Bradford is prepared to play the Wells role

Times Staff Writer

Now that he is developing a role as a power back in USC’s tailback rotation, Allen Bradford is about to take a star turn.

Coach Pete Carroll said Wednesday that along with his regular repetitions with the first-unit offense, Bradford would likely serve as a model for Ohio State’s Chris “Beanie” Wells when the top-ranked Trojans begin focused preparations for the third-ranked Buckeyes.

Bradford, a 5-foot-11, 225-pound junior, had a career-high nine carries, scored a touchdown and caught two passes in the Trojans’ 52-7 season-opening rout at Virginia.


Wells, 6-1 and 237 pounds, suffered a foot injury in the Buckeyes’ victory over Youngstown State. It is doubtful that he will play on Saturday against Ohio, especially with the Sept. 13 game against USC looming.

Ohio State officials remained evasive about Wells’ status.

“Is he injured or does he just have some pain he can play through?” running backs coach Dick Tressel said Wednesday.

If Wells does not play on Saturday, the Buckeyes would probably use four running backs.

“If I could get each of them about 15 carries, I’d have a good weekend,” Tressel said.

Tressel might want to call Todd McNair.

In 2005, McNair divvied up the opportunities -- and psychological strokes -- between Reggie Bush and LenDale White nearly to perfection, both tailbacks going into the regular-season finale with the same amount of carries.

Against Virginia, the Trojans mainly played four tailbacks. All touched the ball between nine and 11 times.


Along with Bradford’s 11 touches, sophomore Joe McKnight rushed six times and caught four passes. Sophomore C.J. Gable and junior Stafon Johnson each had nine carries.

Together, they produced 202 rushing yards, 39 yards receiving and four touchdowns.

“I’ve got a good feel for that stuff,” McNair said of his knack for dividing carries equally.

But was it enough to keep all of them happy?

“The score says it all, so it was enough for me,” McKnight said after the game on Saturday.

Bradford, the odd man out last season, agreed.

“It’s good to get the chance to show what I can do,” he said.

McNair will attempt to continue the delicate balancing act as the Trojans prepare for Ohio State. The coach wants to keep his charges happy, but did not rule out going mainly with one or two players with a hot hand.

“The main thing,” he said, “is win the game.”

After two years of waiting for his turn, Bradford is happy to finally figure in McNair’s equation.

“He told me, ‘When it’s time to pound the rock, I’m going to put you in there,’ ” Bradford said.

Staying mindful

USC has an open date on Saturday, but quarterback Mark Sanchez is preparing as if Ohio State is coming to town a week early.

“I’m thinking about them every day, trying to prepare like were playing . . . like we’re suiting up and playing at 5 o’clock just like we will the week after,” Sanchez said.

Quick kicks

Senior guard Jeff Byers said he wore padding on his left hand to protect a broken ring finger he suffered a few weeks ago. . . . As per the bye-week plan to play younger players, freshman Tyron Smith worked with the first-team offense at left tackle. . . . Freshman cornerback T.J. Bryant, who had shoulder surgery in the off-season, has been cleared for full contact, Carroll said. . . . Freshman offensive lineman Matt Kalil suffered a knee strain on Tuesday and did not practice. . . . A contingent of Trojans football players is scheduled to visit USC Women’s and Children’s Hospital today.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.