This interview was conducted at the end of May.
You're in school for spring quarter at UCLA presently. Didn't you attempt to get admitted for winter quarter so you could participate in winter practice?
"Yes. I tried but I'm pretty sure it was impossible. Our semester at Crenshaw ended two weeks into January, which was two weeks after UCLA started. There might have been a way to waive those two weeks, but it didn't work out."
You had to get a class waived for early admittance for spring quarter, correct?
"I took all my required classes for high school. It was just one requirement to fill in the (elective) 25 credits. It was an art class, and I never took art in high school. The principal at Crenshaw waived it."
Why'd you want to come in early?
"To get ahead of the game. I want to try to play my freshman year. So I want to get strong enough and pick up the offense."
How has school been for you?
"School is pretty easy for me. I did pretty well on my mid-terms and now I have finals coming up. I have two As, and one other class is either an A or a B. I can't tell until the end of the year. Most professors here curve score."
What classes are you taking?
"General classes. Like Western Civilization and an Atmospheric Science class."
How old were you when you came to the U.S.?
"I was eight. I came here with my mom, my dad and my sister. We came, really, for the American Dream."
When did you start playing football?
"I didn't even know about football until I came to the U.S. I had never even seen football. And then I really only got into football when I got into high school. I played flag football a little before that."
What sports did you play?
"Basketball and soccer. My father played basketball with a club team in Russia."
When you were a freshman in high school, was it your size that made you aware that you probably should be playing football? How big were you as a freshman?
"I really wasn't that much smaller than I am now. Probably about 6-3 or 6-4 and 260 or 270. Yeah, that's kind of when I decided I wanted to play football. I didn't know much about it, though. I understood some of the rules, the foundation of it, but that's about it. I only started paying attention to college football in high school."
So, did you also continue to play basketball in high school?
"I did. When I got into high school I played football and basketball."
When did you realize that your future was in football?
"I had thought about trying to get a scholarship in basketball. It's the sport I had played my whole life. But my sophomore year I realized I had a better opportunity in football."
How are you physically right now?
"I came here at 6-5 and 330, and I'm still around 330. I feel much stronger, though, and I'm much more conditioned after going through the conditioning with (UCLA's strength and condition coach) Doc Kreis. My bench press has gone up. The conditioning is really tough, but I know it's definitely good for me. It's good work to put in. I think I'll be in good shape when the season rolls around."
What are your workouts?
"We have workouts at 7 a.m. One hour of lifting and one hour of running."
Are you putting in any extra time?
"Well, no, not right now. I'm still trying to get used to Doc's regimen."
How much of the playbook have you gotten to know?
"I haven't been able to get into the book yet. (Offensive line) Coach (and offensive coordinator Tom) Cable hasn't been in town lately. So I'm waiting on that. He's been out recruiting."
Have you had some team or positional meetings?
"We've had a couple of meetings, but it wasn't Xs and Os. Just team meetings."
What is the time frame for you starting to get into the playbook?
"I think I'm planning on talking to Coach Cable this week (which was last week), and to start reading the book. I'm not worried. I pick up playbooks pretty easy. We ran different offenses at Crenshaw so I got kind of used to running new stuff every week."
Have the coaches told you they have expectations for you physically?
"They haven't talked about what they expect me to be physically. They think I'll be physically ready to play this year. I think I should have some kind of playing time."
Have they said what position they see you playing?
"Coach Cable, I believe, said strongside tackle or weakside guard. The guard spot next to Ed Blanton."
What position are you most comfortable with?
"I'm not really more comfortable with any one position. I've played all five, so it doesn't make much of a difference to me. I played center my sophomore year at Crenshaw, and then played some guard and tackle. I've been everywhere."
Have the veteran offensive linemen been supportive?
"Definitely. With the conditioning regimen, as much as we run, the other guys have been there to help me out. When I first came in, I didn't run much. I really struggled the first couple of weeks, but the whole team really was there for me and supported me. All my teammates have been really cool. It's pretty fun to be around the team."
Justin Brown, the offensive lineman from Long Beach Poly, also came into school for spring quarter. Do you and Justin kind of feel like you're in the same boat?
"Definitely. We're both in a different situation than the rest of the players. We just got here, and we're freshmen, just trying to fit into the system I guess."
You said you ran a lot of different offensive sets at Crenshaw. Aren't you expecting it could be a bit more challenging at UCLA?
"I'm anticipating that it will be harder, definitely. In college you have to figure out what the defense is doing, that determines how the play develops. In high school you just run one thing. Like, I know in college you have to react to the defense, like when the safety moves down, or depending on how many are in the box. It affects your play."
What are your personal expectations for the season?
"At the very least, I want to be in the offensive line rotation and get in some games. I think if I work hard enough I hope I can start sometime during the season. I'd like to start by the first game, but that doesn't happen much when you're a freshman."
Where do you expect to be physically – and mentally -- by the start of training camp?
"I haven't really set numerical goals, in terms of weight and weight lifting. I know I want to be stronger and better conditioned. I need to get to know the offense and the offensive line."
How familiar are you with Coach Cable's blocking schemes – and the weakside/strongside concept?
"Pretty familiar. I know the concept of weakside and strongside. I played both on the left side and right side, and center, in high school, so none of it bothers me."
Has there been any particular veteran on the team that has taken you under his wing?
"The whole team really. It's been really good. They've talked to me to find out if everything is good with me. Justin London the other day talked to me, and wanted to know how I was doing."
So, will you be doing some recruiting of Crenshaw players for UCLA? Like with Darian Hagan?
"I've talked to him since I've been here. He has a mind of his own, of course. But I told him how good it was here. We also have teammates at Cal, and his dad is at Colorado. But I told him what a great place UCLA is. But that he needed to know – you come into this place to work. I know working will make you better, so this is a great place to be."