandem, and then he doesn't practice at all this spring. How did you feel Eric McNeal did this spring?

Emanuel: "Ah, he did real well. He opened some eyes. He definitely worked his way into a lot of playing time. He knew his assignments and didn't miss many of them and having him is like having another starter. When we get Jarrad back and with ‘E', and then the young guys, we're going to have some battles for that fifth spot, that nickel spot, and that's what its all about, pushing each other to get better. When you have someone behind you like that, it makes you better. It's going to make Jarrad better. It will make me better with the young guys behind me, and every guy has to go out there and work for their spot."

BRO: You thought about coming out this year and going to the NFL. Then last week guys you played with in high school and at UCLA, and played against, like Roy Williams and Matt Ware, got drafted. Was it tough to watch the draft?

Emanuel: "It was weird. I was at Brandon Chillar's house for the draft. All these people that I know getting drafted, guys I looked at as my equals. It's funny, when you're younger, the older guys, their different talent levels. Then I got older and these are my guys. But it builds confidence and tells me what I need to do to get better and get to that level. You learn a lot. Every week I have to play good, and do everything right. I'm looking forward to that day, and hope I can make it to that level where I can be drafted."

BRO: The Sporting News did a look back on the Class of 2000 and you were listed as a "stud" with some guys that already left. What was it that made you come back and play your senior year?

Emanuel: "I needed another year. I didn't want to leave. I mean I did, because I feel I've been in school for a long time, but I wanted to get my name out there another year, and coming back allows me to build on my skills, and hopefully, God-willing, I'll be able to work myself into a better draft position and be able to play well this year. Plus, I will get to graduate. I want to play with more emotion this year."

BRO: Talk about losing Matt Ware, and how that affects the team as a whole.

Emanuel: "Jebiaus (Brown) and Marcus (Cassel), they've done real well. They still have some strides to make, but they did real well, and that's what you want. Hopefully they can step up when the season starts, and I have no doubt they will. Losing Matt Ware is hard, as a player and as a friend. We have some big shoes to fill, but I definitely think those guys can come in and fill the void."

BRO: When you came in, you had Marques Anderson and Jason Stephens as seniors to show you the ropes, and be senior leaders. Now you have guys like Dennis Keyes and Chris Horton behind you. Have you taken a little more of an active role in teaching those younger guys?

Emanuel: "I definitely do. That's the help I got when I was younger, from Jason and Marques, and I want to help the younger guys and lead by example. Those guys helped me out. It wasn't like if they messed up, they didn't want to help me because they thought I would take their spot, but it's just something you do as a senior. You show the young guys the ropes. I definitely tell them everything I know and everything I've learned, because I learned a lot from those guys, and those young guys are going to do some good things when I'm gone. Hopefully it's when I'm gone and they don't take any of my playing time."

BRO: With spring ball over, what's your plan for the summer?

Emanuel: "Just working out. Get faster, stronger, bigger. I'm really trying to work on my speed, trying to get as fast as I can. Know everything, stay healthy and watch a lot of film. I just want to go to full speed. I'm staying here and working out with the guys here. I'm about to start watching film from the Oklahoma State game (from 2002) and get ready for that game."

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