Bernard Riley interview

Trojan DT Bernard Riley took time out from his summer workouts to discuss football, life and cars. The following are excerpts from that interview:

Daniels: Thank you for taking the time today, Bernard.

BERNARD RILEY: It's my pleasure.

Daniels: You know you became an instant favorite when you went from a ucla lean to a wearing the Cardinal and Gold.

BERNARD RILEY: Yeah, that was a crazy time but it's all worked out pretty well.

Daniels: Any regrets? Has your time at SC been what you expected it to be?

BERNARD RILEY: It was tough, at first. People had high expectations of me... I had high expectations of me and it took some time to acclimate.

Daniels: And now...

BERNARD RILEY: It's so much better. I'm able to focus more on school, keep things balanced.

Daniels: What made you choose SC?

BERNARD RILEY: It was the coaches and players like Darryl Russell that brought SC out for me.

Daniels: Other than SC, did you have another school that was a real draw or that you tripped to?

BERNARD RILEY: Florida State. I seriously considered playing there, but in the end it was just too far. USC was my only official trip. I visited, thought about staying close to my family and that was that.

Daniels: Speaking of family, your mom became quite popular on our website during your recruitment and first year...

BERNARD RILEY: Yeah, she still goes on there all the time to check it out.

Daniels: The times that I have met her, she seems great. You guys seems close...

BERNARD RILEY: I'm very close with my parents. I'm very lucky. I'm living at home with them during Summer workouts and it's great.

Daniels: That's probably nice to be able to get that support during training...

BERNARD RILEY: Definitely. We've had a couple players go home this Summer because of that. It can make it tough to catch up when you return if you're not super disciplined.

Daniels: How do you spend your time when you're away from your Trojan Family, the football team?

BERNARD RILEY: Oh man, I'm into classic cars. I've got a 1969 Nova sitting in my driveway right now. It's hard to get it where I want it, right now because of time and money. One day, though...

Daniels: Tell me about it. I drive a '68 Porsche, myself - the money pit. Anything else?

BERNARD RILEY: I lift weights and work on my speed. I love to work out when especially when it helps me on the field.

Daniels: How so?

BERNARD RILEY: Well, the new strength coach has changed our workouts a bit. We aren't so caught up in how much weight were benching or squatting, especially if doing to much hurts or slows us down on the field. This year we're focused on burst of power and speed. He's designed our workouts to exploit that and improve our range of movement. It's been great. I'm at my strongest, but I'm also loose and flexible. I can get around much better.

Daniels: Even though you said you aren't minding the amounts as much, could you tell us some of your weight room and track numbers?

BERNARD RILEY: I bench 460lbs and squat 600lbs. I can run a 4.8 or 4.9 forty and I think if I work on it, I could bring it down to 4.7. I'm going to do that through this year. This year and next are my breakout years.

Daniels: You say this year and next are your breakout years. If you had a monster year this season and it looked possible to make it, would you leave early for the NFL?

BERNARD RILEY: Probably not. I think when you see people like Darryl Russell do what he's done, you think, yeah I'd like to be like that. But I realize I've got too much to learn and do. My goal is to get better this year, be a presence on the inside with Ryan, and stay healthy. College is a time for learning and that's what I'm trying to do. I'll go, if and when it is my time.

Daniels: Do you have a favorite NFL team?

BERNARD RILEY: Tampa Bay and Oakland. I just hope I get my chance.

Daniels: You will. Let's switch gears and talk defense. What do you see that will make SC's defensive line different and hopefully better than last year's squad?

BERNARD RILEY: Well, we had some great players on last year's team, with Matt, Ennis and all. But we've also got some great players returning. Lonnie Ford played only in spurts last season, but I think he led the team in sacks. He's just so fast and strong. People can't block him. If he can stay healthy, like he is right now, he'll be a first rounder next year. He' s going to blow people away with what he can do. And Ryan, Ryan is our brain out there. He reads offenses so well, he knows what's going to happen before it does, then helps us with our adjustments. He knows how to be in the right place at the right time. It's amazing. Ryan's keeping his size up to stay inside. He's very dominate at either spot, but I want him next to me.

Daniels: What about you? Are you a combination of those qualities?

BERNARD RILEY: I would love to think so. Ennis was a presence out there. I 'm working to take that to another level. My first two years I kind of bullrushed, but this year I'm working on technique. I'm getting better. Plus I love playing with this line. We're a unit and we play well together.

Daniels: What about the other DE position?

BERNARD RILEY: Omar Nazel is starting on the other side. Omar is a great athlete. He's playing at 235lbs and is very slippery. He's also got a great reach, like Kearse did, and that makes him a great asset. I think that if he builds up to 255lbs he's going to be unstoppable. I believe in him as a player. It's up to him.

A lot of people have talked about the players we lost from our DL and it's true, we lost three starters and a backup. I think, however, that every year someone steps up, they have to. They step up and take in the slack. If we do that, then no one becomes irreplaceable. Not me, not Ennis or Ryan. We just try to make it better. So, I think the line is going to be great. Whoever is number one at his position, needs to be pushed by the man behind him for playing time. If that happens, we're going to be awesome.

Daniels: Would you make the same statement about the linebackers this year?

BERNARD RILEY: Most definitely. I think as a whole they will be better than last year.

Daniels: You lost Steele and Moreno, how can you say that?

