Part I: Q&A with ASU sports performance coach Shawn Griswold

Last week we sat down with Arizona State head sports performance coach Shawn Griswold for his thoughts on the Sun Devils' training and physical development. This is the first part of that conversation.

Chris Karpman: You've been here more than four years now, time flies right? 

Shawn Griswold: "It's hard to believe to be honest with you. Four years, five spring balls, it's gone by so fast it's crazy. This will be, these seniors this year, if they were freshmen, this will be the first class I've taken all the way through (including a redshirt year) it. Except when I was at Utah State. Because I was at Tulsa I was there three, then I went to Louisville for one, Tulsa for three, Pittsburgh for one. This is the first chance I'm getting in a long time to see someone like (senior wide receiver) Fred Gammage, from his freshman all the way through."

Karpman: Some guys you have already had for their whole college career, four years, like D.J. Foster. What was that like? 

Griswold: "It's amazing. We take the profile pictures and just to see their development, it's unreal. The freshmen get one in June and then they get another one end of July and November because they're still on a different training program. Then they get one a year after that."

Karpman: Has anyone jumped out, like wow, what a transformation over four years? 

Griswold: "Even like (fourth-year junior wide receiver) Ellis (Jefferson), he still has a couple more years but his transformation has been outstanding. (Third-year sophomore offensive guard) Sam Jones is another guy." 

Karpman: How's that make you feel when you see stuff like that? 

Griswold: "It's awesome. That's why you do it. That's why I didn't want to coach football. That's why I wanted to be a strength coach. You get to spend more time with them. You get to spend time with them when stuff's harder. You get to push people to places they didn't think they could get to. They're all competitive and all work hard but they don't know how hard they can work. So that's the fun part, to poke, prod, to build that relationship. Like D.J., all his testing numbers being as good as he was, he was obviously gifted but his numbers got that much better. You look at (former offensive linemen) Jamil Douglas and his first picture to how he looked when he left. It's just different. (Recently departed offensive guard and well regarded NFL Draft prospect) Christian Westerman first picture to now, you see that total development and that part is fun."

Karpman: Is there a guy or two who stand out for huge body composition changes? 

Griswold: Cam. (Junior wide receiver) "Cam Smith's made a huge improvement, just in his diet and in his strength. He was doing dips the other day with four chains around his neck and just strict form. His lower body is not huge but he's strong. That's what people don't understand how strong he is. (Senior wide receiver) Tim White has done a great job. He's strong. For 180 pounds, he's strong."

Karpman: With someone like Cam, is there at point at which (that muscularity) becomes a determent to your functionality? 

Griswold: "Yeah and that's why we try to keep them as flexible as possible and that's why we do what we do. A guy like Jamil, he power-cleaned 385 pounds in his final summer, he's benching over 400 and squatting over 600. His needs are completely different than like (sophomore linemen) Quinn Bailey. So his 85 percent is way different than if your bench max is 250. When your first set of cleans is 250 and then all of a sudden 350, it's different. We put those guys on an advanced program to make sure they still make gains going into their last season. Christian was the same way. He repped out 315 last year 20 times cold, just with me and no music. His needs are a little different than someone younger in the program, like (junior defensive linemen) Tashon Smallwood first couple years."

Karpman: "Speaking of Tashon, he may never have the most impressive physique on the team but he's made some remarkable strides? 

Griswold: "Yes and the other thing that's really developed with him is his leadership. The other kids, he's starting to become that guy we can kind of lean on defensively. We haven't really had that since Will (Sutton) left. He's not a talker, he's just about action. It's nice to see guys like that, as they mature. He's already a two year starter. I told him, 'it's time now.' I think he's ready to go. He finally benched 315 pounds the other day which is fine, he's not a big strong kid. But you have to remember, he wasn't training the same way with us last year because he had the hernias. He had his first summer, which you get a little strength in six weeks, he played, then he had one off-season, got hurt, missed a ton of time. He cleaned over 300 the other day which is big for him because he hasn't had time to train."

