The old adage goes: When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.
USC has been dealt its fair share of lemons. Sanctions alone constitute a truck load. Unfortunately there isn’t anything the Trojans can do about scholarship reductions, but there are plenty of opportunities to make the most out of the bad situations that have already presented themselves.
Jabari Ruffin, for instance, was praised by Lane Kiffin after practice on Wednesday for stepping up in place of the injured Morgan Breslin. Ruffin, a redshirt freshman, won USC’s Defense Service Player of the Year award in his first year and started his Trojan playing career brightly with three tackles against Hawaii.
Those opportunities have cropped up all over the team, especially with the total scholarship limit capped at 75 and the regular bout of injuries that plague teams over fall camp.
On the offensive side of the ball, Tre Madden and Justin Davis were given the opportunity to shine with Silas Redd and DJ Morgan both sidelined. Madden, who is returning from the ACL injury that kept him out all of last year, made the most of his team-high 18 carries with 108 yards. He averaged six yards a carry and likely solidified himself among USC’s go-to backs.
Davis, the 17-year-old true freshman, showed off why there has been so much hype surrounding him with 74 yards and a touchdown. The 14 carries he logged can only speed up his development and these early opportunities could be invaluable as he and the Trojan running game move forward.
Even the uncertainty at quarterback can net positives.
USC’s inability (or unwillingness) to establish a reliable running game has been covered up over the last few years by the presence of Matt Barkley and an impressive receiving core including Robert Woods and Marqise Lee.
In fact, the trio of Barkley, Woods and Lee at varying stages of each’s career often covered up more fundamental issues with the offense as a whole. All three carried the Trojans as individuals over the past three seasons. On a night when Barkley and Woods have moved on to the NFL and Marqise Lee was not on his game, we saw what the USC offense became. Ineffective. Unimaginative. Toothless.
That too, can be a good thing to realize.
USC has so much talent, the offense shouldn’t have to rely on one player to make it tick. Lee should be a weapon not a crutch. That’s where the running game comes in. That’s where the tight ends and full backs can make a difference.
The sooner the Trojans come to terms with these issues, the sooner they can correct them. The sooner they can make more lemonade.