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USC Happy To Welcome Venice High’s McNeal:

On national football signing day February 6 USC concentrated on linemen rather than so-called skill position players.

 An exception was Curtis McNeal, one of Venice High’s stars the last two years.

 “He’s the only guy we’re expecting to come out of the backfield for us next season in this recruiting class,” said Coach Pete Carroll.

 “He’s a phenomenally productive kid. I saw him on film two years ago when he scored 42 touchdowns as a junior and 36 this season. He can run and catch and do all the stuff that you want. This is a really exciting guy.”

 Carroll pointed out that McNeal is outstanding as a defensive back too. But the Trojans’ plan is to take a look at McNeal as a kick returner at first – a replacement for Desmond Reed, who graduated. And if McNeal does well he would share return duties with Joe McKnight, who had numerous memorable moments as a freshman this season.

 At 5-foot-8, 180, McNeal would have to show he can take a pounding at the major college level before becoming a prominent running back. But expect him to catch some passes out of the backfield.

 A measuring stick of Westside players is how they fare against Santa Monica High. McNeal gained more than 200 yards against Samohi each of the last two years and scored four touchdowns at Corsair Field in 2007. Venice won both games.

 USC had 10 tailbacks at the start of the 2007 season and most of them are back and will begin competing again when spring practice starts in March.

 McKnight emerged late in the season, Stefon Johnson gained 105 yards in the 49-17 rout of Illinois in the Rose Bowl Game, and Broderick Green, a powerful back who redshirted, looks like the inside-running replacement for Chauncey Washington.

 USC also saw no need to sign a quarterback despite the graduation of John David Booty because there are three strong candidates in the program – Mark Sanchez, Mitch Mustain, and Aaron Corp.

 It is expected that USC will be ranked in the nation’s top three when it begins the 2008 season August 30 at Virginia. Following a bye, USC will host Ohio State September 13.

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