Karpman: He leaves practice last every day. Is that just him? 

Griswold: "Yeah it's just him. He goes over there and works on the bags every day."

Karpman: Is there a fine line with him as far as not losing too much weight?

Griswold: "Yeah, we won't let him get down too much. At some point, weight is weight. At 275, you've still got to keep him up there a little bit." 

Karpman: "When you came in you had this goal of getting to a certain place with strength and conditioning as a team overall. Where are you at relative to that initial goal would you say? 

Griswold: "Actually we were just writing the summer program the other day. It's completely different just because we're in such great shape physically as far as the conditioning part and the training part too. It's amazing how much stuff they get done in 65 minutes with warm ups and a workout. It's amazing that they can do 85 percent back to back, take a one minute rest and go. Usually it's take three minutes and go. We work at such a great pace which is good, I feel comfortable with that and that's why I feel good with the style we play, especially, and we play so many starters on special teams too."

Karpman: So walk me through that 65 minutes. 

Griswold: "Let's say we have 30 guys in a group, we start on foot speed every day. Then we break up into pods. One group goes to core, one group goes to hip mobility, one group goes to shoulder and medicine ball and those are together. Then those swap, we get a break and rotate. It takes about 12 minutes to get through it. We get on the grease board and I explain the workout for the day. I need to see this and this, then any announcements, here's your post-work, here's the time we're going to go run so they have an idea of the time in their head that we have to be on the tram to go out and run. So they go through their workout, it starts with everyone doing the same thing, then it gets broken down by position work and then it gets broken down by the individual needs of each kid. So like (senior defensive back) Laiu (Moeakiola), with his shoulder, he does extra rotator cuff work and shoulder work on two days a week. (Redshirt freshman) Jalen Bates is a little stiff so we've been working with him every single day on mobility stuff."

Karpman: (Junior running back) Kalen Ballage was probably like that too when he got started. 

Griswold: "Kalen comes in all the time and hangs upside down because it's a big band that stretches him out and makes him feel good. But Jalen, if you watch him run or walk that right foot turns outward just a little. So you're never going to totally fix that and it looks a little archaic with all these bands and stuff, but you're going to be able to make him more mobile. And he works extremely hard at it, and it's helped him."

Karpman: How many hours a week are you able to spend with them? 

Griswold: "Right now it's discretionary but when we start with them May 31, eight hours a week. Two hours a day. So it's not that much time when you think about it, when you have to lift and run. You have to go. And we run so much, as you've seen, which you have to though to play in this style. Like on defense, you score so fast on offense, you've got to be in great shape. You've got to be in great shape."

Karpman: But there's different approaches for different times of year, right? Like during the season you're trying to keep guys healthy and maintain? 

Griswold: "Oh yeah, especially with our veterans."

Karpman: So give me the breakdown of your calendar? 

Griswold: "January and February you're working on strength and power, trying to get size on guys. You want to put it on then so your body gets used to it. When you gain 10 pounds it's different. When you do it in June your body tends to not like it as much that way. I try to get it done early in the year. January and February is mostly speed work, it's not a lot of conditioning. You can't stay in great shape year round. Which we're in pretty good shape anyway year round just the way we train. Then you've got testing right before spring ball. Most guys in the summer are either running a lot or lifting a lot, we're doing a lot of both. We push the limits in the summer. In spring ball we're still trying to gain strength so we don't back down too much and still go pretty hard. We're playing ourselves so we're still trying to gets some strength. Then after spring ball from now until May 31 we're in discretionary time, we can be in the room but can't conduct the workouts. We can't make them come. But they all come because they all are competitive and want to be good. Then Wednesday is our last day and I'll give them a May program to take home...some of them will be gone for 15-18 days."

Karpman: Do they slack off during that time? 

