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USC Practice Notes: Bradford Relishes Underdog Role

Patrick Crawley |
August 5, 2010 | 12:55 a.m. PDT

Sports Editor

There were a lot of cliches batted around after USC's first practice Wednesday.

The discussion revolved mostly around how refreshing it was to get out to the field and set aside offseason distractions--as Matt Barkley said, “It was a sigh of relief just to forget about everything else and focus on football." But one player in particular stood out as having something to say: senior tailback Allen Bradford.

Bradford said he's looking forward to getting more carries this season and welcomes the challenge of USC being the underdog for once--Oregon edged out USC as the media pick to win the Pac-10 for the first time in seven years earlier this week. 

"We got a big chip on our shoulder, a real big chip," Bradford said. "I'm glad not everybody has us at the top of the Pac-10."

He added that the team isn't focused on being first in the AP Top 25 poll, the only team award they're eligible for this season. Instead they're going to try to win as many games as they can in an effort to prove the critics wrong.

"We're playing for tradition," Bradford said. "We're playing for our school. And we're playing for ourselves."

When asked to grade the team's first practice, Bradford was critically honest.

"I think it was a B-minus," he said. "Coach Kiffin had to get us together during the practice and tell us that we have to pick up the tempo, that it's no longer a walk-through."

He said he was partially to blame for the slow start, having arrived late because of a visit to see his daughter, but was able to pick up the intensity after Kiffin's talk.

"That's something that the seniors have to take control of," he said of setting the tempo for the team. "If we lead they're going to follow."

From Bradford's performance in practice and his interview after it, it's clear he's ready to take on more of a leadership role this season.

Other notes from practice:

- An already depleted offensive line looked even more depleted Wednesday due to the absences of starting tackles Matt Kalil and Tyron Smith. Kalil was nursing a hamstring injury, while Smith was excused to attend a family funeral and arrived too late to suit up. Reserves Butch Lewis and Kevin Graf filled in in their absence.

- Defensive end Armond Armstead missed practice as well. Kiffin said afterward that Armstead was dehydrated and received an IV.

- Safety Drew McAllister was back on the field after missing all of spring practice. He participated as part of the second team, behind Jawanza Starling and T.J. McDonald.

- Tight end Rhett Ellison made his return as well, albeit in a new role. He backed up Stanley Havili at fullback, a move that Kiffin thinks could be permanent. “We have one scholarship fullback right now, which is Stanley, who we don’t want to beat up a lot,” Kiffin said.

- Asked to identify the day's best performers, Kiffin named the usual guys: Matt Barkley, Ronald Johnson and Dillon Baxter. He said Baxter is making great strides in learning the offense.

- Freshman wide receivers Markeith Ambles and Robert Woods showed a lot of potential in their first practice with the team, earning praise from Kiffin. "Markeith seems to be really smooth," Kiffin said. "Robert seems to be really, really fast. They're in really good shape right now for having one practice with us." Meanwhile, Christian Thomas of Palmdale showed the most promise of USC's three freshmen tight ends.

- University president Max Nikias and athletic director Pat Haden attended practice, rounding out USC's new regime. Haden was in good spirits on his second day on the job, joking around with Nikias and CBS' Jim Hill.

To reach editor Patrick Crawley, click here.



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