November 1, 2007

Insider: Stafon ready to give needed boost

A fan handed Stafon Johnson a football card and a permanent marker. The sophomore signed a picture of himself running past a Washington defender and said, "Shoot, this is the last game I played."

The photo was nearly five weeks old.

Johnson carried eight times for 47 yards at Notre Dame two weeks ago and rushed three times for nine yards at Oregon last week.

"Mentally, physically, I wasn't into the game," the tailback said of his first Saturdays back from a sprained left foot.

When Johnson carries more than three times per game, USC is 5-0 and averages at least five yards per rush. In the other three games - two of which he sat out - the Trojans are 1-2 and average fewer than four yards per carry.

Saturday against Oregon State, Johnson figures to become a focal point of the Trojans' offense, once again. Coach Pete Carroll has commended his second-leading rusher for looking healthy and more confident this week.

Johnson still feels discomfort in his foot, but it is healing. He has grown more accustomed to playing with it, as well.

"It's making me better," Johnson said of the injury. The injury limits the spring off his "tippy-toes," so he has had to adjust his running style.

He described the new approach as, "Run flat footed, make certain cuts shorter than long. Usually, you can't make elongated steps. … Kind of gradually (build speed), instead of just exploding."

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