25 days to USC football: Ronald Jones II became a legend in No. 25

RoT Countdown / Photo by Alicia de Artola (Reign of Troy)
RoT Countdown / Photo by Alicia de Artola (Reign of Troy) /

Reign of Troy’s countdown to USC football continues with a look at the greatest No. 25 in school history, Ronald Jones II.

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There’s only 25 days until the 2019 USC football team kicks off against Fresno State. Those 25 days reflect the same number worn by the great Ronald Jones II, who became a Trojan based on his infatuation for another No. 25, Reggie Bush.

While Bush didn’t wear the number at USC, he became a star in it during his time in the NFL. And yet Jones, through his fantastic three seasons at Troy, did the inverse. He’s claimed the No. 25 as his legendary visage.

Let’s talk about that number, shall we?

Who wore it best?

Good players win games. Great players evolve and build legacies. That couldn’t be more of the case for Ronald Jones II, the greatest No. 25 in USC Football history.

A speedster out of McKinney, Tex., Jones got to USC idolizing Reggie Bush, as a vicious one-cut home-run-hitting threat capable of scoring from anywhere on the field. He broke Charles White’s freshman rushing records with 987 yards for the season and 177 in a single game.

But for the better part of the first half of Jones’s three-year career, playing time and carries were an issue. He was seemingly underutilized, despite USC sporting a ridiculous undefeated record when he carried the ball at least 15 times. They were 4-0 in those games with him as a freshman, yet he didn’t eclipse 11 totes through the first six games of the 2016 season.

Why? Partly because of the three-headed backfield of Jones, Justin Davis and Aca’Cedric Ware. But also because RoJo, as he was known, had yet to become a complete back. He struggled as a blocker, couldn’t support the passing game as a receiver and lived and died on his one-cut runs.

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When Davis went down with an ankle injury against Colorado, that started to change. Jones defaulted to USC’s No. 1, and while he still capitalized on chunk plays, he wouldn’t look back.

He averaged a hair under 19 carries per game in the season’s final seven games, rushing for 874 yards. The Trojans won all seven, including the 2017 Rose Bowl over Penn State.

New running backs coach Deland McCullough came calling the following season and the transformation of Jones from a one-trick pony to full-on wrecking ball was in its final stages. Preaching a running-through-trash style of running, McCullough added a physicality to his game, while Jones’s hands slowly but surely came along.

Suddenly his highlights are started to vary. He dragged defenders and broke several tackles on his first run of the season against Western Michigan. In a November tilt with Arizona, he hauled in a perfectly floated Sam Darnold pass on a wheel route for a big gain.

The result was the most impressive year from a USC tailback not named Reggie Bush since Marcus Allen’s invincible season in 1981. Pro Football Focus saw him as a first-team All-American.

RELATED: Ronald Jones is the Best Pure USC Running Back Since Marcus Allen

Jones rushed for 1,550 yards and 19 touchdowns, while pushing his career totals into the territory of Trojan greats. He finished by sitting fifth on USC Football’s all-time rushing list with 3,619 rushing yards. His 6.12 yards per carry average is second only to Bush among Trojans with at least 400 career carries.

One other No. 25 to note? Nate Barragar, an All-American lineman for Howard Jones, who won a title with the Trojans in 1928.

Who wears it now?

Freshman defensive back Briton Allen was issued the No. 25 during spring camp. The Orlando native began at corner before being moved to safety.

After impressing during his first look on Howard Jones Field, he’ll be looking to compete for playing time among the bevy of defensive backs on USC’s roster.

Stats to know: 25

  • USC had 25 players make the Pac-12 All-Century Team in 2015. For comparison’s sake, Arizona had the second-most selections with five.
  • USC has won 25 Rose Bowls, far and away the most of any school. That includes a 25-0 win over Tennessee in the 1945 game.
  • John McKay won his first national championship in 1962, featuring three shutouts. The biggie? A 25-zip beat down of Notre Dame.
  • The aforementioned 25-0 shutouts are two of USC’s eight games in which they’ve scored exactly 25 points.
  • JuJu Smith-Schuster caught 25 touchdown passes during his three-year career with the Trojans. None bigger was his score in the third quarter of the 2017 Rose Bowl, while USC was under a Penn State barrage.
  • While USC’s 34-game winning streak during the Pete Carroll era is the longest in school history, the 25-game winning streak from 1931 to 1933 under Howard Jones is the one currently in the record books.
  • Since the LA Coliseum opened in 1923, there have only been 25 football seasons in which the Trojans were the only home team. The 26th season will come in 2020, when the Rams move to their new stadium in Inglewood.