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September 14, 2005

Bush looks to expand his role for Trojans

LOS ANGELES - Reggie Bush has been a blur for Southern California the past two seasons. Now, as he attempts to help the Trojans win a third straight national championship, he's a bigger blur.

''He bulked up and he got faster. I think he's a lot more explosive,'' USC offensive tackle Winston Justice said.

Bush's speed and versatility have been a crucial component in USC's consecutive championships. Because he's such a good receiver, he can line up all over the field and create confusion for defenses. He's also one of the best kick returners in the nation.

But at less than 200 pounds, Bush has been better suited to racing by defenders than running through them. His goal in the offseason was to change that.

He's up to 203 pounds after adding ''about seven solid pounds.''

''I don't think it's affected my speed at all,'' he said. ''It just adds another dimension, makes it harder for teams to tackle you. Everybody knows what I can do in the open field.''

That's for sure. Bush entered his junior season with 3,661 all-purpose yards and 23 touchdowns in 26 career games. He has produced touchdowns by rushing, receiving, passing, and on kickoff and punt returns.

In USC's season-opening 63-17 victory at Hawaii on Sept. 3, Bush carried 12 times for 86 yards and two touchdowns, caught four passes for 58 yards, and returned a punt for another 14 yards.

Hawaii punted out of bounds most of the time, and Arkansas coach Houston Nutt said the Razorbacks plan to do the same thing Saturday night against No. 1 USC at the Los Angeles Coliseum.

''That is a great question, because I don't think anybody has,'' Nutt said, when asked how to stop Bush. ''I just don't know how. I think he is going to get his. You just hope they are not all 86-yard runs or 90-yard runs where he hits the home run every time.''

Bush finished fifth in the Heisman Trophy voting last year. USC quarterback Matt Leinart won the award, but Bush was voted Trojans MVP by his teammates.

''I wasn't the least bit surprised,'' Leinart said. ''I thought he deserved it. The team is your worst critics, your best critics. They voted for him. I thought it was awesome.''

Leinart called Bush one of the Trojans' hardest workers.

''You can really notice it,'' Leinart said. ''He's always wanted to be a running back first. His role this year has definitely expanded. He can run between the tackles.''

USC coach Pete Carroll said Bush, voted a co-captain by his teammates, is maturing.

''He is growing in ways that great players grow,'' Carroll said. ''He is applying himself in the manner that great players apply themselves. He is finding out what it is like to live with the expectations of playing on a really high level every time you go.

''He is still growing, he has a lot of maturing still to come and he is going to be a great, great player.''

At age 20, Bush already is - at least on the collegiate level.

While Leinart has a chance to join Ohio State's Archie Griffin as the only two-time winner of the Heisman, he and Bush have a shot at becoming the third teammates to win the Heisman in consecutive seasons.

Army's Glenn Davis (1946) and Doc Blanchard ('46) were the last, and Yale's Clint Frank ('37) and Larry Kelley ('36) were the first.

''It would be great to win it again, obviously,'' Leinart said. ''I think Reggie has a great shot at winning it this year. I'm pulling for him, too. I know he'd like to win it - I'm sure he'd rather win (games) first, it (the Heisman) second.''

Bush, who went to Helix High near San Diego - the same school former USC star and Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Allen attended - wouldn't mind adding college football's biggest award to his trophy case.

''Oh yeah, definitely,'' he said with a big smile.

Heisman or no Heisman, Bush's junior season could be his final one at USC.

''Obviously, it's logical,'' he said of turning pro after this year. ''I'm not going to say it's not a possibility, because it is.

''I'm not going to think about it until after the season. My main focus is on this season and this season only, help us win another national championship.''

For more coverage of the USC Trojans, check out USCFootball.com.

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