He is healthy and happy
Joe McKnight is not taking any chances.
During USC’s 2008 training camp, he suffered a bone fracture in a finger when a dorm-room door was accidentally slammed on his hand. It was one of several freakish injuries and maladies that marred the running back’s sophomore season.
So McKnight is playing it safe in 2009.
“I’ve got no fingers by the door,” McKnight said, chuckling. “I’m not even opening doors in camp.”
McKnight has completed the first two days of 2009 workouts, meetings and down time without incident.
And on Sunday, the fleet-footed Louisiana native once again showed no ill effects from having suffered four dislocated toes in the Rose Bowl.
“It feels so good to be healthy,” he said.
McKnight was statistically impressive last season despite his physical struggles.
He was the Trojans’ second-leading rusher and averaged 7.4 yards a carry. He also caught 21 passes.
But McKnight scored only three touchdowns and felt as if he let down teammates.
“I want to produce more and make more plays to try and make up for the last two years,” he said.
McKnight, who broke off a head-turning run for the second consecutive day, said he was “really having fun” in his third training camp with the Trojans. His comfort was evident in interactions with the fans surrounding him for autographs after practice and the media hounding him for interviews.
“I’m more relaxed, more comfortable,” he said. “I came out of my little box a little bit and I’m showing myself, my personality a little bit.”
Like McKnight, running back Allen Bradford also has looked sharp after returning from injury.
Bradford, a fourth-year junior, redshirted last season when a hip problem required surgery. He did not participate in contact drills in spring practice but worked his way back into shape during summer workouts.
“I think I’m getting a fair shot,” said the 5-foot-11, 237-pounder. “With each carry I’m just trying to make the most out of the opportunity.”
Running backs coach Todd McNair is looking forward to watching Bradford during today’s practice, when the Trojans will don shoulder pads for the first time.
“He’s matured so much,” McNair said. “He understands who he is and he’s playing like the big strong kid that he is.”
Aaron Corp had another solid day and showed no signs of surrendering his hold on the starting job.
Matt Barkley also continued to impress, but practice ended on what would have been an intercepted pass if safety Will Harris held onto the ball.
Coach Pete Carroll said fans have been offering plenty of post-practice feedback on the quarterback situation.
“Everybody dropped their opinions on me . . . but I’m going to wait and watch the film,” Carroll said.
Senior offensive lineman Jeff Byers delivered the biggest hit of the day on a downfield block against freshman linebacker Kevin Greene. “He didn’t unload on the guy, he just made sure he made his block,” Carroll said. . . . Freshman defensive back Byron Moore blocked a field-goal attempt. . . . Freshman safety T.J. McDonald (ankle) and redshirt freshman defensive end Nick Perry (concussion) did not practice. . . . Carroll said the eligibility status of senior linebacker Luthur Brown and incoming freshman defensive back Patrick Hall would probably be determined by midweek. . . . The Trojans practice today at 3 p.m.