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Saturday, March 24, 2012
Madden is at RB to stay

By Pedro Moura

Lane Kiffin said just four days ago that he and his staff were going to need until Sunday to decide whether or not Tre Madden's move to running back would be short or long-term.

It turns out they didn't need as much time as they anticipated.

"He will be playing running back," Kiffin said with confidence on Saturday, minutes after Madden had just finished his third-straight impressive performance at the Coliseum in the Trojans' first spring scrimmage.

It's hard to argue with his logic. Madden, the 6-foot, 226-pound ex-linebacker with a size-speed combination that has long had running backs coach Kennedy Polamalu excited, has looked about as good as anyone could expect in his first week at a new position.

"I feel like this was a good call," Madden said Saturday.

What makes it such a good call and what makes him so good so soon? He can already catch the ball better than some USC backs who've spent a year or two in the system.

He had one play on Saturday where he wheeled out from the backfield and caught a pretty pass from Matt Barkley on the dead run so smoothly that it looked, for a second, as if it was freshman-year Robert Woods lining up out of the backfield or something. He had another where he ran off the left tackle from near midfield and rumbled down to the 10 as if it were nothing, dragging along a third of the second-team defense along with him.

Those two and several others had Kiffin using the word "natural" to describe Madden after the scrimmage.

"We're a lot better coaches when guys do things," Kiffin said. "You can teach two guys the same thing, but some guys just pick it up very naturally.

"He's one of those guys. To come over that quick and even be functional is saying a lot, let alone to keep performing like he is."

The 18-year-old Madden now has nine more practices this spring to continue to pick up things at his new position. But it looks tobe a safe bet already that he'll get carries out of the backfield this season, slotting in somewhere between first-stringer Curtis McNeal and last-stringer Buck Allen at this point.

Basically, it'll be between Madden and D.J. Morgan to be McNeal's No. 1 backup this fall, unless things change. But, then again, a week ago, Madden was Dion Bailey's backup at strongside linebacker.

So things do change.