USC tailback Allen Bradford has waited patiently for his chance.
He starred on special teams for two seasons. Broke off highlight-reel plays almost daily last spring and during fall training camp.
The powerful junior from San Bernardino, coaches said, would be part of the tailback rotation.
But after getting no carries in the Trojans’ loss at Oregon State, Bradford could not contain his frustration.
“Even with as many tailbacks that we have, I shouldn’t be going through this,” Bradford said Monday after practice. “I just want to play. I came here to play.”
The 5-foot-11, 225-pound Bradford, who starred at running back and linebacker at Colton High, did not rail. He spoke quietly about his situation and acknowledged that fellow junior Stafon Johnson and sophomores C.J. Gable and Joe McKnight also were talented backs.
But that did not ease the sting of not carrying the ball once in a game when the Trojans managed only 86 rushing yards and McKnight struggled and fumbled.
“I don’t want to sound selfish, but I put in hard work and competed and practiced hard -- I’ve done everything I’ve been asked,” Bradford said. “I just feel I could do more. No carries, and we lost.”
Offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian said the game plan for Oregon State included plays for Bradford, who gained 57 yards in 14 carries against Virginia and Ohio State.
“It wasn’t for a lack of wanting him to carry the ball,” Sarkisian said. “We were trying. It just didn’t pan out the way we wanted it to.”
Running backs coach Todd McNair said quarterback Mark Sanchez audibled out of one running play for Bradford and that McKnight kept the ball rather than handing off to Bradford on a play that resulted in a fumble.
Bradford fell down on one potential pass play and dropped the ball on another.
Asked if there would be a change in the backfield rotation for Saturday’s game against No. 23 Oregon, Coach Pete Carroll said, “We’ll have to wait and see.”
Bradford said that he would continue to work hard but that he had waited long enough and would not speak to coaches about his frustration.
“I’m a junior,” he said. “I shouldn’t have to talk to them about getting the ball.”
Clay Matthews will start at defensive end or possibly linebacker against Oregon depending on middle linebacker Rey Maualuga’s status, Carroll said.
“He’s just been too effective to keep him on the sideline,” Carroll said.
Matthews, a senior, made five tackles at end against Oregon State and outperformed sophomore starter Everson Griffen, who had three tackles but missed several assignments.
“Everson didn’t play as well or as hard as he needs to, and he knows it,” defensive coordinator Nick Holt said.
Maualuga suffered a sprained medial collateral ligament in his right knee when another player fell on his leg against Oregon State. He wore a brace Monday, did rehabilitation exercises on the sideline and said he would try to play Saturday.
Carroll said Brian Cushing or redshirt freshman Chris Galippo could play middle linebacker if Maualuga is unavailable. If Cushing moves from the outside to the middle, Matthews might start in Cushing’s outside spot.
Alex Parsons appears on track to start at right guard in place of Zack Heberer (toe sprain) and receiver Damian Williams could start in place of Vidal Hazelton.
“Damian Williams has played really good football,” Carroll said. “He’s just earning his way, and that’s what this competition is all about.”