Ellis working hard, primed for breakout year
After redshirting during his freshman campaign, Ellis looked to break out last season, but was quiet for most of the year. Getting the start in the season finale against arch-rival Clemson, Ellis busted out with an impressive five-tackle effort including a tackle-for-loss, slowing down the explosive Clemson running game.
The talented, run-stuffing defensive lineman has carried over that big-time performance through the offseason and into the spring.
"It's going good. Everybody is working hard," Ellis said following Monday night's light scrimmage "(We've) got competition. Everybody is getting the best out of this scrimmage we had today. It wasn't live, but I think we got some good work out of it."
Ellis has been suspended for the first three games of the 2008 season due to violation of team rules, but will have the chance to earn his way back into the starting line up and play a big part in USC's defensive line rotation this year.
No one has ever questioned the 6-foot-5, 353-pound Ellis' talent, but his large stature has led some to question his work ethic and dedication at times. Ellis acknowledged he didn't always know how to go 100 percent at all times, but says he has learned the type of work ethic is takes to succeed.
"I've just learned how to practice better. The SEC is just a different level; playing in college is a different level. You've got to ask more out of yourself, and I just had to learn how to ask more out of myself, and just go faster and practice harder."
The John I. Leonard High School graduate says he is still "around 350" pounds, but he has a goal to reach before fall practice begins.
"They want me at 330 (pounds) right now. That's going to be a goal between now and when we report to camp, to be around 330. That's the ideal weight."
While sometime college players are rebellious when a coaching staff tries to change their overall lifestyle, Ellis agrees there are things he could possibly do at 330 pounds that he can't do at 350 pounds.
"Overall I've gotten in better shape. But being at 350 (pounds) I am unable to do some stuff, like rushing the passer as efficiently as I should. So that is a factor at my weight. I just do what Coach Lawing says: 'Go as hard as you can for as many plays as you can, when you get tired, tap out.'"
The smooth, well-spoken student athlete does not hesitate a bit when asked if he is confident he can get down to the proper weight, by the time he needs to be.
"I'm very confident that I'll be around 330. Because I've learned how to practice; I'm just more dedicated. It takes time from your freshman (year). I'm going into my redshirt sophomore year, junior in the classroom, so I'm just very mature. You've got to do what needs to be done to better yourself and to be better for the team."
Despite Ellis' current weight, the mammoth interior lineman believes he has re-shaped his body during his time at USC. Ellis credits one man with teaching him how to work hard to get his body in shape to play.
"That's one thing I can say, thanks to ‘Black Iron,' (USC strength and conditioning Coach Mark Smith) we work hard in the weight room, and I actually love working in the weight room. We've just got to get stronger and get quick. That's been a major goal to me, to get stronger and faster."
The Lake Worth, Fl. Native also credits USC defensive line coach Brad Lawing for motivating him to play in one of the premier conferences in the nation.
"In high school, we lifted weights, but this is actually training to play in an SEC game. Coach Lawing always says there are only two great conferences in the nation, that's the SEC and the NFL. You've just got to be in SEC-shape, that's different than anything else other than the NFL."
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