Spring Preview: Tailbacks

With the departures of Stafon Johnson and Joe McKnight, Allen Bradford now finds himself at the top of the depth chart in a backfield that isn't nearly as crowded as it once was. "It feels great but I'm not letting it get to my head," Bradford said. "I am working and preparing like I am the last man on the depth chart." Look inside for more.

One of the players that should benefit from USC's recent coaching change is tailback Allen Bradford.

Unlike Pete Carroll, new head coach Lane Kiffin isn't fond of the running back by committee approach, so the bruising tailback will likely be a workhorse for the offense, and receive the bulk of the carries.

Bradford rushed for 668 yards and 8 touchdowns last season while sharing time with Joe McKnight and Stafon Johnson, but in 2010 USC fans will finally get to see what he can do as the featured back.

With the departure of Johnson and McKnight, Bradford now finds himself at the top of the depth chart in a backfield that isn't nearly as crowded as it once was.

"It feels great but I'm not letting it get to my head," Bradford said. "I am working and preparing like I am the last man on the depth chart. I am just going to go out there, do what I can do, and play hard."

The 5-11, 235-pound back is having a terrific offseason, emerging as the clear leader on the offensive side of the ball with his no-nonsense approach and respected work ethic.

"I am in their face. I talk because that is what we need. I am not going to sugarcoat anything," Bradford said. "I think a lot of guys respect me because of what I bring to the table and what I bring on the field. I bring a lot of energy and a lot of guys respect that."

For an offense that lost some of its toughness and physical approach in recent seasons, having a veteran leader like Allen Bradford is the perfect fit for the coming season. Bradford's toughness has been on display throughout his trying career that has included a position switch and injuries.

"I have been through so much throughout my career, and I am just showing that hard work pays off," he said. "I just got to take care of my body and be ready."

Just like Justin Fargas embodied the physical nature of Pete Carroll's early teams at USC with his straight-ahead running style, Allen Bradford has the potential to set the tone for the Kiffin era with a strong senior season for the Trojans.

For fellow running back C.J. Gable, Spring truly does bring a new beginning.

The recent coaching change provides Gable an opportunity to impress the new staff, and work his way into an expanded role in the offense.

The senior tailback has looked like a new man this offseason, bulking up to 212 pounds, thanks to a new attitude and new strength coach.

"(Aaron) Ausmus is getting us big. I like his work. I am going in there working real hard and sweating out of my mind," Gable said. "With him, he is in there with us when we are doing squats, pushing us and making us to go even harder."

Gable has also been sporting a wide smile on his face, something that disappeared the past couple of years, along with his playing time.

"Sitting out last year was the worst that I have ever felt in my life," he said. "I didn't like that."

After becoming the first USC true freshman to ever start the season opener at tailback in 2006, Gable appeared to be in Carroll's doghouse in 2009 and had a very limited role as a result. But the experienced senior has a legit opportunity to secure the No.2 spot on depth chart with a solid showing during spring practice and fall camp.

"I feel like I haven't lived up to the hype with my freshman year and I just want to show people that I am the real deal," he said.

Gable will get plenty of competition from Marc Tyler and Curtis McNeal.

Tyler has shown flashes in practice of why he was so highly regarded coming out of Oaks Christian High School in 2007, but has been slowed by various injuries throughout his USC career.

The 6-0, 225-pound tailback is coming off toe surgery, but when healthy he has the potential to push Gable for the No.2 spot and be a solid contributor.

The 2010 season will be a very important year for Tyler to establish himself and receive regular carries.

Spring practice will also provide our first glimpse into how Kiffin will use multi-talented freshman Dillon Baxter in the offense, and if the players-only 7-on-7 workouts are any indication, he could certainly have a role catching the ball out of the backfield this coming season.

Baxter's athleticism was evident from the moment that he stepped on campus as an early enrollee, making catch after catch during the offseason throwing drills.

The silky smooth athlete from Mission Bay High School displayed above average hands, good route running skills and has a remarkable ability to get separation from defensive backs coming out of his cuts.

He also has quite a bit of swagger and won't be intimidated to compete for playing time with some talented upperclassmen.

Allen Bradford and C.J. Gable are looking to have strong senior seasons in 2010.

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