As the spring progresses, one thing becomes clearer and clearer with this 2012 USC team: The Trojans' coaches have big plans for Tre Madden.
The sophomore linebacker-turned-running-back is going to be a big part of this squad. Lane Kiffin provided more evidence to that end on Saturday when he had Madden try out the Wildcat offense during USC's second scrimmage of the spring at the Coliseum.
Madden ran the Wildcat in high school at nearby Mission Viejo and has said since his move to running back last month that he'd love to try it out in college. He said the coaches told him they were impressed with what they saw from him in his brief Wildcat debut in scrimmage warmups.
Even if that doesn't work out, though, Madden looks like a for-sure part of USC's running back rotation. Right now, senior Curtis McNeal is the No. 1 back, having a solid spring after a surprisingly good fall. Sophomore D.J. Morgan is the only established backup, so the 6-foot, 226-pound Madden could easily nestle right in there as one part of a three-headed tandem.
Morgan can be the lightning and Madden can be the thunder and McNeal, having bulked up to 195 pounds on his 5-7 frame, can be a little bit of both. It makes sense.
For his part, McNeal says he'd "love" if Madden was a steady part of the running backs corps.
"I think he's doing great," McNeal said of Madden. "He's only been here, what, a few weeks now? He's looking comfortable.
"To me, the more touches he gets, the better he looks."
McNeal also looks significantly bulkier with the roughly 13 pounds he gained over the offseason. He says he hasn't lost any of his speed with the adjustments and feels "10 times stronger" than last season.
But he also says he still has plenty left to work on this spring and into next fall.
"I've made strides, but I still need a lot more work," McNeal said. "I've been trying to rush everything, so I just need to make it look smooth.
Morgan has put track on the back burner this spring to focus on football and has shown flashes of truly impressive ability in practices and the two mini-scrimmages.
As for Madden, well...
"He continues to look good," Kiffin said on Saturday. "All the skills are there. He's dropped a couple balls but he has really good hands and we're excited about him."