Griswold: "They do pretty good because they know when they get back it's full tilt boogie. So some guys have made the mistake before, like a couple guys went to Vegas for Memorial Day weekend and partied a little bit. We had hard runs as soon as they came back and they were really struggling. So they kind of know now, if I'm not doing something my life is going to be miserable for a week. There's no sense in doing that. The May program, I have a hypertrophe, a strength group and extra strength group, it just kind of depends on the kids needs. So like the skinny guys you try to gain in three weeks of different training. My vets I have go three days a week, some guys go four days a week. It's not us running it. I mean we're here but can't conduct it. Then May 31 we can go with our real summer, four weeks with a week off in a middle and then another four weeks followed by a week off before fall camp."

Karpman: And that's the heaviest conditioning? 

Griswold: "Yes. We've got nine weeks to get them ready, which as long as we go into it with a good base it's not hard. So we always go into it with a good base. The hard part is the newcomers. I always tell those kids, the worst thing you can do is come in out of shape. You might not be strong but you've got to be able to run. Now we make it a little bit different than our veterans since they just got here. But [Todd Graham] still will want to play some of those guys so I've got to get them in as good a shape as possible in six weeks for those guys so that they have a chance to play."

Karpman: What's one of these workouts like? You do tailored to play length and interval type stuff, correct? 

Griswold: "So Fridays as an example, it's broken up by position. Defensive backs have a card that has eight plays on one side and eight plays on the other. We hold the card up and coach them real fast, 'you're going to spring, you're going to shuffle, you're going to backpedal, you're going to sprint.' We're going every 28 seconds. The big guys, a lot of their plays are pushing the four man sleds a lot, the four man sleds that one of our coaches rides. It's three man up, six second, like a play would be and they're back up every 28 seconds. That's how we do it. On the Fridays, last year we got to 16 plays per quarter. You're kind of getting in 35 minutes or so, almost a game's worth of plays, and way more yards, obviously."

Karpman: And what about your in-season training program? 

Griswold: "In season is better for our kids. It's changing. We play so many of those late night games, their Sundays are off now. I have mixed feelings about it because I do like to get them in and flush out their lactic acid and stuff. But it is better for our kids to not have to get up and get back in the morning. So they have that Sunday off and then Mondays it goes rookies, offense, defense and then we go run together. The rookies are on a completely workout, even when (recently graduated running back/wide receiver) D.J. Foster was a Freshman All-American. Those guys go three days a week (as opposed to two for vets). Even if they are Foster or (sophomore defensive back) Kareem Orr (last season) and good enough to play, they're still young and not really ready. They haven't trained like this. Then vets are on different programs depending what they do and their needs. Life if you're mostly doing special teams, we put those guys on a three day as well, because maybe they are a second team guard and that's what they need. All the running is based on plays. So you look at the play sheet and see Tim White was on the field 91 snaps today. Well he's not running on Tuesday."

Karpman: Is it hard to have guys be conditioned at the tail end of the season? 

Griswold: "Yes. The hard part is you're going to walk a fine line of the practices and that's why I monitor it with coach. 'Hey, it's time to do four minute periods (instead of five). It's time to take out a few periods. We're in late November and you're trying to win a championship Dec. 2, you've got to keep them in shape. It's not as bad here because the style of play here we practice so fast. So that part with coach Graham is probably easier than other places I've been. When you're pro style, you're going to have to run in practice. Here I don't have to if you're a starter because it's built in. The run onto the field stuff, a big part of that is conditioning. That's the same as what we do in here, we lift at the far end of the room and they have to jog back and forth to get the dumbbells. It's just pure conditioning. There's a bunch of reasons why we do what we do."

Karpman: Is it more that guys are just beat up or dead-legged at a certain point? 

