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Tuesday, August 30, 2011
McNeal volunteers to play special teams

By Pedro Moura

There's only four days left until the season opener and the USC Trojans still haven't picked out a starting running back for the Minnesota game.

So what did Curtis McNeal, one of the competitors for that spot, do recently? He asked special-teams coordinator John Baxter if he could get as involved as possible on that unit, including not only kick and punt returning but gunning and all the other normal duties of special-teamers.

"I volunteered to play any position on special teams," McNeal said Tuesday. "Coach Baxter said they're going to throw me in the game, so I'm going to play whatever he throws me at."

At 5-7, 180 pounds with legitimate speed, McNeal has always been under consideration for the returner spots. But his somewhat-slight frame could also make him a valuable participant on various special-teams units, and you can bet that Baxter will explore every single possibility for the best fit for McNeal.

Other big-time contributors to special teams for the Trojans include linebacker/tight end Ross Cumming, cornerback Tony Burnett, safety Demetrius Wright and tight end Rhett Ellison. USC uses more regular contributors to offense and defense on its special-teams units than most programs normally do.

Most of that can be attributed to Baxter.