"I'm about 90% right now. The doctor told me I'm cleared for all my workouts and I can strengthen the muscle any way I can. I'm doing a lot of running, not too much cutting yet, but a lot of straight ahead stuff. I'm working a lot in the weight room on my hamstring, I'm doing a lot of glutes, it helps keep your knee stable. They really push me in there, I do rehab every day, they're killing me. I'm going to be doing everything that everybody else is doing this summer. I'll be running around and then I'll be hitting the rehab too so I'll be doing the same as everybody else but then also doing a little extra. I definitely gotta do a little extra to get this knee right."
What is your goal for training camp?
"To be ready. I want to be ready by the time fall camp starts so I can get my conditioning down. Hopefully by then I can be in condition so I can get in the flow of the game. It seems like I haven't played in forever."
What's been the hardest part of the process?
"It almost feels like you're out there by yourself. It's tough because the team's doing so well and you're on the sidelines but you know you're gonna be back and you're gonna have a great team and everybody's behind you."
What do you miss the most?
"Coach O yelling at me. Coach O getting after me and making me a better player. I really miss going out to practice every day and playing. You kind of take it for granted how much you really love it and when you're out and not getting to play you really miss it a lot."
Talk about playing for Coach O.
"He's a guy who wants to make you better. He's not out there just yelling and screaming. Some people come out to practice and see him and they say "he's just yelling and screaming" but he's doing it for a purpose because he's motivating us to get out there and work. When a coach comes at you with attitude like that every day it just motivates you as a player. He comes with so much fire and brings so much fire to the game, as Coach Carroll does, and you want to go out there and practice as hard as you can for them every day."
What do you like about playing defensive line?
"I like rushing the quarterback. Sacks equal money (laughing). That's what we talk about on the d-line. You got to get after it and get the sacks, people want to see the sacks. That puts a lot of pressure on an offense if you can go out there and get a lot of sacks, I think it helps a lot."
You came to USC as a DE but were switched almost immediately to DT. Talk about that move.
"It's a lot shorter route to the quarterback for me. At defensive end it's a long sprint, you're taking a long time to get there. I think when they moved me inside I still had the quickness over the guard and I could bring some power too. I think it's the perfect position for me because not only do I have the power but I have the speed that most guards aren't used to seeing."
What's the best part of being a member of the USC football program right now?
"Just the vibe around campus. Everybody's always asking me questions about the team, asking how everything is going, wondering who the quarterback is gonna be, asking about my knee. Everybody's pumped up right now about USC football and it's just a great thing. I think you have to attribute that all to Coach Carroll because he's done such a wonderful job of coming in and pumping everybody up around LA."
Talk about the impact Coach Carroll has had on you.
"Me and Coach Carroll have a real close relationship. I go up there and talk to him a lot and he's one of the main factors why I'm here. I had the choice between a lot of schools, Coach O was a factor, and Coach Carroll definitely because I knew what he was about and what kind of man he was and what he was going to do for this club. I'm so excited to play for him because he's got so much experience and every day you go in there and he just gives you these wisdom pills, you know, he's just got so much energy about him and you can learn so much from the man. It's just great to be around him and acquire that knowledge."
You did have a choice between a lot of schools and your father was a huge Notre Dame fan.
"Yeah, he doesn't like talking about that too much anymore because he's a big Trojan fan now. He's a freak, he's got all his USC stuff, his jacket, his car is all USC Trojans. It's great to see."
You have an opportunity to be part of a special defensive line. Talk about the other members of the line beginning with Kenechi Udeze.
"Unblockable really. You can't really block him because he's just got so much natural raw talent it's unbelievable. With the size he has, the strength, and he can move too so I don't see how they can block him. He's got a great pass rush and he's a smart player, he's acquired too much knowledge from Coach O over the years."
"The veteran. He's definitely the group leader. He's the vocal leader, the emotional leader, he leads not only the line but the whole defense. He's out there getting everybody pumped up and you definitely have years of experience with him because he knows Coach O's system. We really depend on him to be a leader."
"He's gonna be a surprise this year. I think they know about Mike but the way he played this spring and the way he's coming along, I don't think there are many centers out there who can block him. He's so quick and he's got such a low center of gravity, he's so tough to block. You saw it out there in spring and it's been fun to watch because you've watched Mike grow from this player who was kind of timid when he came in to this monster now."
You two seemed to work well together last year. How do those two inside positions work together?
"Oh, there's a lot of games and stuff that we run as far as the pass rush or if we're twisting and moving. When you can get two guys who can work like that it helps out not only the defensive line but the linebackers, safeties, everybody. We really know what each other is doing out there."
Talk about the emotion of playing football at the Coliseum, running out that tunnel, hearing the crowd.
"I haven't done it in such a long time and I'm just waiting to get out there. It seems like the last game I was in was the UCLA game my freshman year. I remember the crowd that day…it was crazy. As a player most games you have to pump up yourself but when you come out to the Coliseum with the crowd like that you don't need to pump up yourself, the crowd does it for you."
Talk about the SC tattoo on your right arm.
"I just thought it would be a fun thing to get when I was a senior in high school. I'd signed with SC, I was wanting to get a tattoo, my initials and my school were the same so I thought I'd go with it."
Describe yourself as a football player.
"I think my biggest asset to the team is the way I compete every play. I always think of myself as a relentless player. I don't stop. You might be able to block me a little bit but I'm always getting after the ball because I don't like getting stopped out there. When I'm stopped it gets me mad. I like to hear people say "he's relentless, he never stops, he's always moving". I think that really bugs an offense when they know that no matter how hard they try you're not going to be denied on a play."
What do you need to work on?
"Definitely you always want to get faster. Speed in this game, it changes so much so you always want to get faster. You want to move better, improve your agility. I think as far as strength, Coach Carlisle down there does a great job. He's gonna get you at your peak level of strength and speed. It just helps so much to be faster."
You got to know Coach Marv Goux before he passed away. What did you talk about?
"I got to talk with Marv a couple times and Coach Goux was just a phenomenal person. You meet him and you can just feel the vibe that would come off him. He was so pumped up about not only USC football but Coach Carroll and everybody. I talked to him about d-line play and Coach O and how he thinks we should be. He was a great man. His voice, the legacy he brought to USC, it was almost hard to talk with him because he was that big of a figure but he was so down to earth with me. He told me big things should come from me and I really want to step up and prove to him that I can do this."
What are the goals that you have for the rest of your career at USC?
"I want to win a national championship. We came close last year and I think we've really taken a step in the right direction with the recruits we've brought in. The coaches, they've been out there all day long recruiting this past month, they're so pumped up about it and we haven't even started yet. Everybody's saying "we want to go to the top, we don't want to lose any games next year". Those two games we lost last year, they hurt us, they killed us. We don't want to lose any games next year."