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Moala won't look too far into future

August 25, 2008|Gary Klein | Times Staff Writer

Fili Moala's cellphone did not stop buzzing.

Shortly after four USC players were selected in the first round of April's NFL draft, an ESPN analyst released his draft projections for 2009.

Moala, shockingly, was No. 1 overall.

"I didn't know anything at all about it until everyone started texting me saying congratulations," Moala recalled. "At first, I'm thinking like, 'For what?' "

The 6-foot-5, 295-pound Moala was flattered by the recognition, but not moved by it.

"It's all preseason stuff -- it doesn't mean anything," Moala said. "But at the same time I do feel like I'm more than capable of doing it and proving to them that I am worthy of something like that one day."

USC is counting on Moala to become a larger presence this season after starting alongside nose tackle Sedrick Ellis for most of the last two.

Ellis, the No. 7 overall pick in the draft, overcame constant double-teams to record 58 tackles, including 12 1/2 for losses last season. Moala had 32 tackles and 5 1/2 tackles for losses.

Back spasms forced Moala to sit out the Trojans' final training camp scrimmage and the last few days of workouts. After a day off Sunday, USC resumes practice today in preparation for Saturday's opener at Virginia.

The defensive tackle is looking forward to a productive season. He'll leave the draft for later.

"Right now my focus is on today and Virginia," he said.


Stepping up

Junior Allen Bradford had fewer carries than fellow tailbacks Stafon Johnson and Joe McKnight and fullback Stanley Havili last season.

But after a stellar spring and during an impressive training camp, Bradford has emerged as a leader of the running back corps, standing up to linebackers or any other defender who taunted or attempted to intimidate.

"The guys just look up to him because they know he's hard as nails," Coach Pete Carroll said.

Bradford is hoping for a significant increase from the 15 carries he got last season. He has no problem taking on a leadership role.

"The coaches just said to bring some juice," he said.


Quick kicks

The Trojans practice today at 4 p.m. . . . Tailback C.J. Gable is expected to work out today after missing five days because of a hip strain. . . . Cornerback Shareece Wright (groin) is also expected to return.


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