Griswold: "That's why we started using this thing called Catapult -- we're supposed to have it this summer -- we demoed it. It's a [small] GPS tracker and it just straps to their shoulder pads. It tracks all kinds of things like their player load, like how hard someone's practice was. They wore it every practice (in the spring). It gives max velocity, like it shows who ran fast, who ran slow. It's amazing the amount of stuff you can get out of it. So like (junior running back) Kalen Ballage, in the scrimmage on April 13 when he hit that big run, he hit 22.3 miles per hour. It gives you total distance, explosive movements and that's just a tip of the iceberg. It gives you, like (junior receiver) Ellis Jefferson, on his graph, was almost symmetrical in his explosive movements, left, right, forward, back, where Tim will a lot of times have a lot to the right, so you have have trends, like, 'why is that happening.' Ellis got hurt this spring and was out about a week and when he came back we said, 'don't let him do a full practice.' Well we came back in and he was right back to 6,500 yards and I can take that to the coaches. The next practice he took every third rep and he was down to 3,500 yards, which is the way you want to do it, to build him back in. So it gives us quantifiable numbers, which especially for numbers is good for them to see. And the kids like it because they can compete and see who is fastest. Like someone might say that (junior running back) Demario Richard isn't that fast. Well he hit 20.1 miles per hour. He might not finish an 80 yard run like that but you can't say he's not (fast). It's right there, proof that he is fast." 

Karpman: So what's this company's background, Catapult? 

Griswold: "All the NFL teams use it. It's an Australian company that is now here. It's six years old but really becoming a thing now. The Cardinals use it. It's driven by all the new sports science stuff. It's huge in soccer and Australian Rules Football. Look at (Cardinals receiver) Larry Fitzgerald. What are you trying to do at this point in his career? You're trying to extend careers. so me, I need to see it because there's times Tim's player load is just incredible, because he's doing both ways and special teams. Some of the days, this dude ran 7,000 yards, 7,000 yards, 7,100 yards, in three days. 

Karpman: So what are coaches saying based on this information?

Griswold: "Coach (Jay) Norvell really likes it because he always wants to know how much his guys ran. Coach Hurley likes it. How much are we running today? They run a lot. It's nice to know. Say you're playing Friday, Sunday, you think Saturday's practice is easy, this will tell you if it was or wasn't. And you can live track it too. It's going to help make us better as an athletic department because you're going to have fresher, more fit kids...It's like with Tim, I want to be able to say, come November, 'hey we need to back off this dude.' Or we saw by the 15th practice, we see guys aren't able to make as many explosive plays because they're fatigued."

Karpman: How much does all this sport science stuff change the game or what you do? 

Griswold: "That's what we're telling everybody upstairs (in administration) because we're behind since we're not using it yet. Now we're going to have it this summer, so we'll start to be able to."

Karpman: So elite programs are using this?

Griswold: "Yes, all the time. Now you don't want to just go and make wholesale changes to your programs, but there's things we can do. They have to get their reps, but it's like I told (offensive coordinator) Chip (Lindsey), it's not, go sprint here and throw, sprint there. Instead some days you just stay here. It's going to help a kid. I want to see in the fourth quarter, are we still as explosive. To your eye maybe yes maybe you're not, but this will give you true measurables. So you know for sure." 

Karpman: Have you had certain notions of things that have been proved or maybe dispelled and what are those things?

Griswold: "Yeah, just the yardage guys are running and the top speed, what we're hitting. This stuff will help us move forward into a space of training to be more elite. I want to use it in the summer time to know if my Friday run is has hard as I think it is. This is my 20th year as a coach, but that's based on experience, science, knowing your kids. I want to know for sure. It's like on play days, it's hard to know yardage because you're doing plays. This will give me true yardage. I know if a player's load should be here and it's down here, I can say, 'I know you're not working and you should be.' It's unbelievable what you can get from it. It's like a thousand data points a second. It'll really help us fine tune what we can do not just for a program or a position but the actual player. It's like with Tim, I want to make sure he's able to maintain what he's doing. If he's not, we're not getting a great athlete like he is."

Sun Devil Source Top Stories