As the Trojans begin the 2016 campaign with a new coaching staff and influx of talent, finding players that can bring continuity to the program will be important. One of the players that can do so is sophomore running back Ronald Jones II. He enjoyed a very successful freshman campaign last season, rushing the ball 153 times for 987 yards and eight touchdowns, and looks to build upon that success in ’16.
"Late- bloomer" would be an adequate term to describe Jones. In the beginning of the season, he struggled to get any sort of rhythm going within the offense, and touches were at a premium. He was not utilized much, tallying under 10 carries in each of his first three contests.
Even still, he made the most of his opportunities, as he put together a solid showing against Arkansas State, rushing the ball six times for 96 yards (an average of 14.3 yards per carry) and a touchdown as the Trojans rolled over the Red Wolves 55-6 in the season-opener.
Jones kept the production going the following week when he rushed the rock six times for 83 yards (10.4 yards per carry) and a touchdown as USC defeated Idaho State by a score of 59-9.
He would not hit the 80-yard mark for another seven weeks, with 73 being his highest amount during that timespan. Even still, he gave the Trojans and their fans an exciting preview of what was to come.
After struggling at the mid-point of the season and seeming to be stuck in a proverbial rut, he was able to break free of it in conference play against Arizona on November 7. He racked up 177 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries including a 77-yard scamper that was his longest of the day and his season as the Trojans defeated the Wildcats 38-30.
It was at this time that he began to show his very dangerous skillset: a combination of speed and athleticism that has the college football world on high alert.
With that in mind, what can Jones bring to the Trojans in 2016? He can use that speed and athleticism to gain chunks of yards down the field behind an experienced offensive line that is returning all five starters.
In nine games of the 2015 season, he averaged at least five yards per carry, with his best mark coming on October 17 against Notre Dame. In that contest, he rushed the rock six times for 73 yards, an average of 12.2 yards per carry.
He averaged at least 10 yards per carry in three contests in ‘15 with his best mark coming in the offensively-explosive opener. There is no reason to think he cannot do more of the same in 2016.
Acting as a security blanket for the new quarterback will also be something he can bring to the table. Especially during the first couple of games when the signal-caller is getting his feet wet, Jones needs to be ready for anything. Short screen passes to get timing down, and acting as a blocker when the defense puts extra men in the box are just some of the things he needs to be ready for.
Perhaps bigger than anything having to do with the X’s and O’s is that he can establish a rhythm to the offense. A three-yard rush here, a quick five-yard reception here, just anything to keep the chains moving is something that he can bring to the program.
Keeping the offense moving forward is something that he will need to play a part in if the Trojans want to be standing at the podium in January.
This year, a season that includes 170 carries for 1,200 yards and 10 touchdowns would not be out of the question. He has shown he can handle a daunting workload and that he is ready to excel on the national stage.
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