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Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Injuries give Morgan, McNeal opportunities

By Pedro Moura



USC's top two running backs -- Marc Tyler and Dillon Baxter -- are out of commission this week because of injuries suffered in Saturday's scrimmage, Tyler a concussion and Baxter a right high-ankle sprain.

That means the two backups -- Curtis McNeal and D.J. Morgan-- had all of the carries to split between the two of them Tuesday, and both did well with the increased opportunities. McNeal, in particular, appears to be really impressing Trojans head coach Lane Kiffin and his staff with his adjusted attitude and hard-running style. That, after he suffered a back injury Saturday and came in on his off day Sunday to undergo treatment with the training staff.

"He really could've been held out of practice," Kiffin said of McNeal on Tuesday, "but he came out here and practiced extremely hard."

Kiffin said Tyler was nowhere near passing the mandatory post-concussion test he took after suffering the injury, so it appears he could be out for a while. Tyler has only practiced one day fully healthy this spring.

Baxter said Saturday is his target date at this point but also sounded like he could wait longer to be safe. The Trojans have only five practices left until the fall camp, meaning there will be a roughly eight- or nine-week break from official practices after next Saturday's spring game.

When Baxter and Tyler do return, McNeal will likely go back to receiving minimal carries in practice, but he seems to have carved a niche for himself as a break back and special-teams ace in 2011, if he is able to regain his academic eligibility. Morgan has gained on Baxter in the spring, it appears, and could easily be Tyler's primary backup in the fall.