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

In the second part of our recent conversation with Arizona State Sports Performance Head Coach Shawn Griswold, we get a better sense of how recent recruiting classes translate in the weight room, and which players Griswold thinks are poised to break out.

Chris Karpman: Is one of the biggest challenges of your job figuring out how to tailor something for each athlete in a way that optimizes him? 

Shawn Griswold: "Yeah because every kid is different, everyone is wired differently. Everybody is going to do their (standard) workout for the day but then there are different things and you chip away at it. It gets more individualized through the workouts."

Karpman: How much has this changed from when you started or even five years ago? 

Griswold: "My program is completely different. I could pull out my old stuff and it would be funny to look at because it's completely changed. It's just based on knowledge, every year you get better and re-evaluate. Then every team is different too so you have to figure out how to best help each team. Last year I didn't feel like where we were as a team we were as strong upper body-wise as we wanted to be overall so we added an extra upper body day instead of a speed day. We're young, so that's part of it. We're going to stress it and train hard. A guy like (sophomore cornerback) Kareem Orr played as a freshman, hasn't had a lot of time to develop. He's only had one winter, this will be his first true summer because for freshmen it's really different."

Karpman: Is there a lot of group think or sharing of process with sports performance coaches nationally? Do you talk with friends at other programs, share ideas, visit places like (football) coaches do in the off-season?

Griswold: "We're pretty wide open with everybody, sharing knowledge and everything, going to conferences, that type of thing. You learn by going to visit people, going to Ohio State or going to Iowa or whatever, you learn more that way, roundtable, talk shop. 

Karpman: Are there some people very science based and others who are very unscientific in their approach still? 

Griswold: There's a zillion ways to skin a cat but there's a wide variety. Some are more science-based, some are more rah-rah guys that have a basic workout. It depends on your staff too. Some programs don't have five full time (strength staff), others have five just for football. So if you're more pulled apart as a staff that has an impact too. 

Karpman: What about the new facility that's being built (and will be done in 2017)? Will you be able to do things you can't currently do? Will it evolve your training? 

Griswold: "With equipment, we're fine, that won't change..."

Karpman: What about progressive cutting edge type stuff though, like cryo-chambers and all that? 

Griswold: "Yeah that's one of our things on our wish list because cryotherapy is three minutes instead of having to get into an ice bath. There's things that make it more efficient for our kids. As far as space we're good already because this place is huge anyway. But if they put the turf (football fields) outside my glass, that would give us the ability to go outside and do things as part of our workouts. To be more efficient. We could do more speed stuff, plyos, that type of thing. We're in a dungeon here, but the space is great. All custom racks and two foot by two foot footprint for the lat pulldown stuff saves us a ton of time and space. This room is great but in the basement. It'd be nice to have the ability to walk right out onto turf." 

Karpman: Do you think having a new space is a motivator for kids? 

Griswold: "Oh absolutely, because everything is brand new. They're going to have their own space. They're going to have a better training table. Then we're going to have a place they can refuel at too. It's going to have more bells and whistles. And then we're going to have 17 racks just for football, so it will be a great room." 

Karpman: My opinion, the last recruiting class, 2015, was the best I've seen since I've been doing this. Does that correlate in the weight room in any way. Is there a way to measure that? 

Griswold: "Well that's hard because they're good athletes but some of them trained in high school and some really didn't. So that's kind of hard to say. This guy is a five star yada yada but he may have not trained in his life. Now when you get better athletes though, it makes it easier to train them because they pick it up fast. Teaching stuff doesn't take as long."

Karpman: I know a guy can have a great frame, be very athletic but have no strength in the weight room and be very raw in that way as a football player. 

Griswold: "Every kid goes to a high school with some guy who can bench 405 pounds, some guy who can jump out of the gym, but they can't play a lick of football. Then there's some guy who is an unbelievable football player who can't do much in the weight room. It's my job to bridge that gap. Hopefully it's somebody like Christian Westerman or (former ASU offensive lineman and current Miami Dolphin Jamil Douglas or (former two-time Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year and current Chicago Bear) Will Sutton it translates to both. They didn't come here to lift weights and a lot of them probably wouldn't do it unless they had to in order to be the best football player they can be. Some of them like it but it's not why they are here. My job is to make sure when they hit August camp they are physically prepared and mentally prepared for the football field or whatever sport they're playing."

Karpman: You must have an initial sense though of what a class is capable of based on seeing them and working with them. So if you look at recruiting rankings you've gotten better and better from 2012 to 2013 to 2014 and 2015. Does that correlate to your initial impressions? Are you looking at the most recent class and saying, 'wow, I really like what I have to work with here?' 

Griswold: "Usually they are further ahead and they are getting it going faster. So I have seen that (trend), yeah. The amount of stuff we were able to able to run last year in the summer with our freshmen, we would have never been able to do that (previously). That's a very good sign. Like going back to (senior offensive tackle) Evan Goodman's group, we couldn't do the same things with them (as freshmen)."

Karpman: Are there any younger guys who just have a chance to be freaks of nature in the weight room, or maybe even already are? 

Griswold: "(Sophomore defensive tackle) Renell Wren is still pretty young and an absolute freak in here. Kids will tell him, once it clicks (on the football field) he'll be unstoppable. But he hasn't played much football. As soon as it does he'll be able to put it together and be a great player. That's why we coach. Not everybody can come in and play at a high level as a freshman."

Karpman: Are there any guys who are just animals with their work ethic, like how hard they get after it? 

Griswold: "There's more than a few but a guy who jumps out, like (redshirt freshman defensive lineman) Jalen Bates trains hard, (redshirt freshman quarterback) Bryce Perkins trains really hard. He's strong. He's not just clean for a quarterback, he's just strong period. (Junior linebacker) D.J. Calhoun trains at an unbelievably high level, (senior linebacker) Salamo Fiso trains at a really high level and most people don't know that about him but that dude, knock on wood because he hasn't been hurt, but that guy does some things in here that make you say wow. (Junior running backs) Demario Richard and Kalen Ballage are the same way. They're all making such great progress. It's fun to see them grow and mature. Like (sophomore quarterback) Manny Wilkins has matured so much it's incredible. Evan Goodman had an unbelievable winter. That guy's got a chance (at the NFL). He's 315 (pounds) right now and looks like he's 290. He's been really good this winter, like a totally different kid. I guess he sees it as his senior year, he's leading it in here, he's talking, he led all the runs for the o-line. That's not the old Evan. You put the card out, this is what you've got to do, and he's the first guy to go. I think he's going to have an unbelievable year." 

Karpman: Anyone else jump out in that type of way, a breakout guy? 

Griswold: (Sophomore wide receiver) Jalen Harvey is going to be very good, I'm telling you. He's really tough, he blocks on the edge and he's faster than you think. People don't think he's fast but he can move better than people realize. He hit 19.3 (miles per hour) in practice. I think (redshirt freshman defensive tackle) George Lea will be that way too. He's strong, physical, can move. I think [senior cornerback De'Chavon Hayes] is going to have a good year. I think him playing defense will help him a lot, it's a little easier. Mike (Norvell) had a great offense but it's tough now, you've got to learn a lot of stuff and to do it that fast it's hard. Then they had him on defense too and it's just so much." 


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