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Friday, April 5, 2013
Injuries don't stop tailback competition

By Johnny Curren

LOS ANGELES – Heading into the spring, the USC tailback unit certainly wasn’t at the top of Lane Kiffin’s list of concerns, thanks in large part to senior Silas Redd. The team’s leading rusher last season, he solidified his standing throughout the course of the early slate of spring workouts as a virtual lock to be the Trojans’ starting ball carrier in 2013.

USC running back Tre Madden
Tre Madden hasn't been cleared for contact drills while recovering from a torn ACL suffered last spring, but has still made an impact in spring practice at USC.
But in the team’s fifth practice, Redd went with a torn meniscus in his knee that required surgery and caused him to miss the remainder of the spring. The good news is that Redd will be back in the fall, when he’ll likely assume the role as the No. 1 back once again, but with redshirt junior D.J. Morgan also sidelined as of late with a minor knee injury, the Trojans simply don’t have a lot of healthy bodies at the spot.

Fortunately for Kiffin and Co., the offense has still been getting plenty of production out of the position thanks to a trio of players -- Javorius “Buck” Allen, Tre Madden and early-entrant freshman Justin Davis. All are looking to make a notable impact for the first time, each has taken advantage of the increased opportunity to make a strong case for a spot in the rotation next season, proving that USC has more than enough depth at the position.

“Buck is doing a really good job, Tre is doing an outstanding job – I’m really proud of what he’s doing – and Justin is doing a great job,” said USC running backs coach Tommie Robinson. “They’re all working hard and doing their best. They’re just out here grinding. None of those guys have an extensive amount of plays under their belt, so they’re all putting everything together and learning the offense, and they’re all working hard and doing a good job.”

With Madden still not cleared to participate in contact drills after suffering a torn ACL last spring, it’s been Allen and Davis, in particular, who have shouldered the load during the scrimmages and 11-on-11 periods, and both have shined at times. Allen, a redshirt sophomore who has rushed for a grand total of 32 yards in his career, has drawn special praise from Robinson for the strides that he’s made. Davis has been a pleasant surprise, resembling anything but a green freshman just a couple of months removed from high school.

Before his injury Morgan was also showing well, and he could be back any day now. In the fall the Trojans will gain the services of highly touted Joliet (Ill.) Catholic Academy running back Ty Isaac. If the last three-and-a-half weeks of practice are any indication, however, there is already no question that the Trojans are going to have plenty of capable options to turn to at tailback in 2013 – a fact certainly not lost on Kiffin.

“I believe for the fall, for the first time since we’ve been here, the tailback position will be where we want it to be with depth … old guys, young guys, guys that can catch, big guys and small guys,” Kiffin said following Thursday’s practice. “So, that takes a while to get to that point, and with the two guys that we signed and the addition of Silas last year, I think we’re finally there.”