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Ranking USC football’s Top 5 running backs since 2000

Alicia de Artola
May 20, 2020, 11:00 PM PDT
USC football has had some top running backs this century. (Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)
USC football has had some top running backs this century. (Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)
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USC football has had some top running backs this century. (Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)
USC football has had some top running backs this century. (Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)

USC football’s running back tradition since 2000 is still strong.

USC football picked up the tag of Running Back U in the 20th century thanks to the outstanding careers of Mike Garrett, Charles White, Marcus Allen, Anthony Davis, Ricky Bell and others.

However, the Trojan’s legacy of strong running backs didn’t end with the turn of the new century.

Even if their profile has dipped slightly, USC’s rushers have still provided plenty of thrills and production.

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Here’s a look at USC’s best running backs from the last 20 years:

Joe McKnight is one of USC football’s best backs of the century. (Harry How/Getty Images)
Joe McKnight is one of USC football’s best backs of the century. (Harry How/Getty Images)

No. 5 USC football running back since 2000: Joe McKnight

Joe McKnight was one of the most highly-rated recruits to ever come to USC. He never quite lived up to his billing as the “next Reggie Bush” but he did plenty as a Trojan to ensure his place among the best running backs for the program this century.

McKnight ranked No. 1 overall in the class of 2006 and quickly found his way onto the field as a true freshman.

He didn’t start with a bang, building his way into the team’s leading rusher in 2009 with 1,014 yards on 164 carries. Before that, he averaged 7.4 yards per carry as a sophomore in 2008 while sharing the backfield with Stafon Johnson and C.J. Gable.

He may be best remembered for his freshman season though. He started the Rose Bowl game against Illinois and marveled with 206 all-purpose yards.

More than any touchdown he scored in his career, McKnight’s 65-yard gain after dribbling a lateral is a highlight to remember.

Another thing to remember? McKnight’s career yards per carry average of 6.38 is third in USC history.

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