USC Football

USC acquired a weapon in Aussie Punter Ben Griffiths

August 12, 2019
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USC Scoop caught up with Aussie punting sensation Ben Griffiths (6’5” 240) to talk about his journey to USC. Unless you have been living under a rock, you know Ben brought over his booming leg from the Professional Australian Football League (a more fluid rugby) ranks.

Griffiths played from 2010-2017 for the Richmond Football Club and decided to pursue a career in American Football as a punter. Griffith is 27 years old, making him the oldest on the team and a mature presence in the locker room. USC will look to have a bounce back season in 2019 and flipping the field on an opponent could be the spark they need to shift the momentum of the game.

Scott Schrader and Ben Griffiths Q&A:

SS: First of all, watching you punt is entertainment let alone. We haven’t gotten a chance to talk to you at all so I’m going to go back to the beginning. What brought you here originally?

Ben Griffiths: Well like you said I played professional sport back in Australia for 8 ½ years and I think the system back home doesn’t lay out for players to study outside of the sport. I got to the age of 26 at the time and had a few injuries and stuff that gave me a perspective and what I wanted to do with my life. The opportunity to come over here and play sports at a very high level and get the education was huge… Sports are only a part of your life; you got to think long term as well. The education side of things was very important.

SS: Sometimes it takes for us to get older to realize that we need to think beyond our sport. Right? When I went to college I went to play Golf. Was there a time that you started to think this way? Or were you programmed to always think about the education and the future?

Ben Griffiths: No. I often think about if I had done this at the age that a lot of the guys are doing it now. 18, 19 I think myself personally, I don’t think I was mature enough to certainly play at this level of sport and study at the same time...it is quite overwhelming at times. And that’s where the University is really good at supporting students and making it doable. So yeah, I guess what you said about the age and maturity is definitely playing a part, specially in story and I think yeah its giving me a lot of perspective and in the importance of education.

SS: John Baxter’s role in getting you here, what was that?

Ben Griffiths: Well pretty much he recruited me here and I was highly drawn to wanting to play under him. He has had a big educational background; he is a teacher by trade. Which is what I want to go down the path of, he is so informative and I’m learning so much each day, just from being here. So yeah, he has been huge in playing the role in making sure this is all sort of  gone through smoothly.

SS: What were your biggest challenges coming here and being a punter?

Ben Griffiths: Well I guess I sort of mentioned it before in spring ball, the kicking skill is very transferable from the AFL to American Football. It’s just the fine tuning of the fundamentals in making sure, because you only get maybe four, five kicks each game you have to execute. You cant afford to have one thing off, you might skew the right or you might drop it a bit high and you might kick it to high and not long enough. So I guess because it’s such a specific action, you have to get those fundamentals down, whereas back home, the kicking you can actually kind of get away with a bit more the balls a bit more forgiving. But yeah, its very transferable and then again having that drop front kick as a backup plan adding another strength is huge.

Dan Weber: How many Kicks would you get in a game back there? How many times, did you ever keep track of how many times you kick it?

Ben Griffiths: In my position if I was getting between ten, fifteen kicks a game that was a pretty good game. But just the training load through the week you get kicks in. The amount of time we’re kicking the football plus I’ve been playing since I was about five years old.

Dan Weber: How many different punts do you have?

Ben Griffiths: I’ve got a range of kicks, it’s just the ones that can be used in the game are mainly just the drop punt and the spiral.

Dan Weber: What’s the drop punt?

Ben Griffiths: The drop punt that’s the one you guys call the rugby punt. Yes where the ball spins backwards.

SS: when you really unload, how far is that ball traveling?

Ben Griffiths: I think I’ve hit one about 70, 75 maybe before. I hit a five six two the other day, which was pretty good. If I can keep doing that regularly that would be pretty heavy.

Dan Weber: You have kind of the standard American, where you hit the spiral it turns over. What do you call that?

Ben Griffiths: Back home we call that torpedo, because it kind of spins off the top.

Dan Weber: How do you decide? Then you have the back up and then you kick high?

Ben Griffiths: I guess its all situational, if I’m sort of within range and I’ve got wind behind me, like gentle breeze and if I’m standing on the 30? The drop punt is an option specially if the return is standing back to run up. 

Dan Weber: So you’re like 70 yards away, how are you going to kick it?

Ben Griffiths: Again its all situational, if the returner is up then I will just put one over his head.

Dan Webber: You also hit one that’s kind of a bounding ball that you look like you kick it away from them and if they don’t get it then it just keep rolling, what do you call that?

Ben Griffiths: I’ll call that unintentional.

Dan Webber: Unintentional? You got to be kicking it down.

Ben Griffiths: The ones that kind of tumble and yeah their the ones that I’m not hitting that well so their the ones that I cant hit In the game. 

Dan Weber: it looks intentional. 

Ben Griffiths: If it looks intentional I will take that.

SS: That used to be when I hit a good golf shot it was pretty much unintentional…… You’ve been a part of teams, you’ve established that part, what are you feeling from this team?

Ben Griffiths: I’m feeling great energy. Obviously I can’t compare it to last year, I wasn’t here. But just from speaking to the guys and the group, the feedback I’m getting is a much different feel. Even the energy in meetings, everyone is engaged and from what I’ve seen in training, we’re training at a really high level. I just love being a part of that. If I can play a kind of role in being that older guy that mentor guys, maybe pushing them to work harder, that’s great but yeah I’m feeling really good energy at the moment and its really great to be a part of.

SS: We can see it, you know even we sitting there in the bullpen we can see what you guys are doing and it is a big d9fference. Ok so you’re going to leave here and eventually you’re probably going to be with John Baxter. What is you’re routine when you go after practice today?

Ben Griffiths: So we will break up into team meeting and some special teams meeting and then we go to positions after that. We will just break down training and really go through the fundamentals. Myself and Will the other Punter, we will sort of watch all of our kicks to the returners, all of our kicks during our Special Teams period as well and really break down what we’re doing well and we’re not doing well so that tomorrow we can come in plan in how we want to approach.

SS: Last question I promise, have you gotten any feedback from the guys on how difficult it is to catch your punts?

Ben Griffiths: Tyler doesn’t give me much back; he might give me like a good stuff or something like that. I think he was pretty filthy today because I planted one on his face. Yeah I’m not sure if he was to happy about that but I think its good practice for them hopefully, yeah they’re kind of training against the best then I guess it puts us in shape going up against other punters come game day.

***Fall Camp Day 10 is Today at 4pm and the USC Fall Showcase is Saturday August 17 at the Coliseum (4pm).

Jesus Contreras contributed to this article

 

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USC acquired a weapon in Aussie Punter Ben Griffiths

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