Auburn, Ala.—One of the top offensive line prospects in the country coming out of Arizona last year, Christian Westerman was expected to have a chance to play early for the Auburn Tigers in 2011. Checking in at under 280 pounds when he arrived on campus though the Westerman instead headed for a redshirt season despite impressing the coaching staff and his teammates with his physical play in camp.
Now weighing 290 pounds and definitely looking the part of an SEC offensive lineman, Westerman is getting valuable practice time at both left and right guard in bowl practices as the Tigers prepare to face Virginia in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl on New Year’s Eve in Atlanta.
Admitting he was disappointed early at not playing, Westerman says that looking back at his first fall in college the redshirt season has been the best thing for him and the development of his game.
“I think it has been a fun year even though I didn’t get to play and I’m redshirting,” Westerman says. “I have learned so much more about the offensive line than I did in high school, all these different techniques and assignments and calls. It’s all starting to click faster.
“I think this year was definitely a learning year. It’s something to get me ready for next year so I can come out and know all the stuff and be ready to go. I’m ready to go out there and show what I’ve learned this year.”
Playing alongside fellow true freshman Greg Robinson with the second group in bowl practices and having the opportunity to work against the first and second team defenses the majority of the time, Westerman says it should really help both of them when their time comes to step up in the spring.
“I think it’s a lot of fun,” he points out. “Basically, we’re out there doing the same thing the starters are doing. We’re getting the chance to go against the better guys. That’s just making us better. There are a lot more opportunities to go out there and showcase.
“I have been rotating between left and right,” he adds. “Both guard spots. That way I can learn what everybody is doing. It helps me learn my plays faster by doing both because I know what each side is doing.”
Just like most freshmen Westerman says has had to make adjustments against the increased level of competition on his college team.
“The biggest adjustment is that you think you know what to expect, but you don’t,” Westerman says. “You get out there and your head is spinning your first practice. You start to pick things up each day, each week, each month. As the year goes on everything just starts to click. You feel yourself getting better as a player.”
Westerman's Tigers will play Virginia on New Year's Eve in Atlanta.
With four practices at the Georgia Dome leading up to the Virginia game and spring practice ahead, Westerman says he is focused on continuing to get his body ready for the rough and tumble world of SEC football. Knowing that he will have a chance to earn a starting role for 2012 he says that his goal is to become a complete player. If that happens it could mean big things for a line that will be big on talent and short on experience.
“I’m still trying to get my weight up a little bit,” he says. “I’m trying to get all my technique down, getting my technique right. I have been working on my strength so when I put that together I’ll do well.”
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