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USC 2012 Evaluations: RB Curtis McNeal

Stats 116 carries, 706 rushing yards, two rushing touchdowns, seven receptions, 111 receiving yards, one receiving touchdown

What Stood Out After Silas Redd went down with an ankle injury in November, McNeal took over the first team running back duties and excelled. He had back-to-back 160-plus yard rushing games against Arizona State and UCLA, with him carrying the Trojans’ offense in the rivalry game loss to the Bruins. McNeal’s ability to run through holes and into the second level of the defense while remaining on his fit, fighting for extra yards, made him a valuable change of pace back with Redd, even if the two didn’t play much as a combo in 2012. Also, while McNeal only had seven catches on the season, his ability to find open space on dump screen added to his value in November, as six of his catches came in a three-game stretch starting with Oregon, a few going for big gains.

What Needed Work:  Not that it’s a fault of McNeal himself, but it goes back to health. When McNeal performed, he was on his game and just as potent of a back as he was at the end of 2011. The problem was getting to that level when he could compete at a high level. A had a shoulder injury that cost him time against Notre Dame, a concussion forced him to miss the Utah game and post-concussion syndrome symptoms cost him the game against Arizona. He had four games in which he had three or fewer carries, which was the reason for numbers that didn’t match his 2011 output, even though he still averaged better than six yards per carry in 2012.

Final Word:  Going into 2012, he was supposed to bring the lightning to a Thunder & Lightning backfield for the Trojans, but injuries held him up, as they did with Silas Redd. That said, when McNeal was healthy, especially in November, he was as good as any back in the Pac-12.

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