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A bit banged-up but confident

Coach Lane Kiffin hopes that USC's deep tailback corps and better play on the offensive line will improve the Trojans' running game

August 10, 2013|Gary Klein
  • Transfer Silas Redd, who rushed for 905 yards and 10 touchdowns last season despite some injuries, leads a deep and talented corps of running backs for USC this season.
Transfer Silas Redd, who rushed for 905 yards and 10 touchdowns last season… (Robert Lachman / Los Angeles…)

Silas Redd barely had to time to acclimate, let alone become a team leader, when he arrived at USC after transferring from Penn State on the eve of training camp last year.

Now, as the only senior and the most experienced player in the Trojans' backfield, he is embracing his role as an elder.

"I couldn't ask for more going into my senior season," he said.

With Redd and five other scholarship tailbacks on the roster, Coach Lane Kiffin said the Trojans finally have the depth he desired when he returned to USC in 2010.

Redd leads a tailback corps that includes junior D.J. Morgan, sophomores Tre Madden and Javorius Allen and freshmen Justin Davis and Ty Isaac. Jahleel Pinner and Soma Vainuku are sophomore fullbacks.

Tommie Robinson, who coached last season with the NFL's Arizona Cardinals, joined the staff as running backs coach after Kiffin fired Kennedy Polamalu last February.

Kiffin hopes that the backfield talent and better offensive line play will improve the Trojans' running game.

Last season, USC averaged 150.6 yards rushing, which ranked seventh in the Pac-12 and 71st among 120 major college teams.

"In critical situations, the inability to consistently run the ball came back again and again and again," Kiffin lamented before training camp began. "And the amount of times on third and one and third and two that we didn't make it running the ball was ridiculous.

"That impacts the whole game. It's like a turnover."

Many of the tailbacks are either coming back from, or nursing, injuries. But they are confident they will be sound for the Aug. 29 opener at Hawaii.

Redd, 5 feet 10 and 200 pounds, has amassed a combined 2,583 career rushing yards and 18 touchdowns at Penn State and USC.

He rushed for more than 100 yards three times in 2012 before struggling through ankle and hip injuries the second half of the season. He still finished with a team-best 905 yards rushing and 10 touchdowns.

Redd regained his burst during spring practice before suffering a knee injury that required surgery.

Coaches and trainers have been cautious with him during training camp, forcing Redd to wear a yellow no-contact jersey. He sat out Thursday's scrimmage at the Coliseum, he said, because he did not have enough full-contact practices.

Redd, however, said he was ready to go.

"My knee feels great," he said. "No complaints at all."

Morgan, who started the 2011 opener, has been hampered by injuries throughout his first three seasons. Last September, he had arthroscopic knee surgery and also struggled through an ankle injury. During spring practice, he suffered a knee injury.

"I'm just looking to contribute to the team anyway I can," said Morgan, who has been held out of most contact drills. "My focus is getting these young guys up to speed."

Madden played his freshman season at linebacker, but switched to tailback during spring practice in 2012.

It appeared to be a good move until he suffered a knee injury that required surgery and forced him to sit out last season.

Like Redd, the 6-1, 220-pound Madden has often been outfitted in a yellow jersey to warn against contact. But he appears to be running at full speed and could provide a dynamic presence as a multipurpose and short-yardage back.

Davis has been a revelation since arriving from Stockton Lincoln High last spring.

The 6-1, 215-pound freshman has shown speed and toughness in workouts and scrimmages, putting him on track to play a large role.

"If that happens I'm not going to miss a beat," he said. "Just try to make sure if I'm ever called upon I'm going to be ready."

With several tailbacks sitting out or limited, the 6-1, 210-pound Allen has become a scrimmage workhorse. If he can earn coaches' trust in pass-protection situations, he could contribute.

Isaac came to USC during the summer. At 6-3 and 225 pounds, he provides the Trojans with their largest backfield presence. But he has been slowed during camp because of injury.

Regardless, the experienced Redd said he was there to show Isaac and others the way.

"I usually was a lead-by-example type guy," Redd said. "But I've become more vocal and I actually like the role."

-- @latimesklein



USC tailbacks

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