USC football’s Vavae Malepeai on Doak Walker watch list, Stephen Carr snubbed?

Alicia de Artola/Reign of Troy
Alicia de Artola/Reign of Troy /

The USC football running back who appears on the Doak Walker Award watch list for 2019 is not Stephen Carr. It’s redshirt junior Vavae Malepeai.

BEST OF USC. Top 10 Running Backs

The Doak Walker Award released their 2019 watch list on Wednesday, with USC football’s Vavae Malepeai among the candidates to be named the nation’s top running back.

Malepeai’s inclusion is a bit of a surprise, especially because his presence is not joined by that of teammate Stephen Carr, who was on watch lists for the Doak Walker and Maxwell Awards last year.

CHECK OUT: JT Daniels picks up more offseason hype

The mention of Carr isn’t meant to diminish Malepeai’s inclusion though. He’s worthy of the attention going into his redshirt junior campaign.

In support of starter Aca’Cedric Ware, Malepeai was an effective rusher, averaging 5.39 yards per carry. He also proved the most dangerous goal line weapon for the Trojans, punching in eight touchdowns on the year.

Nor do the numbers do him much justice. Malepeai’s tough running, with a willingness to drop his shoulder and fight for every yard, was one of the few things which consistently seemed to spark energy in the Trojan sideline.

RELATED: Which running back will lead USC in rushing?

With Ware graduated, Malepai will have a clear opportunity to make more of a name for himself. And as the running back with the most all-around ability for the Trojans, as a runner, receiver and, critically, blocker, he could be the one who stars in the Air Raid offense in 2019.

Still, Carr has a case for being considered a snub.

After all, he had more yards than watch listers like Washington State’s Max Borghi and Stanford’s Cameron Scarlett despite playing four less games than either of them in 2018. Notre Dame’s Jafar Armstrong and Tony Jones Jr. also made the list with no more than five yards of production compared to Carr.

COUNTDOWN: It was hit and be hit for Danny Reece

It’s picking nits, but Carr was not at his best as a sophomore in part because of offseason back surgery. He missed the final four games of the year with injury as well.

Returning fully healthy in 2019, the Trojans are hoping they will have him back to full speed and back in the form which made his freshman campaign so exciting.

A pessimistic approach would say Carr doesn’t warrant watch list attention this offseason because he is so far removed from the first four games of the 2017 season when he gained 298 yards and averaged 6.3 yards per carry.

The more optimistic reading is that Carr still possesses the same potential, he just needs his body to hold up this time around.

TRENDING: How hot is Clay Helton’s hot seat?

Moreover, USC’s Air Raid offense likely suits him more than anyone, as an excellent pass catcher out of the backfield.

Which other Doak Walker watch listers will the Trojans see in 2019?

Arizona State’s Eno Benjamin, Oregon’s Travis Dye and CJ Verdell, BYU’s Lopini Katoa, UCLA’s Joshua Kelley, Fresno State’s Ronnie Rivers and Arizona’s J.J. Taylor will all battle USC later this year.