Tommie Robinson’s return may have righted the biggest wrong of two years ago. Can he take USC’s talented running backs to the next level?
Now that USC’s 2016 coaching staff is nearing completion, it’s time to evaluate each hire from the quality of the coach to the context of the appointment.
This is the fourth in a series diving deeper into the decision-making behind and the consequences of each hire.
Here’s a look at how Robinson’s hiring grades out:
Tommie Robinson | Running Backs / Run Game Coordinator
Replacing: Johnny NansenPros: Buck Allen, 30 years experienceCons: Re-hire
USC’s run game became the focal point of the Trojan offense under Clay Helton in 2015, so deciding on a running backs coach was key. Johnny Nansen did a fine job in 2014 and 2015, but the opportunity to bring back Robinson could not be passed up, especially given Nansen’s versatility to coach in practically any spot.
The last time Robinson was hired by USC he was also replacing a running backs coach who had been fairly successful leading the Trojans’ rushing attack. And last time he arrived, he took that ground game and brought it up a notch.
This time the task will be the same. As an added bonus, just like last time there are some talented pieces for Robinson to work with in the form of Ronald Jones II and veteran Justin Davis, along with all-purpose weapon Dominic Davis and tough-running Aca’Cedric Ware.
Sep 26, 2015; Tempe, AZ, USA; Southern California Trojans running back Justin Davis (22) against the Arizona State Sun Devils at Sun Devil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
The question is whether or not Robinson can take two 900-yard rushers and make them 1,000-yard backs? Can he take single-digit touchdown players and make them double-digit scorers?
The evidence suggests he can.
In 2013, injuries sidelined Silas Redd, Tre Madden and Justin Davis for large chunks of the year, but those rushers averaged 4.6, 5.1 and 6.8 yards per carry respectively. Madden, who was the featured back through the first half of the season was on pace for 1,400 yards. His replacement, Buck Allen, emerged as the team MVP in the absence of his injured teammates amassing 1,026 all-purpose yards and 15 touchdowns in six games of full-action. Projected out across a full season he too would have been on pace for more than 1,400 yards.
At Texas, the Longhorns were 101st in the nation during his first season, but improved to 17th in 2015.
The best argument against hiring Robinson is concern over the insular nature of USC’s coaching staff as a whole. Along with Helton, Tee Martin, John Baxter and Clancy Pendergast, Robinson’s hiring means there will be five former Lane Kiffin assistants on staff at USC in 2016.
Having said that, of those five Robinson stands out as a coach who perhaps should not have been let go in the first place.
Grade: A. Despite a rash of injuries, Robinson got the best out of every combination of running backs he coached at USC in 2013. Re-hire or no, the track record is strong.
- Tee Martin, Offensive Coordinator
- Neil Callaway, Offensive Line
- Tyson Helton, Quarterbacks
- John Baxter, Special Teams Coordinator
- Clancy Pendergast, Defensive Coordinator
- Ronnie Bradford, Defensive Backs
What say you Trojan fans? How do you grade USC’s hiring of Tommie Robinson as running backs coach and run game coordinator? Vote in the poll and sound off in the comments below.
How would you grade the Tommie Robinson hire?