Throughout the tumultuous, up and down 2017 recruiting cycle, the one constant for the Trojans has been the commitment of five-star running back Stephen Carr. Rated as the third best running back and 20th best player in the 247Sports Composite rankings, Carr is the headliner of USC’s 2017 class. The Army All-American is a tremendous player who would be the starting running back at most Division I schools as a true freshman. At USC, Carr will most likely be a backup to begin his career, but his playmaking ability as a runner and pass catcher are truly elite and will prevent him from spending much time on the sidelines.
Carr is almost the perfect running back for the modern game. At 6’0” 202 lbs., he has the size to run between the tackles and pick up the difficult yards. However, that is merely just the beginning of Carr’s skillset. He has excellent hands for a running back and can easily double as a slot receiver similar to former USC running back Tre Madden. This ability to catch the ball could be a key area where he can be a difference maker early in his career.
In terms of his pure athleticism, Carr is incredibly quick and agile. Bringing him down in the open field is nearly impossible as he easily makes defenders miss in one on one situations. Even though his 40 time is not elite at 4.57, Carr’s playing speed is so much faster than that number would indicate. The Army All-American breezes past defenders with ease in the open field and was nearly impossible to catch for most of his high school competition. Carr may not be the freak athlete of top running back prospect Najee Harris, but his ability to make people miss is extremely impressive. USC fans should look forward to Carr breaking the ankles of defenders as he scampers his way to many touchdowns over the course of his Trojan career.
Being that Carr is already a five-star recruit, it is difficult to make a case for him actually being underrated. However, many recruiting experts on the west coast believe that Carr should be rated even higher than what most recruiting sites give him. His combination of size, speed, agility, power, and pass-catching ability is truly rare. Although it may sound as though his praises are slightly effusive, a legitimate case can be made that Carr could already be a better running back than 1000 yard rusher Ronald Jones II.
Looking ahead, despite the hype surrounding a player of Carr’s caliber, it will be difficult for him to crack the running back rotation. The Trojans are returning Jones, Aca’Cedric Ware, and Dominic Davis—three very talented players in their own right. Being a successful college running back in all phases of the game from running the ball to picking up blitzes is difficult. That being said, USC is losing its best all-around back in Justin Davis and Jones and Ware are relatively limited to being pure rushers.
Fans should expect Jones to continue as the team’s feature back in 2017, but it should not come as much of a surprise if Carr really cuts into his playing time as the season progresses. For all that Jones does as a rusher, he is still limited in the other facets of being a running back. His pass-catching is mediocre at best and he is still prone to missing on his blocking assignments. Ware is an upgrade in those two areas, but Carr is definitely more talented than Ware. If Carr can acclimate himself to picking up the blitz on pass plays, he could immediately earn snaps as the team’s third down back. Then, if Jones leaves for the NFL after next season, Carr can step in as USC’s feature back in 2018 with Ware and Davis as the backups.
Carr is simply too talented to spend the entire 2017 season on the sidelines. Even if he struggles in certain areas, the Trojans need to ensure that he at least earns about 10 touches per game. Carr is the complete package among running backs and he has the potential to become a first round pick a few years down the road. USC would be foolish to overlook this rare talent due to his youth, but if Jones’ usage through his early years is any indication, USC fans should have little to worry about in this regard. Starting next fall, Trojan nation will finally get a glimpse of a player who could end up being one of the most dynamic players to don the cardinal and gold since Reggie Bush lit up the Coliseum 12 years ago.