USC's fullback clocking impressive times

August, 16, 2012
8/16/12
9:45
AM PT
This isn't normal: USC's fullback is faster than any of its running backs.

D.J. Morgan didn't run while being bothered by turf toe and Silas Redd wasn't with the Trojans at the time, but USC fullback Soma Vainuku did beat out the team's other running backs in off-season speed testing, the redshirt freshman said Wednesday.

Vainuku ran a 4.41 40-yard dash when the Trojans did their 40's last month, the fastest time he's ever run. Previously, Vainuku said, he has been timed in the 4.5-second range.

"I was real surprised with how fast I ran that this time," he said Wednesday.

Trojans coach Lane Kiffin has indirectly mentioned Vainuku's 40 time multiple times over the last week, each time relating it to the times of the other running backs who tested.

Vainuku's 4.41 does make him faster than starting running back Curtis McNeal and fourth-stringer Buck Allen, who are both hybrid size-speed backs. But at 6-foot and 250 pounds, Vainuku shouldn't be outrunning the 5-7, 190-pound McNeal and 6-1, 190-pound Allen.

He is, somehow. He's also been an effective occasional runner for the Trojans this camp, breaking off big runs every so often and consistently getting good yardage out of his limited carries. The need for him to carry the ball in game situations is lessened with Redd now in the fold, but there still appears to be a role for Vainuku as the short-yardage go-to guy.

The 20-year-old did gain 4,500 yards and score 79 touchdowns during his final three high school seasons, so there's clearly some potential there. Vainuku said he's improved more as a blocker than as a runner since arriving at USC, but he still has a handle on running.

A natural distribution of the duties might have McNeal as the starter and key back, Redd as the third-down back and super-sub and Vainuku as the short-yardage guy, with Morgan sneaking in chances here and there and Allen providing depth.

But that hasn't been laid out to Vainuku yet.

"I feel comfortable out there running the ball when they ask me to," he said. "I don't really know what the coaches' plan is, but I'm out there doing whatever they ask."

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