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Rethinking USC's Running Back by Rotation

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One thing that stood out last night out was how ineffective the running game appeared. I have been supportive in this approach because for the most part it works when things are clicking…Sanchez getting time in the pocket, the O line blowing holes open and receivers getting separation the whole concept of rotating the backs seems to work fine. When that happens you can get cute with direct snaps or reverses/end-around’s but in a game like we saw last night you need to be consistent in moving the ball forward and chewing up some yards.

After last night I may rethink that position. And I'm not the only one.

For the first two games with multiple running backs scoring multiple TDs in one-sided romps, USC's coaches could take comfort in how well that system has been working for the Trojans.

Now they see the other side to it. OSU gave the ball 37 times to a single freshman who gained 186 yards and scored two TDs.

USC gave it to four guys, none more than seven times, and gained just 86 yards.

The run offense clearly needs re-tooling and maybe some serious re-thinking.

With McKnight in the game last night SC tried to use his special ability to be game changer but OSU saw right through it and pretty much bottled him up.

MJ Davidson has some great observations over at WeAreSC.

Up till now Coach Carroll has maintained that alternating running backs has worked just fine and there has been no reason to change. Well, to my eye, that method simply failed miserably tonight. Of all the backs, Stafon Johnson looked the sharpest and CJ Gable also seemed to make the most of his carries. Joe McKnight did not run the ball well and his fumble late in the second half was very costly indeed. I could not help but wonder, “ why not go with Stafon and see if he can get into a rhythm”? He is the kind of runner who needs touches to help wear down the other guys. It seemed like the plan was to go to McKnight no matter what and the Beavers were certainly ready for him on almost every single play.

As I said Thursday night smash-mouth football was the order of the day. Would it have helped? I don't know, probably not but there needed to be some adjustments to the running game and they really didn't happen.

When I got to work this morning one of my docs made a great point...running backs like get up a lather and get in a groove. As MJD points out last night was the perfect place to let that happen. SC needed to have either Stafon or C.J. just go go go. Again I will ask about Bradford, that would have been the perfect place for him to shine... a little like LenDale that situation was suited perfect for him.

What's wrong with a going back to a power running game that we used to use with LenDale? This whole concept of trying catch "Reggie Bush" type lightning in bottle a second time has clouded the judgment of both Carroll and Sarkisian. Its almost like they are trying to relive the past when Reggie was here. Carroll and Sark have gone out of their way to recruit all of these top backs yet now they won't use them.

People talk about USC using a lot of pro-type sets, yet I can find nowhere in the NFL where anyone rotates backs like this. Its fine when it works but right now it is not working and everyone now see how to defend it. We get it, Carroll loves McKnight but he is playing with fire in the area of losing recruits or even the running backs he has if he continues to "showcase" McKnight not being effective. How many times have we heard the pundits say that the back-ups that we have could start on a lot of other teams? I wouldn't be surprised if we lost a back or two in the offseason to test that theory. And why not? Might as well take your chances catching on with another team and really having an opportunity to be the featured back instead of hoping and praying to crack the rotation. The are other ways to compete out there.

How is it that the O line was effective at making room for Stafon to run but they couldn't make any for McKnight. To me the answer is simple...when you run straight ahead between the takles the blockers only have to move opposing defenders a relatively small distance for the RB to run straight though. Sure the bigger the holethe better just like Nebraska last year. With McKnight jukin' and jivin' all over the place it it means the lineman have to stay with their blocks longer to cgreat some room and that isn't always going to work in our favor. The O line regressing on this game is a whole other issue for another time.

Dammit I love Pete Carroll and he has done for SC. I am wiling to give hm a certain amount of slack on some thngs as he has earned it but he really needed to think outside of his conventional wisdom on Thursday when the standard game plan didn't work. I just didn't see the necessary adjustments.