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D.J. Shoemate 'ready to work' at UConn

D.J. Shoemate was talking about the differences between the Connecticut no-huddle offense and the USC attack when he slipped up and referred to the Trojans as "we."

"Sorry," he said, "I've got to stop using 'we' with them."

The momentary lapse is easily understood. Shoemate, after all, has only been a Husky a little more than a month after spending two years in L.A. Besides, Shoemate is fitting right in with the blue-collar attitude of Randy Edsall after spending his early career in the glitz and glamor of Pete Carroll's program.

Just listen to how he responds when asked about what his role will be for the 2010 season:

"I know you can expect hard work," he said. "I know you can expect pushing through adversity and hardships. As far as specifics, I don't necessarily know that. But whatever it may be, I'm here to work."

Shoemate could never have imagined himself in Storrs a couple of years ago. The California native was ranked as the No. 5 athlete in the high school class of 2008 after a standout prep career at receiver and running back. But USC never seemed quite sure what to do with him, using him on special teams, at receiver and at fullback, always sparingly. When the Trojans went on probation this summer and players were free to transfer with no penalties, Shoemate jumped at the chance.

"I loved every moment at USC," he said. "I just wasn't happy playing fullback. I felt like I had so much more to contribute to the team."

Shoemate admits he would not have known anything about UConn if not for high school teammate Johnny McEntee, who's a backup quarterback with the Huskies.

"UConn didn't have a lot of exposure on the West Coast," he says. "It's definitely because of Johnny and him playing here that I got the idea."

The more he investigated the Huskies, the more he liked. On his visit to Storrs this summer, Shoemate watched film of UConn's linemen opening up gaping holes for Andre Dixon and Jordan Todman, both of whom ran for more than 1,000 yards last season. And he knew Donald Brown had run for 2,000 yards and was selected in the first round of the NFL draft the previous year.

"I thought, this is not just a fluke," he said. "These guys are producing out here and they're the real deal."

But Edsall didn't guarantee Shoemate anything. In fact, he's coming into a situation where there's already a clear No. 1 tailback, since Todman rushed for more than 1,100 yards in 2009 and is only a junior. Some might balk at that situation.

Not Shoemate.

"When you think about it, I did go to USC," he said. "You've got to think about how many guys were in the depth chart there. I'm never going to be afraid of competition.

"One person is not going to get every play, every single run. We're definitely a unit, and we need to continue to be a unit so that we can grow. We're trying to make this Running Back University -- RBU."

Notice that he was using the "we" for the proper team there.