USC's running backs apparently got the message.
After their mostly lackluster effort in the Trojans' first scrimmage, Coach Pete Carroll pointedly told the group it wasn't running hard enough.
On Sunday, the running backs answered en masse during practice with a punishing performance that left several defenders dazed or on the ground after absorbing contact.
"We wanted to impose our dominance as much as possible and show everybody that we're not a slouch," senior Stafon Johnson said.
Johnson, juniors Allen Bradford, C.J. Gable and Joe McKnight, and sophomore Marc Tyler all responded to Carroll's challenge, mostly head-on. Redshirt freshman Curtis McNeal, practicing despite a sore right shoulder, no doubt would have as well if not for a mandated ban on contact.
The 5-foot-11, 237-pound Bradford, in particular, initiated clattering collisions and plowed through the defense for several short touchdowns.
Carroll said he had shown Bradford and Tyler tape of former Trojans running back Justin Fargas' performance at Oregon in 2002. Fargas rushed for 139 yards and a touchdown in 27 carries.
"I wanted to make sure they saw the way he ran in that game and how it worked," Carroll said. "As that game went on, he wore them down and . . . he was busting runs and was a big factor.
"It kind of set the style and the tempo that we're trying to recapture every year."
Carroll said the running game would be evaluated again tonight when the Trojans scrimmage at the Coliseum.
Under the lights
Matt Barkley is looking forward to the scrimmage, the latest installment in what has been a heavy workload for the freshman quarterback.
Barkley has taken nearly every first-team snap since Aaron Corp suffered a leg injury a week ago, and he remains on track to possibly start the Sept. 5 opener against San Jose State.
"I've been trying to use my whole body in my throws in this camp and over the last couple months, so my arm is fresh," Barkley said. "My legs are a little bit tired, but that comes with the territory. . . . The mind is a little bit, but it's good work to have all the mental reps this far into the camp."
Corp, working out of a shotgun formation so he would not have to drop back, threw passes to running backs and tight ends during one drill. But Corp said he feels pain in his left leg when he jogs. He is scheduled to have X-rays today to determine if the bone crack has healed enough to take on a heavier load.
When Corp returns, "We'll go back to where we started," Carroll said. "We'll give him a little bit more time when he is ready to make sure we have enough evaluation on him."
Carroll again praised Mitch Mustain after another efficient practice performance. Mustain, who worked exclusively with the second- and third-team offenses in the first scrimmage, is hoping for an opportunity with the first unit tonight.
Junior David Ausberry has moved into the lead for the No. 3 receiver job. "He's ready to bust out," Carroll said.
The 6-foot-4, 235-pound Ausberry caught three passes, including a 19-yard touchdown from Barkley, in the first scrimmage.
The Trojans are scheduled to move out of an on-campus dorm today. . . . Tonight's scrimmage at the Coliseum starts at 7:30 and is open to the public.