When Oregon State linebacker Bright Ugwoegbu was ejected for targeting last Saturday at California, Kee Whetzel was ready to take the field.
Whetzel stepped in and had his best game of the season against the Bears. He finished with seven total tackles with a sack and a forced fumble.
"I definitely think I was ready for it," Whetzel said. "I didn't think that they were going to eject him, but when my number was called I stepped up and did what I was supposed to do and that's what I trained to do and what I play football for, so I was ready, for sure."
Ugwoegbu said he was excited for Whetzel and proud that he was able to come in at a moment's notice and play at a high level.
"Those are stats and that's what this position is for," Ugwoegbu said. "This position is for playmakers and that's what he is."
The Beavers will need Whetzel to stay sharp going into this week's game at Arizona.
Ugwoegbu was hit with the targeting call in the second half at Cal, so he will have to sit out the first half in Tucson.
Whetzel will be expected to pick up the slack once again.
"I think it's just expected of me to be ready and go out there and play at a high ability and I think I proved that last week with me stepping in, in the second half, that I can do the job almost as good as Bright," he said. "I've just been preparing myself and (I'm) ready to go."
Whetzel is a redshirt freshman out of Clearwater, Florida. He spent his first season at OSU getting acclimated to college life and football.
He said he's much more mature this season.
"Last year I didn't play, so I didn't really get the concept of the game until I actually started playing," Whetzel said. "When I first started playing this season the game was just super-fast for me, but everything's starting to slow down a little bit and it's just making me a better player."
The responsibilities of his outside linebacker spot are close to those he had at Countryside High.
"It's pretty similar to what I did in high school," he said. "Just off the edge rushing and also covering tight ends and slot receivers, so I'm comfortable."
It helped to have Ugwoegbu as one of his mentors. Ugwoegbu took Whetzel under his wing and has made sure that Whetzel not only prepares properly but knows what to look for once he takes the field.
"When he's out there he's kind of telling me, 'if you get in, watch this, watch that,'" Whetzel said. "He's definitely a good mentor and a good guy to look up to. We definitely are very similar in what we do as players, so we definitely feed off of each other."
One area they worked on was how Whetzel could control his speed and use it to his advantage.
Whetzel said he was all over the place with his speed when he arrived at OSU. Ugwoegbu also is a fast linebacker and taught Whetzel a few techniques to utilize.
"Keep your feet under you, keep your balance. Using your speed for power as well, not to just run around guys," Whetzel said. "That type of thing."
Whetzel is also a little taller than some others at his position at 6-foot-3 and has learned to use his length.
"It kind of just makes it a little easier to pass-rush against O-linemen as well. My arms are long and they can't really grab me if I get enough extension," he said. "(And) it definitely helps me in coverage, just being able to kind of play basketball."
Whetzel has developed to the point that Ugwoegbu knows there's no need to give him a lot more help.
"He's just stepped up in every way possible," Ugwoegbu said. "Learning plays, technique, alignment, assignment and then the aspect of having all that and then going out there and playing freely and making it his job, his position and all that stuff, he's doing all that."
Oregon State senior running back Trevorris Johnson has been suspended indefinitely, Beavers interim head coach Cory Hall announced Wednesday.
Johnson was a graduate transfer from TCU. He played all 13 games in 2016 and finished with 225 yards and four touchdowns for the Horned Frogs.
Johnson had 28 carries for 94 yards and two touchdowns and caught two passes for 23 yards this season.