I had started working on this piece while I was on vacation, before the Moody transfer happened, so this dovetails nicely into the conversation.
Last season we saw a lack luster running game coming out of the USC backfield. After having been spoiled by Reggie Bush and LenDale White we were watching a lot of newcomers trying to find their way without any of them really separating themselves from the rest of the pack. Stanley Havili really showed some promise at the fullback position, a position that proved to the key to SC fining its way to a possible 3rd strait BCS title game. Not having a power running game, among other things, against a fired up ucla defense was the difference to winning that game and possibly winning another national championship had we beat ucla.
The continued controversy at the fullback position didn't make it any easier on us. Allen Bradford was moving between both sides of the ball and not being effective either. Injuries hurt the running game all season especially at fullback. Losing both Ryan Powdrell and Havili during the season and losing Brandon Hancock before the season really exposed a fledgling running game. Things are different this year. There is a little more beef at the fullback position. Powdrell is gone as is Hancock. Havili and Bradford will get the bulk of the reps but now there is Broderick Green who is turning heads in fall camp. So the competition is heating up.
Havili was the highly touted recruit out of Utah who was touted to be the next LenDale White. I'm not of fan of those types of comparisons as each player brings his own set of skills and issues. There is a lot riding on Havili as his health will go a long way to making the running game successful.
The first three fullbacks went down because of season-ending injuries in the first three weeks, leaving the job to a 200-pound former walk-on (Mike Brittingham) and a converted linebacker (Thomas Williams).
Some tacklers reached the USC backfield untouched, and the passing game was more vanilla than in years past.
Now, Stanley Havili's left leg is fully healed and he has the luxury of entering his freshman season with some college game experience under his belt. Because he was injured so early last year, Havili was able to redshirt in 2006.
The Trojans are hoping he can help jazz up an offense that relied heavily on its wide receivers a year ago.
"We lost a good facet of our offense. We weren't able go to it, to throw out of it the way we like to," Coach Pete Carroll said. "It adds pressure to other aspects of the package, because you don't have that element to keep them off-balance and to defend more things.
Variety in the offense is going to be the key to SC winning this season. With new receivers in prominent roles there has to be a balanced attack and that starts with the running game. It is trite to say that you set up the pass when you establish the run. We all know that, but this season SC needs the running game to take to take off so that the pressure can be taken off of the receivers as they get comfortable in their new roles. The running game only gets started if the fullback position has a strong healthy and is able to pick up some blocks to get the play to develop. It's just that simple.
Havili is in the drivers seat and it will be up to him to establish the tone.