It’s no secret that the Trojans are thin in the backfield. Marc Tyler, Amir Carlisle and Dillon Baxter are long gone, with Curtis McNeal and D.J. Morgan left to hold down the fort. McNeal will start for SC, but the reality of the modern game, is that a two running back system is far superior to having a having just one featured back. Need proof? Look at Arkansas and Oregon over the last five to seven years, as both schools featured backfields with three NFL caliber backs at one point.
September 3, 2011; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Southern California Trojans running back D.J. Morgan (30) runs the ball against the Minnesota Golden Gophers during the second half at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-US PRESSWIRE
But while Spring Ball will be a giant conditioning program for Curtis McNeal, the lack of depth in the Trojans backfield puts pressure squarely on the shoulders of D.J. Morgan. Morgan got plenty of reps early in 2011, before injuries and his tendency to fumble the football, took over his game. This spring however, Michael Lev of the Orange Country Register saysthat Morgan is peaking in terms of health and confidence, and that’s exactly what the Trojans need.
While the Lane Kiffin dog house was filled with Dillon Baxter for a majority of the time, it could have been taken that Morgan was in with him last fall. After his troubles holding onto the football coincided with a nagging knee injury, Morgan stopped seeing action and McNeal took over the first team duties and ended up surpassing the 1,000 yard mark for the Trojans. According to the article by Lev, Morgan’s mojo was the weak link, and as a freshman in Lane Kiffin’s system, you can’t blame him. The Trojans were a different animal in 2011 and struggled to find their offensive identity early on, and much of that time was with Morgan starting at tailback, so it’s not a surprise that the stresses of playing college football wove their way into the conscience of D.J. Morgan.
That makes this spring that much more valuable for Morgan, as his health should enable the sophomore to slow the game down and adapt to the college game with more confidence. All eyes will be on him should Curtis McNeal have any trouble in 2012, and it’s not any stretch of the imagination to hint at D.J. Morgan being one of the most crucial parts of the USC offense, because of that. He won the starting job out of training camp last August, so there’s no reason to believe he won’t be able to excel in camp.