Morgan's timely return provides needed depth
OCT 08, 2012 11:52p ET
"D.J. played the best he's ever played since he's been here," Kiffin said. "He ran tough. Before that we had him in on some pass protection stuff before the injuries.
"(It was) great to see for a guy that hadn't been hit."
Morgan was sidelined after undergoing knee surgery in September. He didn't return to practice until after USC's game against Cal.
His efforts against Utah were timely as well. Morgan's impact in the third quarter was at a time of need for the Trojans. Curtis McNeal's lone carry of the game was negated because of a penalty, leaving him with no official carries in the last game. He left the game with a reported concussion.
After carrying the ball 17 times for 77 yards, Silas Redd left the game with an undisclosed injury, paving the way for Morgan.
The redshirt sophomore carried the ball nine times for 46 yards. He entered the game with just 25 yards on the season on seven carries -- all coming in the season opener against Hawaii in what was previously his only appearance of the season.
The issues of depth at running back may once again be a concern for USC. This is not the first time this season they were without McNeal and Redd during a game. It's the second time in the first five games the Trojans have been without their top two running backs.
The first occurrence was in the loss at Stanford, but in that loss, Morgan was unavailable. Kiffin and offensive coordinator/running backs coach Kennedy Polamalu turned to Soma Vainuku, to his surprise. He carried the ball just twice for six yards against the Cardinal after McNeal and Redd were able to return to the game.
The backs have to be prepared to carry a large load in case injuries occur in games like they did at Stanford and at Utah.
"We try to practice our guys a lot like that when they're healthy. Unfortunately, really the whole season we haven't (had) those three guys really, truly healthy," Kiffin said of McNeal, Morgan, and Redd. "We just got to continue to work with the guys and whoever's in there is going to have to shoulder the load."
Last Thursday, that happened to be Morgan.