Havner Talks About Decision to Return

Junior linebacker <b>Spencer Havner</b> announced his decision yesterday to return to UCLA for his senior season. He talks candidly about what went into that decision and next year's team...

Junior linebacker Spencer Havner led the Pac-10 in tackles with 125 total.  He ranked seventh (tied) nationally was second in solo tackles. He was named a first-team All-American by cbssportsline.com and collegefootballnews.com and was a second-team choice by the Walter Camp Football Foundation.

Havner sat out the Las Vegas bowl after arthroscopic surgery on his knee.

So, what's the decision?

"Yeah, I'll be here. I didn't get the elite grade I was looking for (from the NFL evaluation), so I'm going to come back and get another shot."

What did they say?

"I don't want to release that. I was advised not to say anything and I don't want to. I don't want it influencing anyone's opinion. I was looking for a really good grade and I didn't get the one I wanted."

Did they tell you what you needed to work on?

'It was very vague. They didn't say anything specific, which was what I was hoping for. As a player you're always looking for something to get better. So I'm coming back to hopefully have a better team, a better season and go from there."

How do they rank you?

"They do it by rounds. I heard from many people good things about it and some suspect things about it. (Oregon DL) Igor Olshansky I believe had a fourth-round grade, and got drafted the second pick in the second round. That's almost a three-round improvement.  I don't know how much to trust that thing. My dad and I have been discussing it, and we want to do what is the surest thing for me personally, and I think that's for me to come back. At the end of next year there's no question. Throughout the whole season next year I'm going to have my mind ready to, right when the bowl game is over, be ready to go to a training facility, to be ready for the combine and pro day. A whole class of seniors will be gone (nationally), which is less competition for me. I felt coming into this year I was more of an unknown, so this next year I'll be more known, and one of the guys that gets pushed to the forefront by the end of the year. I'm really excited about it."

Did you talk to Brandon Chillar about it at all?

"Yeah. Part of the thing is, I don't want to have to work (at a conventional job) ever. So what I'm looking for is a premium contract. I know that sounds kind of selfish. But he said, 'If you're going to come out in the third or fourth round there isn't enough money to do it.' I talked to Matt Ware and he said the same thing."

Did the knee injury factor into this?

"Very little. It was in the back of my mind because I haven't tested it at a crazy performance level. Right now there's no sign of anything wrong with it. No clicking, no pain, nothing."

But could you have handled getting ready for the combine and pro day?

"It was a bit unknown. That's why I thought it'd be more of a sure thing at the end of next year. Part of the reason, too, is I think patience will pay off. Patience always pay off. Fulfilling my commitment to this program is a positive. And also personally, in ten years not looking back and thinking about what I left on the table. It's a lot of how you're perceived in the NFL, what status you come in with, in terms of respect. There are a lot of things I can't even begin to explain what's been going through my head."

When did you get the information packet?

"Friday. I've only had it three days."

Will you take out an insurance policy?


What is the status of your knee?

"I'm running..."

Have you been cleared?

"No, but I haven't had a chance to be cleared. I haven't had a chance to see Dr. Finerman, but I'm sure I could have been cleared weeks ago."

Will you be ready for winter practice next month?

"Yeah. I'm going to have my shoulder checked out, too. I think it's fine. I just want to make sure that every body part is intact."

How's your hand?

"It's good. Getting better."

Are you looking forward to classes?

"Well, not really. But it will be nice to have a degree."

When will you graduate?

"If I pushed it, by this spring, with a degree in history. I redshirted. So it'd be four years. It could be this spring or summer if I pushed it, but I'm going to probably stretch it out."

You took a leadership role this last year, so what's your role this off-season? How do you get this team past Wyoming?

"Obviously there has to be more. A lot more. I'm thinking about that. I've never really tried to lead by degrading people or yelling, or anything stupid like that. But maybe I might have to. I talked a lot, and it takes a lot to push me over the edge, I think, to snap. And I don't want guys to think, 'he's an asshole.' I want to be a good person no matter what my status is. There is probably a medium area there. As far as the off-season, I'm expecting 100% accountability. I don't want any mess-ups. It's tough to come back. Last year after the Fresno State game it was draining. I'm in the same place right now, almost. I didn't play (in the Wyoming game). If I had played and we had lost, it would have been worse because I would have been in it. It's tough to come back and know you have to start all over again. I feel we don't have a last game to build on, it wasn't a win. It's draining to go through that again."

Can this program go through it again?

"Yeah. We have to go through it. We have to go somewhere. And if I'm here, I'm going to point it in the right direction."

How do you see the defense improving?

"We have a bunch of starters back. The d-line was really coming on in the USC game. Kevin Brown is doing better. C.J. Niusulu is doing better. All of those guys are improving. I'm a huge backer of Brigham Harwell. I think he's going to be a monster in this league. Those guys have a whole year of experience. Even coach (Karl) Dorrell said he can't want to start working with them again because of how much improvement they've made. It's good to get some fresh blood, too, with Chris Horton at safety. He has a great work ethic and attitude. He played special teams this year and was unbelievable at it. For someone to come in and play unselfishly like that is really a testament to their character. I think getting new blood in there will be good. Linbackers should be good."

What's your feeling about Jarrad Page's status?

"I hope he's here next year to help us. That was a factor in my decision. I talked to Jarrad. I don't want him to go to pro baseball next year."

What did he tell you?

"Obviously everyone's aspiration is to go pro. He said he's thinking about it. He's probably going to go out for (UCLA) baseball and see how he does in that. But overall, I think it's all intact to have a good season."

Matt Ware said that one reason contributing to his leaving was that he thought the defense would be down, the defensive line...

"I know another reason was that there was a huge receiver class from last year. I know the d-line was an issue for him. I went through it this year."

Do you think you can benefit next year from the defense being more experienced?

"Yeah. Our defense has to get better. It's going to get better."


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