July 21, 2008

Griffen says team's progressing nicely

When people talk about defensive end Everson Griffen as a football player, speed will eventually come up.

The explosive, strong and speedy Griffen made quick impressions on the USC coaching staff and Trojan fans during his freshman season on campus, earning a slew of postseason recognition.

Friday, Griffen and his teammates completed another full workout, and after, he stood and talked about the upcoming season. Despite the short breaths, Griffen's mouth moved as quickly as his feet, and his excitement about his sophomore season is bubbling over.

"I'm loving it right now," he said. "I'm just feeding off the energy."

With the team heading into the final weeks, Griffen said his teammates and he are trying to dig deep and finish strong.

"They're just trying to get us ready for the long season by getting us in shape now. Everyone's pushing through it. It helps us come together as a team even more," Griffen said. "This is the final push before camp. We have to get in shape. Well, we're already in shape, but we have to keep working hard and maintain. It's about pushing through."

And when the tank feels empty, like it did at the end of Friday's team run, Griffen leans on his fellow Trojans to keep going.

"There's so much more competition when everyone's out here. When you're working by yourself, you're not being competitive," he said. "That's what these workouts are all about - always being competitive, always beating the other guy, always making him work harder.

"That's what we do here, and that's why we're the best here."

To be his best this season, Griffen said, he has to be totally healthy. Griffen's been fighting off a pair of minor injuries this summer, but he doesn't either to be problem.

"I've been focused on getting my body back right, focusing on getting my ankle and my shoulder all right," Griffen said. "I want to make sure I'm 100 percent going into camp. I want to make sure there isn't anything where if I knick it, it turns into something.

"They were just little things. I just need to get them back into shape and get them stronger."

One thing Griffen's not too worried about, though, is his mind. With a year of experience, Griffen's been able to excel this summer.

"You know what to look out for. I won't say you not what the coaches are thinking, but you do get into a rhythm and into the habit of what to do," he said. "You learn as you go even more. As a sophomore, my mind's already mentally strong. That's what the freshmen have to focus on. If you get your mind right and stronger, everything will work out."

And having veterans like senior Kyle Moore around all over the defense doesn't do any harm, either.

"It's leadership. When I'm slacking, he tells me. It really is everybody - (Rey Maualuga), (Brian Cushing), (Clay Matthews), (Fili Moala)," Griffen said. "They'll get on everyone. I'm loving how hard we're working as a team.

"When Aug. 30 comes around, Virginia has a handful waiting for it."

And as the days peel away and the team heads towards its first game of the season, Griffen is ready to make his sophomore season a special one.

"I'm just ready for my time. Once the game rolls around and I get on the field, I do what I do," Griffen said. "I'm just here to help the team. I want the team to do well. If you work hard, then the team will work hard. When it's game time, it's going to show.

"Because if everyone is working hard together, there won't be any loose screws."

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