BERNARD RILEY: Well, it has to do with the simplifying of our defense. Zeke and Markus are great athletes and they had a lot of experience, but the system at times overwhelmed them. It overwhelmed us all. We tried to get too fancy on every play with special stunts, etc... that left gaps if they weren't performed properly. You saw it in the Notre Dame game when a man isn't sure of which blitz package is in and therefore doesn't commit. It leaves a gap big enough for a thirty yard gain. That's not necessarily the athletes fault or the scheme. It just combined to hurt us at some crucial times last season. This year it's... "know your five blitzes," and that's it. It allows us to play more aggressively and stop thinking so much. This is football. It doesn't have to be complicated to work.

I also think that we have some of the best athletes at Linebacker we've ever had. John Cousins, Chris Prosser, Mike and Aaron is getting smarter and better day by day. Those guys are solid unit. They also trust us as a defensive line to do our jobs. That makes a big difference when people stay at home and know the man next to them is doing the same. We have that this year more than last, and I think that is going to make us a better team. Now, imagine if we brought either Groots or Troy up to play outside on occasion - both those guys are so fast. Lee Webb is always at the right spot and bringing all he's got. And John Cousins hits, man does he hit. He 's also the fastest linebacker we've had in years. Plus if Marvin is as good as they say, we're going to have a very fast, heavy hitting group of linebackers.

Daniels: So you think the coaches made it too complicated last year?

BERNARD RILEY: No. I just think the way it's set up this year, is going to work. I mean we're not even using half as much this year as last. It's just simpler. We tried to be too smart last year and it cost us at times.

Daniels: Whatever works. Okay, speaking of coaches, how is it with Coach Orgeron?

BERNARD RILEY: Are you trying to get me in trouble? Nah, Coach is great. He is the loudest and probably toughest coach on the field, but he's that way to make you better. That's how he does it. Everyone's got their style and that's his. Once you get that through your head, it's okay. It's tough at first, though. He's a very intense man and he wants you to be intense. He wants to win more than anybody on the team. It's crazy. If he could he' d put the pads on now and probably be great, just because of his heart. He wants the best for us and he's gonna do whatever it takes to make that happen.

Daniels: That sounds like fun?

BERNARD RILEY: Oh man. It was hard at first. When I was in high school my coach would call you over and kind of whisper to you. He's be like, in my ear "Bernard, do this..." Even gameday, just whisper. That's not Coach Orgeron. (laughs) I just gotta keep learning.

Daniels: What about the new coaches, what's your opinion thus far?

BERNARD RILEY: We haven't played a game yet and Spring is only an indicator, but so far it's great. Having your Head Coach also be your Defensive Coordinator really helps. Coach Carroll handles us differently than Coach Hackett did. He wants to give us responsibility instead of trying so hard to control everything. He teaches and then lets us do it. So far, so good. Like I said, we haven't played a game yet, but Coach is putting us all in a place where we have to step up or get out of the way. I think that's the way it should be.

Daniels: With that said, you do you think is ready to step up on the DL, outside the starting four?

BERNARD RILEY: I think Bobby Demars is ready. If anybody's ready it should be him. He's been here and can play either spot, which helps especially when traveling. I think that BKU (Kenechi Udeze) has just gotten stronger and better. He's at something like 10% body fat and is down to 280lbs from his original 320lbs. We've got five guys who could play the interior very well and then a few who can move outside, too. Ryan will move outside for the bigger running teams and Lonnie, in the Leo-end position, can play down or move back. We'll use that a lot more this year because of him.

Daniels: Leo-end, could you explain that?

BERNARD RILEY: It's funny because everybody's asking about it, as if it never existed before at SC. We've always had the Leo-end position for a DE/LB, just not used it that much. It's a down lineman who can move back to LB against certain offenses. Like I said, because of Lonnie, we're going to see it more this year.

Daniels: So, who else on the DL is ready to make an impact?

BERNARD RILEY: I think they all could, it's just a matter of desire. If any of these guys wants to get to the next level, they just gotta decide then put the effort out - workout, watch films, practice like game day and listen. Jamaal and Malcolm are great athletes who need to be healthy and get in playing shape because we could use them. Same goes for Nate. Nate had his thing in Spring and now he needs to stay healthy and keep learning. He's got great instincts, so we'll see. Any of us, we can do it if we want it enough.

Daniels: What about the newcomers?

BERNARD RILEY: Well, it's hard to talk about what you haven't seen... I've watched Cody twice and he seems real good. He's getting a lot of hype to come in and start and that can be tough. It was tough on me. I just hope he can come in and challenge the man ahead of him. He does that and we all get better. If he does more than that's only going to make us a stronger unit. I remember my first year back in Notre Dame and getting blown back like five yards once. I had worked hard in practice and it seemed easy. Then I got into the game and here were these guys across from me who hated me because I played for SC. They were like fifth year seniors and put all that into each hit. It was intense. Playing a game against a real opponent at this level is entirely different from what any of these guys have seen so far. It will all depend on how they adjust.

Patterson went to my high school (Los Alamitos). He needs to get into running shape. Once he gets his legs, he'll be fine. I've never seen Wardlow play, but he looks like he could bulk up some. I think he's like 230lbs. We'll see...

Daniels: What do you think of our DL versus the rest of the Pac 10's?

BERNARD RILEY: I haven't really paid that much attention to anybody else. Every school seems to have lost players and every school seems to have one or two guys who are very good. I think SC will be up there, but we have to work hard to achieve that. We need to constantly improve and if we do that, then I think we can be the best.

Daniels: Finally, you've talked about the team's work ethic and coming together as a unit... Do you see this improving from last year?

BERNARD RILEY: I do. It's up to us to make that happen and we have to continue to work harder. Players have to step up. I'm looking forward to it.

USCFootball.com Top Stories