Nov 1, 2013; Corvallis, OR, USA; Southern California Trojans tailback Javorious Allen (37) is pursued by Oregon State Beavers safety Tyrequek Zimmerman (8) and cornerback Larry Scott (15) on an 18-yard touchdown run in the second quarter against the Oregon State Beavers at Reser Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

USC Football Spring Practice 2014 Preview: Running Backs


March 11th marks the start of USC spring practice, a time when slates are swept clean and position battles begin anew. Steve Sarkisian and his new staff will get their first real look at the 2014 squad, which means Trojan fans also have a chance to start fresh evaluating the players who will make or break the new season.

This week at Reign Of Troy we’re taking a look at what to expect from each position group, now onto the running backs:

Seniors - D.J. Morgan (RS)
Juniors - Javorious Allen (RS), Tre Madden (RS), Jahleel Pinner*, Soma Vainuku (RS)*
Sophomores - Justin Davis, Ty Isaac
Freshmen – N/A
*Fullback

One of the more interesting battles of the spring will be waged among the running backs. Luckily for Steve Sarkisian’s plan to focus on the run game, it has less to do with having no front runner and more to do with having too many.

Over the course of the 2013 season, Tre Madden, Javorious “Buck” Allen and Justin Davis each proved themselves worthy of holding the title of leading man. None of the three are likely to lay down in a fight to keep that title.

Sarkisian produced two of the more successful backs in the Pac-12 during his tenure at Washington, Chris Polk and Bishop Sankey, but one noticeable feature of those rushing attacks was the existence of a very clear top dog.

This year, Sarkisian will be juggling three potential top dogs and that’s not even mentioning Ty Isaac, who earned enough hype coming out of high school to suggest he won’t straggle behind the pack for long.

Davis has the most ground to make up because of the Achilles injury which ended his season in 2013. At the same time, he probably has the highest ceiling of the group. It’s hard to argue with six touchdowns in six full games, and even then he was sharing the load with others. A strong spring could easily propel him to the top of the pile.

Madden and Allen, the veterans of the group, have both proven themselves versatile enough to revitalize their careers in the past year. There’s no reason to suspect they couldn’t also adjust to a new coaching staff and offense. With nearly identical numbers in 2013 and similar abilities in rushing and receiving, it almost feels like there may be a mini-battle between the two for a spot as the main starter or as one half of a duo.

At fullback, Soma Vainuku was one of the most improved players on the team last year and has a firm hold on the job.

Most Likely To Keep Their Starting Job: Javorious Allen
Most Likely To Lose Their Starting Job: Tre Madden
Most To Gain From Spring: Ty Isaac
Most To Lose From Spring: Javorious Allen

More position previews:

Tags: Football Javorious Allen Justin Davis Tre Madden USC Trojans

  • Ben Factor

    Alicia, if these were the quality problems in all position groups at USC, what a season 2014 would be.

    • Alicia de Artola

      No kidding. I was having a conversation with a friend about the best RBs in the Pac-12. He saw a list which had Buck Allen and Tre Madden among the top four. Yet, Justin Davis could easily be in there as well if not for injury.

      • Ben Factor

        I hope for Davis that he can get his speed and cutting back. Morgan never did.

        Davis’s ability to see how the field will look three seconds in the future is really exceptional.

  • Ben Factor

    In your opinion, on what % of plays will USC employ a fullback?

    • Alicia de Artola

      I’ve been scouting the Washington offense and based on the limited amount I’ve seen they didn’t really use a fullback much, if ever.
      Can’t put a number on it, mostly because I don’t know if there was a personnel factor to that and we don’t know how much Sark will change the offense between there and here, but I imagine it will be on the low side.

      • Ben Factor

        That conforms to what I had heard about UW. It also conforms to my general impression about NFL teams that play more no huddle–Denver, Boston, New Orleans, etc.

        If that’s the case, I feel bad for the two FBs on the roster.

        Did UW more often play 3 WRs or 2 TEs? USC could even put 2 RBs on the field together with one in the slot. That could create some mismatches. If you played defense, whom would you rather see catch a short pass over the middle, Steven Mitchell or Buck Allen? Maybe either of them, rather than A. Jackson, who’s come in for a play or two.

        • Alicia de Artola

          I noticed more 3 receiver sets.
          Both Allen and Madden were used in the passing game last year with success so they’re certainly options for Sark.
          If Mitchell is everything he’s hyped to be then he’d have to be the guy.

    • Alicia de Artola

      Sark was on the Peristyle Podcast and he partly addressed your fullback concerns. He mentioned that the fullbacks will work with the tight ends and will definitely be used in the offense. Considering the thinness at TE we’re probably looking at less two-tight end sets in favor of a FB.