Interview: Aaron Whittington

The redshirt freshman, <b>Aaron Whittington</b>, talks about getting his second start at outside linebacker this week against Washington...

Aaron Whittington, a redshirt freshman, will have his second start this week against Washington at outside linebacker, after starting for the first time last week against Illinois.

So when you came to UCLA, you didn't really have a position yet, kind of either a defensive end or linebacker, correct?

"I figured I'd probably play linebacker. It plays to a lot of my strengths. My speed and quickness for one. I was probably more suited in size, too. So I thought I'd give it a shot."

Was it tough spending a year on the scout team?

"Yeah, it was real tough. With the scout team, you can help your team out by doing it, but you really have an itch to play and compete. It was tough."

When did you mentally make the transition from being a scout team player to gearing up to actually competing for a position?

"For me, it was actually after the bowl game. I knew it was finally my turn after that to take my shot at it. It's a good feeling when you know you can now really help your team out, and really contribute to the program on the field."

Did you stay in Los Angeles for the summer and the workouts?

"Yeah. It was good. I gained a few pounds here and there."

How much do you weigh now?

"About 205. And I'm always still trying to get up there more, though."

Where would you like to be?

"The sky's the limit for me. I just want to get bigger as much as possible, and do what I can to do it."

Is it tough to gain weight for you?

"I wouldn't necessarily say tough. You just want to put on the right weight. I don't want to add fat and be slow. I want to put on just good weight and be strong."

Being your first couple of starts and being a redshirt freshman, how comfortable are you in the defense right now?

"I'm very comfortable. Everybody helps me out, with each play by play. My teammates are helping me out. It's just a matter of playing, getting more comfortable in the game, and getting chemistry with the other linebackers."

Being at the outside position in UCLA's scheme, what are your assignments generally compared to the two inside positions?

"I play out of the box a little more than the two other linebackers. I probably do more pass coverage. It varies who I cover, depending on the offensive formation. I could cover the tight end. In certain formations it could be a zone drop for receivers, too."

What do you consider your strength? Pass coverage or run defense?

"I like it all, man. I don't really look at it as two different things. It's just wherever the ball is, I try to get to it."

You started last week. Will you start this week? "Yeah, that's the plan."

So, this is your real first legitimate start with everyone healthy, not based on injury. You moved up to starter. How's that feel, to be alongside Justin London and Spencer Havner?

"They're both great linebackers. They really help me out, and show me things I need to work on. Together we play hard. I think the three of us are the type that are great competitors that always play hard."

Since you're playing Havner's position from last year, has he helped you?

"Oh, yeah. First, I watched him a lot on film from last year, to see what he did in certain situations. That's really helped me out. And he's done a lot to help me."

Are you the type that would get nervous starting as a redshirt freshman in Husky Stadium?

"No, I'm not a nervous type guy. Not at all. When there's a game to be played, that's all I'm thinking about. Playing the game, playing as hard as you can."

Are you making instinctual decisions?

"I know all my assignments. I know everything. It's just a matter of executing and playing hard."

After watching last week's tape, what are some of the things you feel you have to work on?

"There were a few little problems that I think I made, like playing a certain gap. There were a few mistakes on that. That was really about it, a few gap mistakes."

Starting now as a redshirt freshman, is it exciting to think you could be a four-year starter?

"Oh, yeah, it's definitely exciting. But I learned that you take it day by day. If that happens, great. If you keep working day in and day out, good things happen."

Being from Missouri, have you adapted well to Los Angeles?

"Oh, yeah. I love L.A. I have a brother who is out here. It's like a second home to me."


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