The offseason has officially begun for college football, which means Steve Sarkisian has 235 days between now and when the Trojans kick off again, to sort out some important personnel issues.
This past weekend finally gave USC football some much needed answers concerning how its offense will look in 2015, and it’s sadly not the answers fans wanted to hear. Top rusher Javorius “Six Point Buck” Allen will be joining Nelson Agholor and Leonard Williams in an early departure to the NFL Draft.
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It’s a rather bittersweet ending to an amazing Trojan career for Buck Allen.
He arrived at USC after being raised by his grandmother in rural Florida. He never knew his father, his brother was in prison for attempted murder, and he was struggling to meet the NCAA’s academic requirements. His focus on getting back up to speed in the classroom resulted in him spending his freshman year redshirted and his first year of eligibility at the bottom of the draft chart.
But after breaking through in the second half of the 2013 season, Allen became the star of the Trojan offense in 2014. He led the Pac-12 in all-purpose yards with 1,458 yards rushing, 41 receptions for 458 yards, and 11 TDs. He ran for at least 100 yards in 13 games – including 205 yards against Arizona – and was named to the All-Pac-12 first team.
Most importantly for him, though, Allen will be the first in his family to graduate from college, as he will leave SC with a B.A. in sociology. It’s somewhat of a shame that Allen never quite got the national notoriety that he deserved, but he will definitely be a mid-round steal for some lucky NFL team this spring.
Meanwhile, with their primary tailback and wideout now gone, the Trojans have some holes to fill.
Fortunately for them, the sanctions have not taken that much of hit on their depth at the offensive skill positions, and there are already two big talents ready to take Agholor and Allen’s place. Below them, though, there’s still some murkiness that Sark will have to sort out in the spring.
So let’s look at who Cody Kessler will be passing and handing off to this fall.
Sep 28, 2013; Tempe, AZ, USA; USC Trojans running back Justin Davis (22) during the game against the Arizona State Sun Devils at Sun Devil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
Justin Davis – Buck’s departure means that the torch has been passed to Davis for his junior year. We have yet to see his full potential, but his number was called quite a few times in 2014, often to good results. He ran for 630 yards and four rushing TDs this past season, averaging 4.6 YPC. He struggled with ball handling early on in the season, but seemed to improve in the second half and should improve his grip on the ball with another year of practices.
Tre Madden – Now here’s where things get interesting. Once upon a time, it seemed like Madden was going to be the next big Trojan tailback. During the first five games of 2013, he ran for 583 yards and six TDs. Then he suffered a hamstring injury that coincided with Buck Allen’s rise to prominence, and was scarcely seen afterwards. In 2014, a turf toe injury sidelined him for the whole season, making him eligible for a medical hardship waiver should he wish to play for SC in 2016.
In the meantime, though, Madden needs to make his case to Sark that he’s still got the talent he demonstrated two seasons ago. Allen’s departure makes this much easier for him, as he now has a very strong chance of at least being the No. 2 RB. If he starts blasting out runs this September and October, Sark could turn the running game into a one-two punch during the home stretch.
James Toland IV and Ronald Jones II – Should any misfortune befall Davis or Madden, Sark will have these two to fall back on. Toland, a walk-on redshirt sophomore, has been serving time on the reserve squad over the past two years. Jones is an incoming four-star recruit who committed to SC at the Under Armour All-American game and then proceeded to bang out a 58 yard run to the house. Jones will be accompanied by other RBs in the Trojans’ first post-sanction draft class, which will give them even more insurance should their starters get sidelined.
Who will lead USC in rushing in 2015?