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USC FYI

With Stafon Johnson injured, Allen Bradford steps into new offensive role for USC

The running back, who is no longer getting questions from family and friends about his playing time, had 53 yards and averaged 4.4 yards a carry against California.

October 11, 2009|Gary Klein

With USC having an open date on Saturday, Trojans tailback Allen Bradford went home for the weekend.

And for the first time in his collegiate career, he did so without questions about his lack of playing time from family and friends waiting.

Bradford, a fourth-year junior, enters this week's game at Notre Dame having carried the ball a career-high 12 times against California.

Senior Stafon Johnson is out for the season because of a throat injury, so Bradford and fellow junior Joe McKnight will once again handle the rushing load for the Trojans.

McKnight, coming off a 119-yard, 20-carry game against Cal, remains the starter.

Bradford, who gained 53 yards and averaged 4.4 yards a carry against Cal, is happy to play a complementary role.

Of course, any role would be better than that of the forgotten man, which is what Bradford felt like for most of his first three seasons after starring at Colton High.

Perhaps that is why Bradford cautioned that he was not expecting the same number of carries against the Fighting Irish that he was given against Cal.

"I had some good, hard runs, but I left a lot of yards on the field," Bradford said last week. "I just want to stay on track and we'll see what happens, week by week.

"I'm not going to try and jump the gun on anything. I'm just going to prepare well."

Bradford's season highlight came in the opener against San Jose State, when he burst through the line and dashed 43 yards for a touchdown.

He had not carried more than six times in a game this season before doubling that number against the Golden Bears.

But Bradford said he no longer believes that he must get multiple carries consecutively to be at his best.

"I used to use that excuse when I was younger, that I had to get in a rhythm," he said. "But now, I just have to go whenever I get in."

McNeal impresses

Tailback Curtis McNeal, generously listed at 5 feet 8, appeared ready to add a new wrinkle to the offense after a productive spring.

However, the former Venice High star aggravated a shoulder injury during training camp, took time to recover from a pulled tooth and also was slowed by illness.

McNeal looked as if he was back to full strength during practice last week and is hoping to contribute during the Trojans' final seven games.

The redshirt freshman said he was prepared to return kicks or fill any number of roles, including that of a short-yardage back.

Quick hits

Notre Dame also had an open date on Saturday. . . . The Trojans are off today and will resume practice on Monday.

--

gary.klein@latimes.com

twitter.com/latimesklein

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