McNeal's focus hasn't changed much

LOS ANGELES -- Three weeks ago, Curtis McNeal had never heard the name Silas Redd, never seen a single one of his 321 career carries at Penn State, never thought about him for one second.

Now, he's sharing the USC Trojans' backfield with him. And he doesn't mind it one bit, he says.

"He's gonna help our team become better, so I have no problem with him being here," said McNeal, USC's incumbent starting running back, who rushed for 1,005 yards in 2011. "We're gonna need every guy we can get."

Before adding Redd, the Trojans had just three scholarship running backs on the roster: McNeal, a senior; D.J. Morgan, a third-year sophomore; and redshirt freshman Buck Allen. Last season, Morgan started the first two games but ended up carrying the ball only 42 times, so McNeal wouldn't exactly have had very experienced backups.

"The coaches said we weren't deep enough, so we weren't deep enough," McNeal said. "It was only me, D.J. and Buck, so adding another guy will only make us better."

McNeal has earned praise from Trojans coach Lane Kiffin so far in camp for responding well to Redd's sudden transfer and finishing up long runs regularly. Without pads in practice, it looks as though he has added a little quickness to his usual game.

He says he's simply "playing faster."

"I'm comfortable in the offense, I know everything, and I know what the defense is gonna do before they do it, so I'm just playing faster," McNeal said.

McNeal says he has been impressed by what he has seen from Redd on the field but did admit that the two are "fairly similar" running backs, from his perspective. Considering his pass-catching pedigree and lighter frame, Redd might be the preferred third-down back and McNeal might be the choice for grind-it-out situations.

"He has his strengths, and I have my strengths," McNeal said.

McNeal and Redd, who share neighboring lockers in the John McKay Center, have gotten along in the brief time they've known each other. But McNeal still hasn't seen any of Redd's Penn State tape, and doesn't plan on doing so at any point.

He's going to judge his new backfield mate solely on what he's producing in practice with the Trojans.