LOS ANGELES — By his own admission, D.J. Morgan is a “friendly guy.”
So, when it came time to welcome Silas Redd from Penn State, he did so with open arms. Strange? Perhaps, when you consider Redd and Morgan play the same position.
Stranger if you consider Curtis McNeal had a 1,000-yard season in 2011 only after propelling Morgan for the starting job and Redd is coming off of a 1,000-yard effort himself.
But the Trojans were razor-thin at tailback, ending spring practice with just three scholarship tailbacks. So, when Redd’s name came up as a possibility to join the Trojans, Morgan’s first thoughts were team first.
“We were lacking depth and we needed another running back,” Morgan said. “I wasn’t mad. It’s a team thing.”
When Redd came on his visit, Morgan’s house was one of the places he spent time. The two met in 2010 when they were both Army All-Americans. Seeing Redd in Los Angeles was like a reunion.
“It just so happened when I was pulling up at my house, he pulled up with Marqise Lee and we were all in our house in the living room playing the game and just laughing (and) telling jokes,” Morgan recalls. “He asked us about USC and we just told him the real and obviously he liked it and that’s why he’s here today.”
Since transferring to USC Redd has been thought of as a leading candidate, along with McNeal, to be the Trojans’ starting tailback, and, in a sense, leaving Morgan as the “odd-man” out.
USC head coach Lane Kiffin said Morgan is “improved” and the redshirt sophomore from Taft High School was not the “odd-man out.” Offensive coordinator and running backs coach Kennedy Polamalu shared those sentiments.
“There’s no odd-man out,” Polamalu said. “Remember where Curtis started last year and then at the end of the year (where he was). That’s football.
“Everyone has a role and there’s no odd-man out. They’re pushing each other and they’re helping each other and it’s for the team and that’s what’s exciting.”
Morgan and McNeal have both been helpful in helping Redd get acclimated to the Trojans’ offense, but Morgan keeps in mind he’s in a competition and knows he has to continue to perform.
“It’s up to me to really make myself not the odd-man out,” Morgan said. “I have to know my assignments and be on top of my plays so that I can be a part of the offense this year. “
It may seem strange to consider how helpful the running backs have been in helping Redd adapt, especially when you consider that there are only so many carries to go around. However, Redd says if the shoe was on the other foot, he would “definitely” do the same.
Kiffin attributes Redd’s work ethic to the reason McNeal and Morgan have been so helpful, despite them playing the same position.
“I believe that the way that Silas came and worked from the beginning and the way that he was in meetings and the way he was out here, I think that he earned their respect and I think you see it,” Kiffin said. “I think they respect him because of what they see out here but also who he is when they hang out with him.”
Kiffin says depth at running back is no longer a concern. It’s now up to the players involved to try to separate themselves to see who gets on the field.
“We need to compete,” Morgan said. “It’s only going to make us all better at the end of the day.”