June 5, 2008

Foundation laid for Gallipo to succeed

It's all-too easy of a metaphor to use, but sometimes it's just unavoidable.

Speaking to USC linebacker Chris Galippo, though, and he makes it clear that he believes it to be true. He uses words like "base" and "foundation" like they're essential parts to a football players vocabulary.

And as he continues to grow as a player, it turns out the metaphor is right on target.

Galippo, coming off a very strong spring, has been give the tools by USC strength and conditioning coach Chris Carlisle, allowing the freshman linebacker to continue building to an already impressive frame.

But after a few workouts, it's not been easy.

"Things have been really tough. The first couple of workouts are always like that," Galippo said. "Coach Carlisle has been saying that it's important to find out where you're at as far as your condition, and then you build on it.

"It's about finding that base and not necessarily getting back into shape but getting into better shape."

The process of laying the foundation began back in the fall, after Galippo suffered what amounted to a season-ending back injury.

"After getting hurt, I kind of fell off the side of the cliff," he said. "I just was rehabbing and not doing too much of anything on the field. I didn't even do a lot of time in the meeting room.

"All of my focus was on getting my back healthy."

Working with the Trojan training and strength staff, Galippo got himself healthy.

"My back feels great. There's nothing wrong with it. It's just a matter of keeping it strong and keeping it healthy," he said. "Coach Carlisle did a great job of altering everything I do to take a lot of pressure off my back. At the same time, I'm still getting the same amount of benefit from the lifts."

An injury to one of his teammates, Rey Maualuga, pushed Galippo to the foreground during spring workouts, and he responded.

Then at the Trojan Huddle, Galippo starred. With nine tackles, six tackles for losses, three sacks, two fumble recoveries and a touchdown, Galippo's coach was impressed.

"He's a real baller," head coach Pete Carroll said.

And with that, another layer to the base had been added.

"Being able to come into the spring and basically just take off with Rey missing a week or two, I was able to get a lot of first-team reps," Galippo said. "It really helped my mental game a ton.

"My performance during the spring and at the (Trojan) Huddle, it showed that I've gotten that mental foundation."

Knowing that has allowed Galippo to begin to take more steps forward this summer.

"Mentally, I really started picking up on the game really well in the spring. I learned a lot in meetings and stuff like that. Now, it's more of a matter of just continuing to add to all that," he said. "My confidence is high right now. It does a lot for me. Don't get me wrong, I still have a ways to go, but as far as having a solid foundation, I think myself and all the young linebackers all have a solid base."

Galippo credits linebacker coach Ken Norton Jr. for helping him along, but some of the credit also goes to Galippo's peers.

With veterans like Brian Cushing and Maualuga on the roster, Galippo hasn't hesitated to study their tendencies.

"It's been huge. We can learn just as much as the guys in the meeting room, but they bring a whole different aspect because they bring so much experience," he said. "These are guys who played in the National Championship game against Texas and Vince Young. Those are guys who have been in almost every situation and now how to respond to them.

"We're all just one big group in practice, asking each other all sorts of questions."

In summer workouts, Galippo expects to continue growing as a player, adding on to an impressive offseason.

"I'm trying to (build momentum)," he said. "As far as my game goes, getting into prime shape, getting a lot faster and getting a lot stronger will give me more of an edge than anything.

"To make my game a lot more dynamic, I want to get a lot faster and a lot stronger."

And if he continues to add layer after layer to his already solid foundation, Galippo said he hopes to become one of the next great Trojan linebackers - starting this fall.

"Hopefully," he said, "I can get work and get some pretty good playing time this fall and set myself up for when Rey leaves."

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