The only question was whether another running back is what the Saints need most, given that McAllister is entering the second year of an eight-year, $50.1 million contract. McAllister, however, is rehabilitating a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee.
Payton called Bush “someone that I know gives us a lot of flexibility. There’ll be the ability for us to put he and Deuce in same backfield. There will be a lot of questions in regards to two backs. These are good problems to have and we are looking forward to it.”
The 6-foot, 200-pound Bush, who turned 21 last month, had 1,740 yards rushing and 2,890 all-purpose yards for the 2005 Trojans, whose 41-38 loss to Texas in the Rose Bowl prevented them from winning a third-straight national championship.
Bush averaged 8.9 yards a carry last season, caught 37 passes for 478 yards and led the nation in all-purpose yards with 222.3 per game. He shared the tailback position for three years with LenDale White, and the two combined for 99 career touchdowns to break the NCAA record of 97 set by Army’s Glenn Davis and Felix “Doc” Blanchard from 1943-46.
Payton said the model USC used with Bush and White is similar to what New Orleans would likely do with Bush and McAllister.
The Saints still needed help on offensive line following the loss of free-agent center LeCharles Bentley and the trade of left tackle Wayne Gandy. They traded their second pick, 34th overall, to Cleveland for Browns center Jeff Faine and Cleveland’s second-round pick, nine spots lower. New Orleans then chose Alabama safety Roman Harper at 43rd overall.
New Orleans also wanted to strengthen its linebacker corps, but were not scheduled to pick again until the fourth round. Houston had acquired New Orleans’ third-round pick in a draft-day trade last year.
The Saints had shown interest in Virginia left tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson, who was selected at No. 4 by the New York Jets, and Ohio State linebacker A.J. Hawk, taken at No. 5 by Green Bay. The Saints met with both a little more than a week ago.
The Saints had the phone lines open to entertain trade offers prior to their No. 2 pick, but Loomis said no other team presented anything he would seriously consider.
Loomis said the Saints were not dissuaded from selecting Bush by an NCAA probe into whether Bush or his family received money or a rent-free house from a sports marketing company that hoped to sign Bush as a client when he turned pro.
“We felt comfortable that Reggie’s involvement in that was minimal, if any,” Loomis said. “I’m concerned about it because I’m concerned about Reggie Bush now that he’s a Saint. We’ll support Reggie and his family in any way we can regarding that matter.”
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