USC running back situation should change

September, 6, 2012
9/06/12
10:47
AM PT
LOS ANGELES -- Curtis McNeal admits he expected to get more than five carries in Saturday's season opener against Hawaii.

"But my number wasn’t called," said McNeal, the USC Trojans' No. 1 running back. "So what can I do?"

He'll probably be able to do more this week against Syracuse, at least according to Trojans head coach Lane Kiffin, who indicated this week that he planned to regularly run the ball more often than he did in the opener.

Fullback Soma Vainuku said the game plan was to run and pass equally, but Kiffin found too many openings through the air to stick to that plan. When the Trojans face better secondaries in the coming weeks, that won't work as well.

"The receivers were going, so feed the hot man," McNeal said this week. "I’m always ready. I’m always ready for my number to be called, for us to get the running game going."

Both McNeal and Redd started the opener, with McNeal providing a crucial block on the first play of the game, Marqise Lee's 75-yard catch-and-run touchdown. Redd approached 100 total yards on the day (albeit with a fumble), but McNeal gained only 10 because of his limited opportunities and the game's structure.

D.J. Morgan picked up the garbage-time carries against Hawaii, but he'll miss the next few weeks after undergoing knee surgery Wednesday. Buck Allen, the new third-string back, doesn't have the same level of trust built up as Morgan, so the USC coaches could go again and again to McNeal and Redd on Saturday if the Trojans need to grind some clock against Syracuse.

Kiffin wasn't very specific when asked this week about how he planned to jump-start the running game, saying only, "by playing better."

"We need to play better up front," he said, expanding a bit more. "We had a couple holes that we were a little late on, so we need to coach better, too."

On Wednesday, Kiffin did praise McNeal for handling his lack of touches, saying the senior running back wouldn't have reacted the same way in previous years.

"I talked to him after the game about how well he handled himself," Kiffin said.

Redd, a New York Giants fan, has already put the opener well behind him going into Saturday's game at MetLife Stadium, the Giants' home turf. His hometown of Norwalk just an hour away, Redd's expecting around 25 family members to be in the stands against Syracuse.

And he knows he'll probably get more opportunities to run the ball this week.

"[It will be a] different gameplan," Redd said when asked about those potential opportunities. "What we did against Hawaii worked, and we'll come out with something different against Syracuse."

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