Despite being ranked as the No. 1 running back in the 2015 recruiting class and being one of the highest rated players in USC's crop of highly touted freshman, Ronald Jones II did not have high expectations for his role in the Trojans offense this season.
That was understandable when you consider that USC already had Doak Walker watch listees Justin Davis and Tre Madden seemingly entrenched at the top of the depth chart. Still, Jones arrived at USC with confidence that there was a role for him in this offense in 2015 and that role has blossomed in recent weeks, conveniently coinciding with a resurgent Trojan rushing attack.
Jones has started to handle larger chunks of the running game over the last few weeks and currently leads the team in rushing, carrying the ball 70 times for 533 yards and five touchdowns. His 7.61 yards per carry average are over two yards better than Madden (77 carries, 418 yards, five TDs) and almost three yards better than Davis (69 carries, 335 yards, 3 TDs).
That production has led to Jones seeing his workload increase under interim head coach Clay Helton. After recording double digit carries just once in the first six games of the season (10 carries for 54 yards against the Arizona State Sun Devils), Jones has carried the ball 15 and 11 times respectively for 73 and 80 yards with a pair of touchdowns in wins over the Utah Utes and Cal Bears.
The 6-foot, 185-pound back out of McKinney, Texas, wasted little time proving himself in the USC backfield and has turned the running back duo that the Trojans were expecting to utilize this season into a three-headed beast that teams have yet to truly contain. He is also laying the foundation to be a leader on this offense for years to come and maintain the Trojans' renewed power rushing attack, which has averaged 150.3 yards per game over the last three contests and scored seven touchdowns.
With the running game surging, that alleviates some of the pressure on the passing game and quarterback Cody Kessler, particularly while the receiving corps deals with injuries. Having a reliable rushing attack opens up passing lanes on play-action and keep defenses from pinning their ears back to rush Kessler.
The rise of Ronald Jones II has helped restore balance to the USC offense and will make them a formidable opponent down the stretch in 2015 and for many years beyond.