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USC tailback Curtis McNeal cruises in spring practice

Fifth-year senior hasn't had to deal with injuries or classroom issues, and is looking to wrap up the workouts in strong fashion.

April 10, 2012|By Gary Klein
  • USC tailback Curtis McNeal has been working hard on the practice field and in the classroom this spring.
USC tailback Curtis McNeal has been working hard on the practice field and… (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)

USC tailback Curtis McNeal has enjoyed a quiet spring.

No injuries. No uncertainty about grades.

Just work on the field, which is just fine with the fifth-year senior.

Maneuverings to address depth issues at tailback have provided plenty of drama, but the Trojans' top returning rusher has not been distracted — or sidelined.

"I got through it healthy," McNeal said after practice Tuesday, "and I'm looking to continue that."

The Trojans have only two workouts remaining, a practice Thursday and the spring finale at the Coliseum on Saturday.

Coach Lane Kiffin instituted a moratorium on live tackling last week after tailback Tre Madden suffered a torn ligament in his left knee. The converted linebacker will have surgery when swelling subsides and will be sidelined for the 2012 season.

Receiver Robert Woods, who has not recovered from ankle surgery, receiver George Farmer (hamstring) and several tight ends also have not practiced or have been limited.

Asked whether the Trojans would tackle Saturday, Kiffin said, "That's still up in the air," adding, "If we don't get some of these guys back, it just won't make sense to tackle."

McNeal will be ready regardless.

Academically ineligible in 2010, he overcame that setback and rushed for a team-best 1,005 yards last season. Still, Kiffin has voiced concern about the 5-foot-7, 190-pound McNeal's durability over the course of a season as a starter.

McNeal is not worried. He bulked up his already stout frame and is ready to lead a tailback corps that includes only two other scholarship players, sophomore D.J. Morgan and redshirt freshman Buck Allen.

Allen practiced extensively for the first time Saturday after being sidelined because of a hamstring strain.

"He's getting it, but it's all new to him," McNeal said. "When you come from the [scout] team and practice with the offense, you go through a transition stage. But he'll be OK."

Kiffin said Allen looked more comfortable Tuesday.

"I think Saturday he wasn't really in the right frame of mind, that he was going to go," Kiffin said. "We pretty much forced him to go because he'd just been out long enough.

"Today, he was mentally prepared more that he was going to go the whole time."

Kiffin said coaches are in constant communication with team trainers to monitor players' recovery from injuries and when they can return to full participation in workouts.

"Sometimes they can't, obviously, but then there's gray area a lot of times," he said. "And so a lot of times with young guys, they're scared to go when they can be doing more than they are.

"I think that was an example with Buck and I think that's a little bit with [Farmer] right now."

Quick hits

David Sills, a freshman quarterback from Delaware who committed to USC in 2010 and won't arrive until 2015, attended practice. ... Safety Jawanza Starling intercepted a pass by Matt Barkley and cornerback Anthony Brown intercepted a pass by Max Wittek on consecutive possessions during team drills.

gary.klein@latimes.com

twitter.comlatimesklein

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