Madden running with his opportunity

LOS ANGELES -- It's getting tough to overstate how impressive Tre Madden has been during his two days at tailback after making the move from outside linebacker. Head coach Lane Kiffin and running backs coach Kennedy Polamalu have consistently stated that this is still a very small sample size and there is a long way to go before the team is relying on Madden for carries in a game this fall. But they also haven't been shy in expressing how pleased they are with his performance to date.

Madden has had to leave practice early for school reasons Tuesday and Thursday, but he has made the most of his time on the field.

"I feel like I'm getting better," Madden said after practice Thursday. "I think I progressed more today than Tuesday."

Madden said he was especially interested in working on his footwork after his first day at tailback, and did so by watching film with Polamalu. The idea of carrying the ball isn't a foreign concept for Madden, who starred as a Wildcat quarterback in addition to linebacker at Mission Viejo High School. He said the main instruction from Polamalu has been simple.

"He said just don't think too much," Madden said. "He's going to progress me naturally and not force anything."

As for making the switch from being the hunter to the hunted, Madden said he welcomes the challenge.

"I just love football," he said. "All contact is cool for me, and I'll do whatever the team needs me to do."

The switch has come complete with some good-natured ribbing from his former position mates, including Hayes Pullard, Dion Bailey and Anthony Sarao, who all let Madden hear about it on Thursday when Sarao blew past him during one-on-one pass blocking drills. But out of earshot from Madden, Bailey said he has been impressed with his former backup.

"He's looking good," Bailey said. "I don't know what they're going to do, but he's looking good. Tre's a big, physical presence and he has speed behind it. Only time will tell, but he's been looking good his first two days at it. Give him a couple weeks with coach Polamalu and hopefully he can turn him into a first-round back."

As for the face that Madden has had to dodge plenty of playful barbs as well as tackles from the linebacker group, Bailey laughed.

"It's just fun and games," Bailey said. "Him playing my position and being one of my friends on the team, we're just messing with him. He went from one side to the other, and you don't normally do that, so we're giving him a little flack."