NFL Draft Prospect Interview: Kevin Graf, OT USC

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Sept. 8, 2012; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; USC Trojans wide receiver Robert Woods (2) celebrates with offensive tackle Kevin Graf (77) after scoring a touchdown during the second quarter against the Syracuse Orange at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports

Kevin Graf started 39 games at right tackle for USC earning All PAC-12 Honorable Mention as a senior.  After primarily being part of a pass blocking group with Matt Barkley at the helm, Graf was part of the unit that converted to a more heavy running offense this past season.  Kevin is a second generation Trojan with his father, Allan playing guard for USC from 1970-72 including their undefeated season in 1972.  He has since gone on to a career in films including roles such as working as a stuntman, stunt coordinator, actor and second unit director.

Kevin talked about his career at USC, how important the SC tradition is to him, and why he believes he is not only good enough to be in the NFL, but why he should be good at the next level.  He also discusses his feelings on the Scouting Combine, what he is working on now and his goals for where he hopes to be for USC’s Pro Day and why he thinks he should impress in that arena.

Pete Smith: How has the postseason process been for you?

Kevin Graf:  It’s been good. It’s been really exciting.  I’ve been having a really good time with it.  Who doesn’t love getting to train all day and just talk football, especially when that’s what you want to do with your life?  You don’t have school in the way anymore.  All you can do is just focus on what I’ve been dreaming about since I was a little kid, so it’s been going great.

PS: How long have you been verbally committed to go to USC?

KG: I think for my parents, it was as soon as I was born.  For me, it was ever since I was a little kid.  I haven’t missed a home game since I was 4 years old.  SC football was just my life.  When I finally got that scholarship, it was one of the biggest days of my life.  It just meant the world to finally have that scholarship and to know I was going to go to SC.

PS: Bigger for you or your dad?

KG: I think it was bigger for me.  It was pretty big for him, but he had already gotten his chance and it was finally mine.  I just waited so long for it and I bleed cardinal and gold, so it was such a big day for me.

PS: Where are you with your weight and where are you aiming to end up?

KG: This season, I played around 305-310.  Right now, I am about 308 with about 16% body fat.  I’m in really good shape right now.  Around my pro day, I hope to end up maybe around 310 with maybe 14% body fat.

PS: You were in the East-West Shrine Game, but USC has a good history when it comes to showing up and playing well in All-Star games, never looking to avoid the opportunity.

KG: One thing, before you go to SC, I was told you are going to compete every day.  You are going to compete against the best.  That’s what SC’s really known for.  You’re competing for your job every day.  I go against guys like George Uko, Leonard Williams, Devon Kennard, who are these great defensive linemen and who showed it.  Leonard was an All-American this year.  And those are the guys I go against every day.  I don’t turn down competing.  I accept it.  That’s what happens when here at SC.  So when you go to somewhere like a Senior Bowl or an East-West Shrine Game, you don’t hide away from it.  That’s one thing we talk about when we you have a new recruit come in, you let him know this is what you’re getting into.  Don’t act like you’re gonna come in here and start.

PS: Who was the best player you faced at the East-West Shrine Game?

KG: It was on my own team, really.  I had some great players.  I went against Prince Shembo, who I had gone against for 3 years when I played him against Notre Dame.   I had a guy like Josh Mauro from Stanford I went against for two years and then I have Cassius Marsh, who I went for 3 years who was at UCLA and my own teammate, Devon Kennard who I go against.  So I really felt like the guys I went against in practice were the best guys I faced that guy.

PS: You’ve spent your USC career at right tackle.  Where are teams looking at you for the next level?

KG: I’ve been training at both left and right tackle.  Even though I had started at right tackle for SC for 3 years, I was always way more comfortable at left.  It was just more natural for me and that is what I’ve always played.  I think I’m going to get looked for both right and left tackle and I might get looked at for some guard.

PS: Is there a stigma attached to being a right tackle only in college?

KG:  I don’t think so.  I don’t think there’s any stigma or anything with it, any out-dated the left tackle is more athletic than the right.  I don’t believe in that.  I’m just as athletic as any left tackle out there.  I’m gonna run a good 40 time.  I’m going to have good shuttle, good L cone times.  I have quick feet and I don’t think that’s the stigma anymore.

Do you feel that playing at USC, with their emphasis on athleticism over size that you are more prepared for the NFL?

KG: Absolutely.  There were some points that you have to be finesse and there were others where you put your hand in the ground and hit the guy in front of you as hard as you can.  I definitely, my last year, I mastered the finesse and the power game.  Especially more in my early career, there was more finesse.  They wanted more athletic linemen.  They were not interested in guys weighing over 310.

My first year starting, I played between 285 and 295 and I actually played one game at 275 at right tackle, which is unbelievable.  My senior year, I played between 305 and 310 because we turned more into a power running game than a finesse.

PS: Was it more fun this year getting to do a lot more run blocking?

KG:  Absolutely.  My first two years starting, I had Matt Barkley.   When we had Matt back there, it was more how the NFL is now; 80% pass and 20% run.  Most of the time, we were pass blocking and 5 to 7 step drop type of thing, especially with the wide receivers we had,  we were definitely more of a passing team.

This year, it was a little different.  We did have a younger quarterback (Cody Kessler), but he still was a great thrower, but this year, we had some great running backs.  We really wanted to get them involved, so it was definitely more fun to get your hand in the dirt and just get after people.

PS: USC has had a great run of talented offensive linemen, especially at tackle.  Have you reached out to some of the recent tackles such as Matt Kalil and Tyron Smith about anything related to the draft or what to expect to the process?

KG: Actually, I did talk to Kalil the other day.  I saw him the other day.  Obviously, he found out I wasn’t going to the combine and felt bad.  He said don’t worry about it.  Everyone comes to SC’s pro day, so you’re gonna do great.

I have worked recently with a lot of good offensive line coaches.  I’ve been working with Jackie Slater, Tim Davis, who was just with the Florida Gators and then Hudson Houck who was an NFL coach for 29 years.

You definitely learn a lot.  I just worked with Hudson this morning.  It’s definitely helping me prepare for what I have in store, especially these next 3 months with my Pro Day coming up and private workouts that I’ll have.  It’s definitely setting me up for success on really doing well, especially with my future.  Watching film on Larry Allen and Jackie Slater and all these guys, you’re definitely gonna learn a lot.  Hudson Houck, Davis, and Jackie have really helped me to be a better player in a short amount of time.

PS: What can you learn from a guy like Larry Allen?

KG: He made the game look easy.  I was watching him do 1-on-1’s and it’s like he’s yawning while he’s doing it.  It’s amazing how easy he makes it look and just how perfect his technique is.  For an offensive lineman, that’s the dream.  Having that perfect technique on every play to where 1-on1’s in pass pro and running blocking look easy.  Just talking to Hudson about that and how he became that great of a player and how you do that.  He was a guy that would stay after practice and it didn’t matter, he would grab a trainer, a water boy and work his sets, work his punch and that’s who he became who he is.

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