On Sunday, USC sophomore linebacker Tre Madden was called in for a private meeting with his head coach, Lane Kiffin.
Something had been on Madden's mind before the meeting. He noticed the lack of depth at tailback and with his experience running the ball in high school, he thought he might be a good fit there. But he waited to say anything.
His head coach didn't.
Within a few moments it turned out that the two were on exactly the same page. On Tuesday, Madden swapped his white defense practice jersey for a cardinal one. Instead of tackling the Trojans' skill players, he became the newest one.
"I was excited because I've always wanted to run the ball but I was recruited here as a linebacker so it's kind of shocking," Madden said.
Tre Madden worked out at tailback during Tuesday’s practice (Kevin Carden Photo).
"Having a week of sitting around and thinking what our team needs and this [spring] is the time to try it," Kiffin said. "It may not work at all but he is -- as you go back and look at our testing and study height/weight/speed -- he would be one of our best guys on our whole team."
At Mission Viejo (Calif.) High, Madden was a wildcat quarterback and sometimes running back. It's been two years since he's been taking hits rather than giving them.
"I missed running the ball," he said.
While Kiffin and Kennedy Polamalu said the experiment will go on all week, if it proves unsuccessful Madden will go back to defense.
"I'm hoping it's longer. We just don't have the depth," Polamalu said. "But well see because he's such a team [player], a selfless kid. That's what makes it fun because he's so unselfish in a way that he can come over and help us out. Because they obviously have pretty good depth there at linebacker."
In Madden's place, the backup linebacker core was comprised of Marquis Simmons, Scott Starr and Anthony Sarao.
Coach Kiffin said the 226-pound Madden ran an electronic 4.5 second 40-yard dash.
"But he gives you a big guy that can run really fast. That's unusual to find; his testing doesn't happen very much," the head coach said. "It doesn't mean that he can play running back but we'll see and if it works out, then we got ourselves something we don't have right now."
Nothing Major, Aside From Missing Spring
Kiffin announced Tuesday that his star receiver Robert Woods would miss the remainder of spring ball. While that sounds like a major deal, Woods assured the media the reason for sitting out was simply "inflammation" on his surgerically-repaired ankle and not something more serious.
"It's nothing major, nothing with ligaments or bone spurs nothing like that," Woods said.
"Coach Kiffin set up another MRI for me [last week] and there was just a little bit of inflammation on the outsides and he just wants to make sure I'm completely healthy and no need to really push it right now during spring."
Woods said if he hadn't played last season, his injury wouldn't have been as chronic. With rest, he hopes next fall will be akin to his freshman season (in which he had a team-high 792 receiving yards and six touchdowns, second only to Ronald Johnson). That year he also went without a spring ball, as he was still enrolled in high school.
The two projected starters at offensive tackle, Aundrey Walker and Kevin Graf, are switching places this week. Before spring break Graf played at left with Walker on the right. As of Tuesday, the two have flipped.
Victor Blackwell had a great day Tuesday in the 11 on 11 portion of the practice, while he struggled in individuals. Late in the day he scored a touchdown off a nice pass from Max Wittek after flashing a little spin move to fend off a defender.
Marqise Lee is as consistent as ever. He remained at an elite level Tuesday, grabbing a 40-yard pass in triple coverage that few could have made. It also helped that Matt Barkley threw it.
Notable injuries and limitations: Ryan Hendersen suffered a concussion, Dion Bailey/George Farmer and Buck Allen all remain limited with pulled hamstrings; Khaled Holmes was limited to snapping only and did not work out in team drills because of a nagging calf strain; Marquis Simmons suffered a shoulder injury and Drew McAllister came out of Tuesday's session with a hand injury. McAllister and Simmons should be getting Xrays soon, according to Kiffin.