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June 5, 2009

USC's McKnight taking new approach

Rivals.com College Football
Staff Writer
LOS ANGELES - USC football fans may have heard this before, but this is a new Joe McKnight.

He's healthy for the first time in a long time. He's got a brand new batch of tattoos. And, most important, he's got a new attitude.

Four dislocated toes suffered against Penn State in the Rose Bowl kept McKnight from doing much of anything on the practice field during spring ball.

But watching another chunk of practices changed the talented, versatile runner.

"It was rough this spring," McKnight said. "It just made me hungrier to get out there and make myself better and make this team better. That's my main focus right now. I'm not worrying about anything else except for the team."

McKnight admitted he wasn't 100 percent committed to the Trojans over his first two seasons because he didn't feel completely comfortable. He wasn't necessarily one of the guys.

But that has changed.

"I'm just trying to be more active with the team this year. I wasn't feeling like that the first few years, but now, I'm comfortable," McKnight said. "This is the team I'd rather play with any day, any year. I'm going to remember this forever. I've got that kind of focus - just team. I feel like if I can make this team better, I can make myself better."

McKnight's attitude even showed up in the classroom. After missing last spring because of academic problems, McKnight passed each his classes and finished up fairly well. He also has been working hard in the weight room. But when he's not on his back hoisting up a bench press, he's been on his back in the tattoo chair. McKnight got seven new tattoos since last season, giving him 11 total.

"What can I say? I just like the ink," McKnight said.

Tatted up or not, McKnight showed no signs of injury last week working out with the quarterbacks. McKnight knows the USC offense can be special if it's 100 percent focused - starting now.

"I think we can be really good," he said. "If everyone continues to step up as leaders and everybody stays accountable for their own errors, then everything will be good. We'll be undefeated and national champs.

"But we have to work on the small stuff out here first. Coming out here catching passes from the quarterbacks is where it begins."

Dan Woike is the lead team reporter for USCFootball.com. This will be his second season covering major college football professionally after working at the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago.
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