USC Football Spring Camp 2018: It all rides on Carr at running back

Harry How/Getty Images
Harry How/Getty Images /

Stephen Carr and USC Football’s running backs begin the tough task of replacing a legend in Ronald Jones II with Spring Camp 2018 on the horizon.

For a team facing the prospect of life without one of the greatest rushers to ever wear the uniform, USC’s situation at running back appears fairly calm.

The Trojans need to replace leading rusher Ronald Jones II and his 1,550 yards and 19 touchdowns, but they’ve got a trio of capable running backs returning who should be up to the task as a group.

Here’s a look at USC Football’s running back unit ahead of Spring Camp 2018:

Roster Rundown

Departing (1):Ronald Jones II

Returning (3):Stephen Carr, So.Aca’Cedric Ware, Sr.Vavae Malepeai, RS-So.

Fall Enrollees (1):Markese Stepp, Fr.

Sophomore Stephen Carr flashed his exciting ability as a freshman, finishing as USC’s second-leading rusher with 363 yards and three touchdowns despite missing a chunk of the season with a foot injury.

Then there’s senior Aca’Cedric Ware and redshirt sophomore Vavae Malepeai who each averaged better than five yards per carry in limited appearances.

True freshman Markese Stepp, a 6-foot, 228-pound wrecking ball, will arrive in the fall to push for a spot in the rotation.

Biggest Battle

With Carr expected to take over as the starter, the big spring battle will be between Ware and Malepeai. While USC may slip into an evenly-split rotation, one of them will need to be the first one off the sideline to spell Carr.

Ware has the seniority. He’s all-around back who is trustworthy as a blocker and can catch balls out of the backfield. But he’s injury-prone and has only made his mark at USC in cameo appearances.

Malepeai also brings all-around ability to the table, with a thicker frame. He was bright as a freshman in fall camp before a broke collarbone forced a redshirt and then did what he could with minimal carries as a redshirt freshman.

Who will make the strongest first impression on USC’s as-of-yet-hired new running backs coach?

Player to Watch

There’s an assumption around USC that Carr will step right into Jones II’s starring role and thrive right off the back, but he’ll need to prove himself throughout the offseason if he wants that responsibility.

Consider, 309 of his 363 yards on the year game in the first month of the season. A foot injury held him out for all of October and his return in November was largely limited outside of a seven-carry, 42-yard outing against Stanford in the Pac-12 title game.

Carr no doubt has the talent, as close to Jones II as USC could hope to replace him with, but even No. 25 struggled early as a sophomore with more and more expected of him.