For USC, the 2014 season appears poised to be all about the running backs. Steve Sarkisian has described his offense as “run-first” and with so many talented rushers available, it’s no wonder.
For today’s roundtable, the Reign Of Troy staff takes a stab at answering the question of which of those outstanding running backs will stand above the rest.
Who will lead the Trojans in rushing:
Well first off, is there a wrong answer to this? Looking at the depth chart, I can easily see an argument being made for any of the top running backs.
Tre Madden began 2013 hot before his injury, Justin Davis showed promise as a true freshman also pre-injury, and Buck Allen came on late in the year. With the offense now under Sark’s direction, I believe Tre Madden will take the lead role out of the backfield.
Davis is likely the most athletically gifted of the bunch, but I believe Madden brings a bit more of a complete game to the table (size and being able to block). Madden is also no slouch in carrying the ball — remember, he eclipsed 100 rushing yards in four of the first five games last season; the one game he finished with 93 rushing yards.
Madden also added 201 receiving yards and four touchdowns on 15 catches. Though Allen does have him beat in terms of receptions and yardage with 22 and 252, respectively. So, with all that, Madden gets my vote.
Alicia de Artola:
It’s a tough guess because the Trojans top three running backs — Madden, Buck Allen and Justin Davis — should all be in the mix as key players in 2014.
Allen will be the popular pick as the reigning team-MVP and Justin Davis has all the talent to have a break out season, but Madden is the one with the greatest potential to consistently lead the Trojans in my opinion.Madden started 2013 with 100 yards in four of USC’s first five games until injury kept him out or limited for the remainder of the season.
His performances may be in the back of fans minds, but he will very quickly bring them to the forefront when they see him galloping all over the Coliseum floor once more.
With his impressive mix of power, speed and vision, along with above average skill in the passing attack, there’s every reason to believe Madden will thrive in Steve Sarkisian’s offense.
Allen and Davis may be the home run hitters, but Madden will carry the load.
Given my answer to Monday’s question, it would seem silly to pick anyone other than Buck Allen here.
This roster is loaded with capable running backs, but Allen led the way last year for a reason. Justin Davis and Tre Madden are thrilling to watch, but Allen appeared to be the most durable in that role.
I expect Allen to find some big holes in the HUNH offense and I also expect USC’s running game to receive a huge boost from their ridiculous receiving corps. If Farmer, Mitchell, Rogers, Agholor, Jackson, and Smith can stay healthy, then USC will probably have one of the most dangerous receiving corps in the entire nation. Factor in Bryce Dixon and Randall Telfer into that offense and it seems likely that everyone on the team will eat this season, especially the running backs.
Allen led the way for the backs last year and it’s likely he will again.
Despite lacking depth with the loss of Ty Isaac, the Trojans have perhaps the best problem you could possibly have when it comes to running backs. Two quality backs with starting experience in the Pac-12, and another with perhaps the most talent of the three.
How on earth do you decide who gets the ball, if everyone’s healthy?
While I expect Sarkisian to spread out the carries as he did as the Trojans’ offensive coordinator during the days of “The Stable” from 2006 to 2008, I think Justin Davis winds up being leader in the clubhouse when the season ends.
Yes, he’s third on the depth chart at the moment. And he’s not faster than Buck Allen, nor is he as strong as Tre Madden. But he’s an exceptionally talented combo-back with game-breaking ability and vision that showed flashes of brilliance before getting hurt last season.
He and Madden had a thunder and lightning-esque feel to the backfield early on the in the year, and it’s possible that Allen never gets starting reps had Davis stayed healthy.
In a pro-style run-first HUNH with various spread concepts, Davis fits the versatility of the Sarkisian offense and I expect that that allows him to take the starting job much earlier than expected. If he winds up leading the Trojans in rushing without injuries to Allen and Madden helping that along, it would be a fantastic development for Sarkisian in year one.