It’s been a long road, but if the last three days of fall camp are any indication, redshirt sophomore Tre Madden is officially back, and poised to make a major contribution at tailback for USC this fall.
A converted linebacker who emerged as a star of the spring in 2012 before going down with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, he would eventually return to action with the team this past March, but was ultimately kept out of contact drills during spring ball.
Now fully cleared for action, he’s been thrown right into the fire this August, and the good news is that he’s more than risen to the challenge.
With Silas Redd and D.J. Morgan still limited as they continue to ease their way back from injuries, Madden -- along with freshman Justin Davis -- has appeared to carry the bulk of the load with the first-team offense so far, making a big impression with his play, even though it’s a new beginning of sorts for the Mission Viejo (Calif.) product.
“It feels great,” Madden said Monday. “It’s my first official fall camp as a running back, so I’m really just trying to get all of the plays down, to avoid making any mental errors out here, and just going full speed and trying to make the team better. I’m just taking it play by play and trying to get better each and every day. It feels good just to be on the field with the family -- my teammates and the coaches -- and it’s a good feeling just being able to contribute out here.”
And with USC head coach Lane Kiffin appearing to have placed a greater emphasis on establishing a successful, grind-it-out run game this fall, Madden’s re-emergence is happening at just the right time. Possessing a rushing style marked by toughness that looks to mesh nicely with the new philosophy taking shape, he was particularly effective on Monday, the first day that the Trojans donned shoulder pads.
“Having pads on today was good … getting physical and having that contact,” said Madden, who stands 6-foot-1 and weighs in at 225 pounds. “I’m really just emphasizing playing physical on every single play. If it’s protection for a pass, I’m going to go all out to try to protect the quarterback. I’m really focused on being physical in everything I do out here.”
But it’s not just Madden’s aggressive style of play that has drawn notice. Running with a greater level of confidence than he did this past spring, he’s also appeared more fluid in his movement, and his stamina looks to have increased -- something he attributes to his June and July workout regimen on campus.
“I was definitely trying to get in shape this summer,” Madden said. “Back in the spring, I was just coming off my injury so I was a little winded during the practices. So, this summer I was really focused on that. Me and Jahleel [Pinner], we worked out during the week -- running and conditioning. I’m feeling a lot better now.”
It’s a good thing too, because Madden is currently entrenched in a position battle with not only Davis, Redd and Morgan, but also with Javorius Allen and Ty Isaac -- who shined on Monday. And while the competition is at the forefront for everyone involved, Madden is determined to avoid getting too wrapped up in it, choosing instead to focus on the big picture.
“Coming away with the No. 1 job is the goal that we all have -- that’s why we came here,” Madden said. “But I’m not really focused on the competition so much as just getting better every day.”