It's tough to call the move of Tre Madden from linebacker to tailback a success after just one practice at the position. But it was tougher not to notice the grin plastered across the face of running backs coach Kennedy Polamalu after Tuesday's practice. The normally stoic Polamalu is consistent in tempering expectations and taking things one day at a time. But he couldn't hide his excitement after coaching Madden for only a few hours.
"It was fun watching him," Polamalu said. "Believe me, he looked like a football player back there."
With Buck Allen still nursing a hamstring injury, the Trojans were down to just two scholarship backs before Madden's move, as senior starter Curtis McNeal and redshirt sophomore D.J. Morgan took virtually every rep. Polamalu was grateful that Madden, at 226 pounds, will supply some depth at the position, but he also commented on the fact Madden brings a fairly unique skill set.
"I've watched what he does in the strength coaches' agility drills," Polamalu said. "The way he turns, the way he drops his pads, the way he can turn-toe and the way he can catch the football. He's just an athlete. And he ran a really good 40 time."
Asked what the 40 time was, Polamalu simply said, "It made me smile."
Lane Kiffin said later that it was an electronic 4.5, which registered as one of the fastest on the entire team.
Madden's move was suggested by Kiffin, and when all parties signed off on it, Polamalu began working with Madden on some concepts of the position and shadowed him for most of the day, making sure he was lining up correctly. Polamalu said he was pleasantly surprised by the first-day effort. In fact, Polamalu said he had been keeping his eye on Madden since he arrived at USC, wondering if some day he would make the switch.
"Coach Kiffin made a great move to help our depth chart and the young man has bought into it," Polamalu said. "And it's fun for me to have something new to work with."
Kiffin said the coaching staff would allow Madden to work at tailback during Thursday's practice and Saturday's scrimmage before evaluating his performance. From there, a decision will be made whether to continue giving him a shot on offense or move him back to linebacker.
"I'm hoping it's longer," Polamalu said of Madden's scheduled tryout. "We just don't have the depth, and he's so unselfish that he can come over to help us out."