USC Football

Hunter Echols outlines what's behind the culture change at USC

July 17, 2019

OLB/DE Hunter Echols came to USC from Cathedral HS in Los Angeles as an extremely promising player. He actually committed in February 2016 to UCLA in 2016, but USC offered a week later. Echols then took an unofficial visit to USC in early April and we knew his commitment to the Trojans was inevitable after that. 

It did take him several months to decommit and a month more to announce his commitment to the Trojans, but Echols felt strongly about the Trojans since he was a young buck.

Although he had moments of doubt about the USC Football Program and may have even briefly considered looking elsewhere after the 2018 season, he was back on Howard Jones Field this Spring preparing to contribute in any way to help USC right the ship this season..

Echols is an optimist, a great teammate, a talented football player and poised to make a significant impact this season at outside linebacker. Greg Johnson once described Echols in what seemed as perfectly as anyone could. 

“Hunter is the guy who greets everyone at the door, he’ll stop whatever he’s doing to help a friend and he’s just a great person,” said Johnson. 

USC Scoop had an opportunity to speak to Hunter after practice last Thursday. 

Scott Schrader and Hunter Echols Q&A:

SCOTT SCHRADER: Im asking this question with everybody why the optimism, the energy, competitiveness, confidence and overall positive vibe at USC is more than just what we typically see in the offseason.

HUNTER ECHOLS: “There’s just a culture that our strength coaches have brought here. Coach AA has brought a culture and an environment where we wake up every day it challenges us. There’s always something we’re looking forward to doing. We all want to get better each day, so having them on our side is making us want to get closer as a team, be more competitive and work harder.”

SS: So Aaron Ausmus is behind most of what we’re seeing this offseason? Because the vibe around this program is far different than a year ago.

ECHOLS: “Yeah, he’s the mastermind behind what we’re doing.”

SS: When did you guys realize the impact Aaron would have on this program?

ECHOLS:  “From day one we respected him, because he was a Trojan before. He’s committed to this lifestyle and what it means to be a Trojan, so we knew it was going to be different on day one. We expected it to be different, we wanted it to be different and it’s been like that ever since.”

SS: How is the strength and conditioning program different and why is it so challenging? Everyone is telling us it’s extremely challenging and rewarding.

ECHOLS: “Coach Ivan (Lewis) was a great coach and he helped me develop as a player on and off the field. He’s like a second dad to me and I love the staff we had last year. So how we’re training isn’t that much different, but our attitude and approach each day is all about preparing to to win. We have a saying that we’re doing things the “Trojan Way” and that’s how we live each day.”

SS: Is the “Trojan Way” something that’s defined?

ECHOLS: “It’s something that’s just expected, it’s something we expect to do every day and to live a certain way every day.”

SS: For those who pay close attention to Social Media, many are going to have a perception you’re walking around campus eating steaks every day. But seriously, I know the diet for you guys has changed.

ECHOLS: “The diet is just big and we eat thick. We have weight-room teams and we’re all held accountable for making weight each week. That’s why everyone is eating steaks, everyone is grilling on their own and we’re just tying to get big. None of us are being selfish this year and we’re all doing what we can to become better as a team.”

SS: Last year guys had gotten bigger, but they were less lean too. Are guys bigger and leaner this year?

ECHOLS: “I feel like we’re definitely stronger. All the guy’s bodies are different and not everyone is Porter Gustin or Rasheem Green, some guys are athletic and lean looking. Guys like myself and Malik McClain don’t look as big as everyone else, but we still play our position really well. Then there are guys like Elijah Winston who’s body is bulky, strong and he looks the part. But I believe everyone is getting bigger and stronger.”

SS: Players have said you tend to address the lack of discipline and accountability last year during the season. Was that also a big topic addressed this offseason?

ECHOLS: “Like I was saying, we have weight-room teams and a lack of discipline and accountability can hurt your team. We don’t want to ever lose, so we’ve become far greater and being accountable and disciplined. We’ve learned how to gain weight, stay committed, stay focused and it’s all been changed in a fun way though.”

SS: How has Coach (Joe) DeForest impacted you this offseason?

ECHOLS: Coach DeFo is a wonderful coach. He’s very patient, he wants to take care of his players and does that on and off the field. Coach DeFo was coaching before a i was born, so he’s got a lot of wisdom and knowledge of the game. I just love having him as my coach.”

SS: Let’s say someone came to watch Practice last year and again this year. I’ll use Serra Head Coach Scott Altenberg as an example. I spoke to him after a Spring Practice in April and he couldn’t believe how much better practices were than a year ago. Can you explain why they seem different to those watching?

ECHOLS: “We just want to win and I think everything we do revolves around nothing less than winning at anything we do is acceptable. Whether it’s in the weight room, the film room or on the field.”

SS: USC appeared to be a pretty toxic place to be in January and February. We don’t need to rehash was happened, but when did you all sense things were changing for the better?

ECHOLS: “Despite all the transfer rumors and guys actually entering the transfer portal, we’re still here. I’m here, Greg’s (Johnson) is here, Bru’s here, Chris Steele is here....Everyone wants to be here and be on the lookout for USC Football in 2019.”

SS: We’ve heard guys say the defense has been simplified. We’re wondering how you believe it’s been simplified and if it’s more than just the terminology being easier to understand?

ECHOLS: “I think everyone is very comfortable with their roles on the defensive side. Everybody knows their roles and we have certain packages where we use certain guys, then other guys come in for different packages and everyone is comfortable with that. Nobody is selfish and everyone just wants to contribute to the team. So, the defense is moving, because everybody is out their knowing exactly what they’re supposed to be doing. The change is going to look different, it’s going to feel different and we’re going to be successful this year.”


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Hunter Echols outlines what's behind the culture change at USC

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