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USC FOOTBALL

USC's D.J. Morgan is doing his trophy dash

Tailback runs hard after getting tip from Marcus Allen and finds himself in better shape.

August 30, 2011|By Gary Klein
  • USC running back D.J. Morgan is hoping to make an impact Saturday in the Trojans' season opener against Minnesota.
USC running back D.J. Morgan is hoping to make an impact Saturday in the Trojans'… (Christina House / For The…)

USC tailback D.J. Morgan took advice from Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Allen and ran with it.

Morgan said Allen recently told USC tailbacks that when he played for the Trojans, he sprinted 60 yards on practice carries.

So the next day, Morgan did the same on his first five carries.

"I was just gassed," he said. "I was like, 'Man, he couldn't have done that.' My legs got tired and burnt out for the rest of practice.

"But the next day I was better. It helped me, and from then on I started hitting it — and I haven't looked back since."

Morgan, a redshirt freshman, has run his way into a role in the Trojans' tailback rotation.

Small and powerful junior Curtis McNeal appears on track to possibly start, and sophomore Dillon Baxter offers versatility as a receiver.

But Morgan is pushing both. It would not be a huge surprise if he were on the field for the Trojans' first play on offense Saturday against Minnesota.

The former state hurdles champion at Woodland Hills Taft High appears fully healed from the 2009 knee injury he suffered in a playoff game during his senior season. The injury required reconstructive surgery, forcing Morgan to redshirt in 2010.

He looked sharp during spring practice but suffered a knee bruise during training camp and was sidelined for a few days. The time off also gave a sore hamstring time to heal, enabling Morgan to return at full strength.

"I'm out here being more explosive and running full speed," he said.

On Tuesday, running backs coach Kennedy Polamalu pointed to Morgan doing post-practice work with receiver Robert Woods.

"I have to remind myself he's a freshman," Polamalu said, admiringly. "We're on him hard, but he's responding every time."

Recently, Morgan spoke of becoming a team leader.

"I want to be the example," he said. "You feel good when the coach is saying, 'He's doing the right thing.' "

All clear

Running back Javorious Allen was cleared by the NCAA Eligibility Center and could be in school and on the field practicing this week, Coach Lane Kiffin said.

Allen, from Tallahassee, Fla., was the final member of USC's 22-player signing-day class to be certified. Defensive linemen Antwaun Woods and Greg Townsend Jr. were cleared last week.

"I'm excited … that every single player that we signed on signing day has fully qualified from the NCAA and will be enrolled in school," Kiffin said. "That's all that you can hope for as head coach, is that it gets done, and we're excited about our future because of that."

Quick hits

Junior college transfer Jeremy Galten continues to work as the first-string left guard…. Kiffin said he had no update on the status of defensive lineman Armond Armstead, who has not yet been cleared by doctors to play. Armstead, a senior, has done conditioning work but has not been allowed to practice while awaiting medical test results. When asked, neither Armstead nor school officials disclosed what he was tested for.

gary.klein@latimes.com

twitter.com/latimesklein

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