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Better/Worse/Neutral Series: USC Tailbacks

Our Better/Worse/Neutral Series previews the USC running back class.

Buck Allen leads the way in the Trojans crowded backfield.
Buck Allen leads the way in the Trojans crowded backfield.
Doug Pensinger

Key Returners: Buck Allen (Jr.), Tre Madden (Redshirt Jr.), Justin Davis (So.), D.J. Morgan (Redshirt Sr.), James Toland (Redshirt Fr.)

Key Losses: Silas Redd (Graduation), Ty Isaac (Transfer, Michigan)

The Trojans enter the year with one of the most loaded backfields in the Pac-12. Javorius "Buck" Allen was a revelation late last season averaging 108 yards and two touchdowns in his last six games and while he's the front-runner for the starting position, Tre Madden’s performance in spring ball showed that it will likely be an ongoing competition.

Madden started last season on fire topping 100 yards in four of the first five games. But after Kiffin’s long-overdue departure, Madden's form began to fade as he struggled with injuries and depreciated production. With Buck Allen and Madden back at full strength USC will have a rugged 1-2 punch of powerful running backs.

If that weren’t formidable enough, Sarkisian can throw in shifty sophomore Justin Davis for a dynamic change of pace. Last season at the age of 17, Davis averaged 6.8 yards on 53 carries last season before succumbing to a season-ending knee injury. Rounding out the running backs is the oft-injured D.J. Morgan and even Anthony Brown, who just announced he will be taking reps at running back during Fall Camp.

Sarkisian said in the recently-released USC Football Fall Media Guide that:

"The tailback position is the deepest on our team. We have 4 quality players ready to battle it out. We need this to be a strength of our team because we love to run the ball. I believe this group will allow us to do that at a very high level."

The once promising speedster has had a hard time staying on the field in his career at USC so far.  When healthy like Morgan can be very useful as a different type of runner from Madden and Allen, similar to Davis. Safe to say Coach Sark has a number of weapons at his disposal in the running game. Seeing how well Sarkisian utilized Bishop Sankey last season in the Huskies spread offense, the Trojan core of running backs could be in for similar success.

Although USC is loaded at tailback, they could have had an even greater wealth of talent at their disposal. Along with Buck Allen, Ty Isaac was a breakout performer late on in the season, and figured to play an even bigger part in the Trojan ground attack this year. That was up until he announce his intention to transfer.

While he cited a desire to play closer to his home state of Illinois, the crowded running back depth chart likely played a part in his decision. As a testament to the quality of the Trojan ball carriers, Isaac secured a transfer to Michigan and figures to challenge for the starting position with the Wolverines this upcoming season.

Verdict: Better

This one was a close call. Even though USC lost the reliable Silas Redd to graduation and the promising Ty Isaac to transfer, the group that returns has an added year of experience and appears to be free of nagging health concerns that seriously hindered the ‘SC backfield last season.

If Buck Allen, Tre Madden, Justin Davis and even D.J. Morgan can stay healthy this quartet will be one of the best running back groups in the country behind only Alabama and maybe a few others. Sarkisian will likely cycle through running backs, keeping them fresh while also keeping opposing defenses guessing with their distinct rushing styles.