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Allen Bradford is ready to carry the load for the Trojans

USC FYI

The senior tailback wants to show this spring that he can handle a heavy workload once the season starts.

April 01, 2010|By Gary Klein

Allen Bradford spent four seasons trying to earn his way into USC's tailback rotation.

Now the senior would like to eliminate it altogether.

When the Trojans practice in pads for the first time on Saturday, Bradford intends to continue his push to be a starter who can carry the ball more than 20 times a game.

"I'm still at 235 [pounds] but I feel like 220," Bradford said Thursday after demonstrating quickness and breakaway speed in the Trojans' second spring workout. "I just feel light and powerful."

Bradford, who rushed for 668 yards and eight touchdowns in 115 carries last season, has impressed Coach Lane Kiffin.

"If we can get him to make somebody miss, if we can get him to pass [protect] and be consistent, we might have something pretty special," Kiffin said.

Bradford is competing with senior C.J. Gable, junior Marc Tyler and sophomore Curtis McNeal.

Bradford is unsure how Kiffin intends to distribute carries.

"He's letting us know everybody is just equal," Bradford said. "Each day you go out there, you put more stuff on your resume so that's how he's got us thinking."

Slimmed down

Quarterback Matt Barkley continued to show improved mobility that has resulted from his loss of about 10 pounds.

The 6-2, 222-pound Barkley scrambled several times and moved more nimbly in the pocket than last season, when he struggled to elude pressure.

Kiffin said the strength and conditioning staff would continue to work toward remaking Barkley's physique.

"What made Mark Sanchez so special was that Mark had such great feet," Kiffin said. "He could move around so well and get out of trouble."

Where's William Wallace?

The special teams period at the start of practice looked like a scene from the movie "Braveheart," players carrying four banners that represented "drill tribes," special teams coordinator John Baxter said.

Baxter, who coached outstanding units in 13 seasons at Fresno State, cut a tablecloth into quarters and told players to decorate the "flags."

The players have been split into tribes — Atlas, Zeus, Valkyrie and Ares — and will compete throughout spring practice.

"It's an exercise in who are you and what you represent," Baxter said. "And it's an exercise in creativity. It's an exercise in teamwork.

"There's a lot that goes into making a football team ready to play, a lot that goes into a building a team…. Once we get to the fall, there's only one flag that matters and that's the one with SC on it. But for right now, they're getting the concept."

Quick kicks

Receiver Ronald Johnson had another productive and sometimes spectacular day, Kiffin saying the senior "probably would be the MVP" of the first two days. "He seems to be a dynamic player right now so we need to continue to find more ways to get him the ball," Kiffin said…. Center Kristofer O'Dowd suffered what school officials termed a mild left knee sprain early in practice. Last season, O'Dowd suffered a dislocated right kneecap in the season opener, an injury that caused him to sit out one game and slowed him throughout the season…. Junior center Michael Reardon was in a neck brace for injuries suffered in an ATV accident last weekend, Kiffin said.… Fresno State Coach Pat Hill attended practice.

gary.klein@latimes.com

twitter.com/latimesklein

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