Silas Redd makes smooth move from Penn St. to USC
Silas Redd still hasn’t seen any beaches or waves in Southern California. He’s been too busy in the sweltering heat downtown, cramming an entire offseason into one month of frenzied preparation.
And despite the rush, nearly everything about the former Penn State tailback’s transition to the Trojans has been remarkably smooth.
”I can’t believe it’s only been a month,” Redd said after a morning practice this week. ”It’s been a busy month. I haven’t been able to experience much so far. Football and school takes up a lot of my time, but I’m going to get out.”
A few weeks after Redd transferred to USC in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal, the junior has been named a co-starter for the top-ranked Trojans heading into Saturday’s opener against Hawaii. He has absorbed the Trojans’ offense with a speed that has impressed his new coaches and teammates, and he’s already feeling connected to the laid-back vibe on USC’s sun-soaked campus.
For a Connecticut product who grew up dreaming of playing for Joe Paterno, this West Coast move was thoroughly unexpected – but he’s already glad he did it. He’s even wearing the same No. 25 jersey he wore in Happy Valley.
Redd said he chose the Trojans ”just to be a part of something great. They had a great team without me, and I don’t think I hurt the team.”
The Trojans are certain he’ll do quite the opposite. On a roster loaded with elite offensive talent, Redd is determined to be just another complementary piece around quarterback Matt Barkley – and he has worked overtime for the last month to get up to speed.
”He’s a very bright kid, and he’s fun to be around,” said Kennedy Polamalu, the Trojans’ offensive coordinator. ”He still has some mental lapses, but he’s so hard on himself. When he makes a mistake, he’s so determined not to let it happen twice. You just know he has a bright future.”
When he moved to USC, Redd already had a few tentative friendships with some Trojans. He played Pop Warner ball in middle school in Connecticut with USC backup quarterback Max Wittek, whose family eventually moved back to Orange County.
Redd said he has been welcomed by the entire team, but he’s particularly happy about his burgeoning friendship with Curtis McNeal, the undersized tailback who emerged as the Trojans’ best ball-carrier last fall during a 1,005-yard season. Redd racked up 1,241 yards for Penn State last year.
McNeal realizes everybody was waiting to see whether he would feel threatened by Redd’s arrival. After persevering through academic problems and clawing his way up the Trojans’ depth chart over the past three years, McNeal expected no problems – and when he saw Redd wearing a Yankees hat, he knew everything would be fine.
”I asked him if he was a Yankee fan. He said, `Yeah,”’ recalled McNeal, a Southern California native. ”I said, `That’s crazy, because I’m a Yankee fan.’ And then all of a sudden he said, `I’m a Laker fan,’ and I said, `That’s crazy, because I’m a Laker fan.’ From there on, we just figured out we’re like the same guy. We bonded from there on out.”
Redd, who embraced the Lakers as a kid because his older brother did, praises McNeal for taking ”that big-brother role with me.” They’re playing video games and going to dinner together now, taking a crash course in positional bonding.
”I just treat him like a Trojan, treat him like a brother,” McNeal said. ”He came from a different place, but once you’re here, you’re a Trojan. He’s from the East Coast, but we like similar things. We just bonded right from the get-go.”
The tailbacks don’t know who will be on the field for the first play, and neither cares. McNeal believes the Trojans need at least two experienced ball-carriers, and Redd provides depth at a thin spot.
USC has had prodigious depth at tailback for most of the past decade, since shortly after former coach Pete Carroll took over and turned Tailback U into Tailbacks U. But that depth eroded last season, from touted prospect Dillon Baxter’s spectacular flameout with numerous disciplinary problems to Amir Carlisle’s surprising decision to transfer to Notre Dame last winter.
Redd and McNeal were both fans of Reggie Bush and LenDale White, the USC tailback duo dubbed ”Thunder and Lightning” while carving up opposing defenses in the middle of the previous decade. McNeal said he and Redd ”aren’t the Reggie and LenDale type,” but they’ll provide their own difficult looks for defenses.
”I think he’s been great,” Barkley said of Redd. ”He learned the offense very quickly and came on board. It’s pretty easy for him, it seemed like, just with the inside zone that we run and all our blocking schemes. He picked it up quickly. I think that combination of him and Curtis will be really effective for us.”
Redd knows he was branded a traitor by some Penn State fans, but he heard from many others who wished him well. He’s even grateful for the experience of navigating the Sandusky scandal, saying it taught him how to ”adapt to any adversity.”
”A college player doesn’t really go through that too often,” Redd said. ”Being able to go through that and overcome should help any transition or adversity I might face for the rest of my life.”