LOS ANGELES -- USC might have a fourth running back after all.
Sophomore linebacker Tre Madden has been moved to running back for at least the next week in what the Trojans are calling an experimental move designed to use the spring session to see if Madden is a good fit for the position.
The 6-foot, 226-pound played wildcat quarterback in high school for nearby Mission Viejo but was recruited by most schools as a linebacker. He started one game for the Trojans in November and starred on special teams throughout his freshman season.
But with no starting spots open at linebacker and depth at a premium at running back, Lane Kiffin called Madden into his office on Sunday to see if he was up for the move.
"We’re just trying it out for this week, seeing how it fits the team," Madden said midway through Tuesday's practice, which he left an hour early for class. "If it doesn’t work out, I’ll go back on D.
"It seems like it’s going to work. But we’re just trying it out for this week, so we don’t know."
So, how did the limited tryout go? Running backs coach Kennedy Polamalu, in a jovial mood following practice, had plenty of good things to say about Madden's first day.
"I don't want to get way ahead of myself, but it was a very good start," Polamalu said.
Madden didn't participate in the 11-on-11 portion of practice because of his early departure, but he did have a couple of impressive runs in team drills -- one in particular that prompted Polamalu's comments.
"Believe me, he looked like a football player out there," Polamalu said. "It's fun for me to have something new to work with."
Kiffin said Madden ran an electronically-timed 4.50-second 40-yard dash during team testing last month, which he spotlighted as one of the team's best times, regardless of position. It means he's faster than Curtis McNeal, the Trojans' No. 1 running back, but slightly slower than D.J. Morgan and, reportedly, redshirt freshman Buck Allen.
Madden said he thought "a little bit" about moving to running back over the offseason but didn't approach the coaches expressing desire to make the switch.
"I knew we were short on depth at running back," he said. "So I thought I could benefit the team."
Now, he'll get a full practice on Thursday and a scrimmage Saturday to make further impressions on Kiffin, Polamalu and Co. Then they'll sit down and make a judgment Sunday, probably for the rest of spring.
"I'm hoping that it's longer [than a week]," Polamalu said Tuesday. "He's so unselfish in the way that he can come over and help us out, because they obviously have pretty good depth over there at linebacker."