USC's D.J. Morgan is just about locked into the No. 2 running back role for the Trojans in 2012, with Curtis McNeal entrenched as the starter and few other viable backups available.
But that role very well could be key this season, considering McNeal's injury history and Lane Kiffin's tendency to call on multiple running backs in his offense.
Of course, Morgan started 2011 as USC's No. 1 running back but lost the job after two games when ball-security issues and lingering knee pain came to a head. Now, the redshirt sophomore is hoping to show both of those are behind him, and he did a nice job proving the latter in track & field this spring.
We caught up with him after a throwing session this week.
Q: What did you accomplish in track and field this season? You hadn't run seriously in roughly three years, since your junior year of high school, and then you go out and run the best 110-meter hurdles time of any USC hurdler all season and qualify for the Pac-12 championships. Seems sort of easy, right?
A: It was getting out there and proving to myself that I can do what I used to do. I was kinda iffy on running track but my dad wanted me to run and, yeah, I went out for my first race and I took fifth in Pac-12 finals and I realized that I'm blessed and I have this talent. It was good for my confidence and to let me know that I can do it.
Q: Having said that, do you envision yourself doing it again next spring? And what would you expect from yourself if you really went full-go in track for a few months straight?
A: I definitely plan on doing it again. I'm sure next year I'll probably weigh more, but I'm not gonna let that stop me. Maybe that'll affect me, but when you take fifth in Pac-12's on your first race and make it to regionals, it's kinda hard to not go back and see what you can do if you dedicate yourself.
Q: How much weight are you planning on gaining, and why are you doing it now?
A: 10 pounds, probably. I did put on weight already, but I want to put on more weight. I came in around 170's and now I'm in the 180's and I want to get up to 195 or so. But I lost a little weight during track, so now I have to put it back on.
Q: So there are a few things you lose when you focus on track instead of football for a time. But do you think there are also some benefits?
A: I feel like track can help you get better at every sport, because you're running in every sport and that's all track really is. Especially with the hurdles -- hurdling is so compatible to football because you come off the hurdle and you have to come full speed and in football you have to make a cut and quickly adjust back to full speed. The hurdles really help me with that, changing direction and all.
Q: There are five, almost six weeks left until fall camp officially begins in August. What are you focusing on in improving in workouts like this in that span?
A: Just being comfortable with the offense. Knowing my plays, knowing the concepts. That's it.
Q: If you do those things, do you feel you have the opportunity to have a consistent, every-game role for this team this season?
A: Yeah, I feel like I have that opportunity. But I feel like that opportunity is there for everybody. You just have to show the coaches what you can do. And hopefully you don't get on their bad sides or anything. But I'm confident -- I just have to perform.
Q: Last thing: the new training facility is getting really close to opening (mid-to-late July). You're a recent recruit and from the L.A. area. Do you think it's going to make a big difference in recruiting going forward, with the coaches finally being able to talk up the facility and not having rival coaches point it out and all?
A: I feel like it is. Me, I don't really care, but I feel like it's a big part of recruiting, because everybody likes the glamour and everything. It evens the playing field for now, but everyone's improving. I heard Oregon's gonna build something new already, so there's always gonna be something against the school.