March 10, 2009

Ayles still recovering from surgery

Participating in USC's offseason conditioning program isn't easy. There are the early 6 a.m. wake-up calls, the sweat pouring down on the field and the hard work inside the Trojan weight room.

It's not fun, per say.

Still an even worse fate might be watching. At least that's what tight end Blake Ayles' thinks.

Ayles is still awaiting a clean bill of health after undergoing knee surgery to remove bone chips in his right knee and has been sidelined for much of the offseason program.

"Just seeing the guys compete already, seeing Anthony McCoy out there and Rhett Ellison out there, I'm just trying to get healthy. I want to get out there so bad and be 100 percent right now," he said. "That's the problem. When we first started, I really wanted to get after it. That's what caused this process really to lengthen. I just have to hang back for a little bit, and then I can get after it."

The knee surgery also prompted dietary changes.

"I went to the doctor, and he said I had low calcium levels," Ayles said. "I've been trying to get better on that."

Ayles joked about his offseason so far, saying the lack of on-field work has fed one of his bad habits.

"I'm just being lazy," he joked. "No, I'm still working hard in rehab. I thought it would be a much shorter process, but it's been taking awhile."

Ayles enters his sophomore season after some mixed results as a freshman. Playing behind McCoy, Ayles caught six passes for 41 yards and a touchdown in nine games.

Going through the process for a second time, though, Ayles said he plans to use some valuable lessons he picked up along the way during his first year on campus.

"It seems like forever ago. You just learn so much. It's more of a job than a sport. Going to class, going to every lifting, study tables - you have to be here. You have to do the work they give you," Ayles said. "Last year, I thought I could skate by. You can't. You have to get after it all the time. I had to learn how to bust my butt.

"I've been thinking about the reps I had and whether I made the most of them."

Ayles said he's already begun studying the early pages of the USC playbook, and he plans on starting to watch more film. And while he's getting his mind right, he's also working on his physique.

Ayles said he's weighing 240 pounds.

"I'm not that much bigger; the weight's just transferred from my gut up top some," he said.

Instead of cracking jokes from the sidelines, Ayles is primed to get back on the field.

"I think it might be another month before I'm ready to go full speed. It was a tough surgery, and it needs some time," he said. "I'm definitely trying to get ready for spring ball. We need me to be out there (playing tight end). We can't just have one or two guys."

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