Catching up with Aaron Ausmus

LOS ANGELES -- The USC Trojans got back to work this week with winter offseason conditioning efforts under the direction of strength and conditioning coach Aaron Ausmus. Over the next two months, Ausmus will be in charge of getting the team ready for 2012 spring practice, and WeAreSC sat down with Ausmus to talk about his plans for those workouts.

WeAreSC: 2011 was a good year for the Trojans. Talk about how things went from your perspective with the strength and conditioning part of the program.

Ausmus: I think a big key is that we were able to practice more aggressive last fall, because we had some depth. As the year went along, we didn't even need to go to shoulder pads and shorts too often, we kept the pads on at a time of the year when a lot of teams aren't doing that.

Also, week by week one of our goals is to keep our starters healthy. If those guys are healthy it gives you the best chance to win and -- other than a few injuries here and there -- I thought we did really well last year as a whole.

WeAreSC: Now it's time to get back to work. What are the biggest areas of emphasis for these winter workouts?

Ausmus: The biggest thing right now is that we're dealing with a team that's had about five weeks off. I got to train them for a few days after the UCLA game, but that's been it. That's a lot of down time -- it's time when we don't have a clue what they are doing. So the key for us is to get back that work ethic that it's going to take to get ready for 2012. We have to establish that first. Right now our focus is general conditioning. Next phase is speed, power and strength.

The whole first week was basically spent getting in work-capacity shape. A lot of quick-tempo, fast-movement stuff. Next week we'll start to introduce more of a real program where we are attacking our speed and strength movements. You would be surprised how fast those work-capacity skills can come back, but these are Division 1 athletes we're talking about, so we should be ready to go next week.

WeAreSC: Talk about the workout schedule. How often are the players with you and what are they doing?

Ausmus: Our regular schedule will be four days a week -- Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. Each session is usually right at 90 minutes. We'll spend the first 30-40 minutes outside, particularly on Mondays and Thursdays. We'll do plyometrics, speed drills and some form of agility work. How to accelerate, how to decelerate, how to change direction. That's followed up in the weight room with a lot of the Olympic movements like power clean and leg movements. Tuesday and Friday are focused on conditioning. We do extensive outside work and then we come inside and work on our upper bodies.

That process will go on for about a month, and then we'll transition to where we can go with the staff and do Trojan conditioning with the coaches present. We'll change our format up slightly for that. We've added about an hour of very intense agility running. The thought process behind that is we're getting close to spring ball at that point, so we want our guys to have a good command of the execution of drills. It's more like a practice setting -- guys can wear their jerseys. You can't have footballs or equipment out there if the coaches are there, but you can do agility drills. It's all just a matter of inching one step closer to spring practice.

WeAreSC: It's your third year in charge of the USC strength program. Do you get the sense that there is a comfort level for the players in terms of what they expect from you?

Ausmus: There is definitely a sense of knowing what we need to be doing to move this thing along. We work with the coaches to develop what they need and the players put in the work. The big thing we want to continue to develop is the speed of our team.

WeAreSC: Talk about the development of the new John McKay Center and how that will impact your program.

Ausmus: Things are going great for the McKay Center. They are planning a ceremony in July, and some people may be able to move in before that. We're planning all the stuff we need to move in, and they will move it in May or June.

It's amazing. The ability to do anything we want is about to be here for the Trojans. We do so much with what we have -- the program is planned to work with what we have and it's the best way to work with what we have. This new facility is just going to allow us to do the best things we can do, the facility will not limit us at all.

We're going to have more square footage, more racks, more dumbbells. There will be a field turf right next to the weight room with nothing between them. You won't need to worry about changing your shoes when it's time to go outside and do field work -- the field is right there. It's all under one roof and that will really allow us to be more efficient.

Everything in there will be brand new. The only thing we're taking in there that's part of us right now is the way we work. We call it the Trojan Way. The way we approach things, the way we work. That's the only thing we're taking with us to the new building.

Garry Paskwietz is the publisher of WeAreSC.com and has covered the Trojans since 1997. He can be reached at garry@wearesc.com.