Countdown to Kick-off: USF C Jake Griffin

With the 2008 USF football season right around the corner, USFNation got a chance to talk with several annointed leaders of the Bulls. In today's excusive interview, senior center Jake Griffin talks about the offensive line unit, goals for this season, and much more. Only on Get it First, Get it Fast!

Jake Griffin Profile



How does it feel going into your senior season as a Bull?

"It's an experience that I don't want to end because this is my last go around. It's nice that all the hard work has paid off and my senior year is finally here. When I was freshman I didn't think this day would ever come. It's pretty cool to see how the last four years has unfolded, and how quick it has flown by. I tell the young guys to enjoy it, because it may seem a long ways away now, but it goes by very quickly."


Does it feel like time has flown by since you arrived on campus as a freshman?

"Oh yeah it does. I was talking to some of the older guys and it seems like it's been just a few days ago that I showed up on campus for my first work-out. I remember being here in the summer and coach McKeefery was making us puke and we couldn't walk the next day. During the process you don't think about it, but when you look back 4 years goes by in a blink."


After playing different positions on the line, what is it like now that you've settled in at center?

"I love centering. I always liked it. I only got to practice at it in high school, but when I got here coach Frye told me this is what we want you to do. We want you to some centering and work at guard. I actually played center since I got here, but just never played it in a game, I always played guard. When Capogna got hurt, that was my opportunity. I actually would have played it my sophomore year, but I broke my foot."


What is the biggest difference in the offensive line this year from years past?

"I think we're finally getting into the groove and the rhythm of doing a power running game. The last few years since Andre Hall left. We really haven't had that great of a power running game. We haven't really lined up for it, and we ran around people. I did notice towards the end of the season that our power running game was looking better, and being together this spring really helped out. I think this season we're going to be able to run outside, inside, and be able to do anything."


What do you attribute your success as a player to?

"I definitely attribute it to the hard work instilled through me from my coaches. Coach Simmonds, he's been there, and done that, and I listen to everything he says and soak it up, and then try to use it on the field. The hard work I done my whole life I have to attribute that to my parents. Because if it wasn't for them I might have fallen off and not achieved what I have. The coaches have been great, and coach McKeefery just busts us up over the summer, and keeps us going. If it wasn't for him I wouldn't be in any type of shape to make through a game."


How does it feel being named to the Remington Trophy watch list?

"I think it's an honor, a great honor to be considered along with the other guys in the country. But it doesn't make a difference until these 13 games are over. I could have a terrible season and then being on the watch list doesn't mean a thing. It's something that I see every day, and of course it's on the refrigerator at my moms' house, and once in awhile guys will remind me of it in the locker room, and it's nice to be honored. But if the hard work isn't put in and we don't do what we need to, then it doesn't make a difference how many lists I'm on." 


With four seniors on the O-line, do you guys have a special bond?

"Definitely me Matt Huners and Marc Diles, because we've been here through thick and thin and came in the same recruiting class together and have been here for our fifth year. Ryan Schmidt also because he's our same age, and we all hang out together. I'd say Diles is like a family member to me. I take him home with me for thanksgiving and stuff like that. We also lived together in the dorms our first few years and would do almost anything for each other, kill, lie, and cheat, anything."


Having all starters besides Walt Walker returning do you think the line is gelling more this year?

"I think we're playing well together, but we have to keep on edge, and can't get complacent. We got to be ready for everything, the next down, the next blitz. We're not going to sneak up on anybody and got to be ready for it. I absolutely think we have gelled together this summer better then last summer, because the work-outs last summer weren't as scheduled and thorough as they are now."


How's the only new starter on the line Jacob Sims looking to you?  

"I think Sims is looking great. He's working real hard, and busting his butt this summer to really get stronger. He has good technique and that's all he needed to do was to get stronger and bigger, because he was a bit undersized. I think he's ready to go now, and will do a great job for us."


Besides the five starters and Huners, what other guys have been standing out to you this off-season?

"I think Chaz Hine and Jeremiah Warren are having great summers. All the second string guys are looking real good, but if I had to pick a couple of guys that are busting it out in the weight room, then I'd say it's Jeremiah and Chaz."


Who is backing you up at center?

"If we're doing work-outs then its Mike McGowan and Kevin McCaskill, but if I was to get hurt in a game then it definitely be Ryan Schmidt. He's the most experienced guy. "


Have you guys given the incoming class any rookie initiations?

"No, we'll start razzing them in a few weeks when two-a-days start up. Right now they have such a strict schedule, with when they eat, and work out, that we don't see them a lot. In a few weeks we will though."


Even though they haven't put on pads are any of the new guys catching your eye?

‘I haven't really got to see the OL guys to comment, but I think the JUCO defensive end David Bedford looks like a specimen to me, and I think he's really going to help us out."


Who on defense do you have the hardest time against?

"I have to say Brouce Mompremier probably gives me the hardest time. He's so shifty, that once I go at him in the open field, I have to dive at him and make him go one way or the other because I'm not going to be able to touch him."


With all the running backs, do you have a preference to who you block for?

"I'll block for any of them. Whoever wants to run behind me and run hard, I'll block for. If I had to pick a favorite guy it probably would be Ben Williams, because we had classes together before he was even on the team as a freshman before he walked on. So we have a little special bond then the other guys, but I'll block hard for all of them." 


Are there any changes you've made this off-season?

"I've lost 25-30 pounds and am at 290, and other then that I've just tried to get a more physically strong upper body and more conditioned so I don't fade late in games."


How strong are you in the weight room?

"The last time I benched I put up 430. But I don't look at that as much. I'm much more interested in how many reps I can do 225. Lot of guys can move a lot of weight with a one time lift, but don't have the stamina for 225 reps, and I think that's more important. Last time I did 28 reps. I squat over 500, and am not a big fan of the clean and jerk."


How does it feel to see how the program has grown since you first arrived on campus?

"I always said that if I ever saw the stadium sell out or we got a top 25 ranking I'd quit the team. I never thought I'd see what's happened especially coming in as a small conference team. Then when we went to the BE, were beating good teams but weren't getting the respect. Now we got all kinds of media attention, but we don't want to lose that underdog mentality."


Do you look back at all that has been accomplished and just smile?

"Yeah I do. I remember when I came on my recruiting trip the facilities were still being built and were just walls, and Coach Leavitt was telling me where everything was going to be. It's cool to look back and say wow that was only four years ago."


Are you amazed with how recruiting has changed for the program since you arrived?

"Definitely, I remember when I was a recruit. I came here on a visit as a favor to my high school coach. But now guys like me want to come here, and are coming here."


What are your goals for this season?

"I want to win the Big East. Anything less then that is a failure. I've been part of the first Bowl team, and part of the first bowl win. So my next step is Big East or bust. If we don't get that then I'll be upset, and if we don't achieve that goal, then I definitely want to win our bowl game, and I'm ready to stomp some team, because I'm still upset about that Oregon loss. I can't wait until the season starts and we can unload on Tennessee Martin in our first game."


With all the seniors on the O-line and the team, is there a sense of urgency or unfinished business?

"Most definitely, we want to make the run game a lot better and look better. We didn't have that great of run stats last year, and we want to do better this year. We want to make USF a place where they graduate offensive linemen. Be a team like West Virginia or Texas that always has great lineman and puts them to the next level. We want to win games and win them big by rushing the ball. If we win the BE then we'll be in a good position to have a shot at the national championship. Then I can leave a happy man."


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