USC Football Spring Camp Preview: Running Back


When USC football kicks off spring camp on March 3, two established running backs will battle for the top spot in 2015.

Returning starters: Soma Vainuku^ (Sr.*)

Returning players: Justin Davis (Jr.), Tre Madden (Sr.*), Jahleel Pinner^ (Sr.)

Newcomers: None

Departures: Buck Allen (Jr.*)


The running back position will remain thin through spring camp because the departure of Buck Allen to the NFL leaves the Trojans with just two scholarship players.

While Ronald Jones II, Aca’Cedric Ware and Dominic Davis will arrive in the fall, the spring will focus completely on the race between Justin Davis and Tre Madden.

Davis tallied solid numbers as Allen’s back up in 2014, but Madden started 2013 in style by eclipsing 100 yards in four of the first five games of the season.

Sep 14, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Southern California Trojans tailback Justin Davis (22) carries the ball against the Boston College Eagles at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. USC defeated Boston College 35-7. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Madden’s turf toe injury clouds the spring outlook even more because there is no guarantee he will be able to participate fulling in camp.

Assuming he is ready to go, Madden could be the ultimate x-factor for the Trojans on offense. Once mentioned in the same breath as Marcus Allen for his 100-yard game streak, the linebacker-turned-running back was eclipsed by Allen in the second half of 2013 and the entirety of 2014 as he struggled with multiple nagging injuries.

Trojan fans may have forgotten him, but there’s evidence that the only thing stopping Madden from being one of the top running backs in the conference is his inability to stay healthy.

At the same time, Davis has flashed more than his share of ability. While Madden was gaining yards at the beginning of 2013, Davis as a true freshman was scoring touchdowns; six in the first six games to be exact. Like Madden however, an injury ended Davis’ season prematurely and he played second fiddle to Allen in 2014.

Davis enters his junior season with the opportunity to grab offense by the reins, but he will need to progress beyond the sometimes underwhelming performances he put in last year. While he was a reliable second option in 2014, Davis must prove more than that.

Spring is just the time to make his move with Madden still getting back to full speed and the new crop of freshman not yet on campus.

At fullback, both Soma Vainuku and Jahleel Pinner return, though their involvement in the offense awaits clarification. In 2014 they combined for nine carries and one reception.

Battle to watch: Davis vs. Madden

Who has the most to gain? Madden has one season to make his mark before giving the NFL a go and if past results are any indication it will be make or break. He first broke onto the scene as a running back in spring ball back in 2012, this spring could begin his resurgence.

Who has the most to lose? Davis may be younger than Madden but three incoming running backs mean the clock is ticking on his window as the Trojans primary option. The competition will only get tougher if he fails to establish himself a top the depth chart after spring.

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