USC’s running game received big news this past week as head coach Clay Helton announced at Pac-12 Media Day that sophomore running back Stephen Carr has been cleared to participate in fall camp, which begins Aug. 3.
Carr missed all of spring camp with a herniated disk that required surgery in February. Now the Trojans are hopeful that he can reach his potential sooner rather than later.
The sophomore back is expected to be a sophomore sensation after running for 363 yards last year. Carr has been named to the Doak Walker Award and Maxwell Award watch lists. That is how much hype Carr is receiving. However, USC needs to be cautious with how it handles Carr after his back surgery.
“Obviously coming off of back surgery, we’ll be smart and won’t throw him out there the whole practice, but we’ll bring him along just like a guy that’s been off,” Helton said at Pac-12 Media Day.
With that said, while Carr should be expected to be a breakout star for the Trojans, fans should anticipate fellow back Aca’Cedric Ware to breakout as well.
In Ware’s first three seasons at USC involved plenty of waiting.
Ware arrived at USC in 2015, he was a part of a recruiting class that included fellow Texas native Ronald Jones II, who developed into one of the most productive running backs in program history. Opportunities, while sitting behind Jones on the depth chart, were a rarity.
When the senior-to-be did receive chances, he was productive. Ware has three 100-yard rushing games in the past two seasons. Among 49 carries last season, 14 came in a late-season win against Arizona when he ran for 122 yards.
Now Ware has an opportunity to do more in his final year and is trying to take full advantage of it. In the process, Ware is attempting to prove that he can be one of the Trojans’ top playmakers.
“I love this opportunity,” Ware said to 247 Sports. “I am taking full advantage of this opportunity to work on myself, and not only work on myself, I’m trying to build chemistry with my teammates and let them know I can be the starting running back for this team.”
This past spring, Ware was the only back to stay healthy —Carr (back), redshirt sophomore Vavae Malepeai (hamstring) and redshirt junior Dominic Davis (deviated septum) — and that allowed him to show the coaching staff what he is made of.
Aca'Cedric Ware is up 10 pounds at 215. Helton says that Ware saw how extra weight benefited Ronald Jones and copied what he did this offseason.— Keely Eure (@keelyismyname) March 21, 2018
Ware added muscle, which helped him improve his between-the-tackles running — which has never been better. He also remains a viable receiving option out of the backfield and Ware was always USC’s best blocking back to begin with.
In the spring, Helton said the Trojans will need to utilize more than one back to replace Jones, who averaged more than 20 carries per game. A first-year quarterback might added emphasize on the ground game to ease in whomever starts at signal caller. For perspective, in 2017, the Trojans averaged 39 rush attempts to 35 pass attempts per game.
Word out of USC is that coaches were impressed by Ware in spring practice.
Ware is nothing short of a complete back that he showed in the spring. While Carr might be the flashier talent, based on Ware’s spring performance, Ware could easily end up with more carries when the season is said and done.
In short, with Carr coming off injury, Ware should have a chance to breakout and be a workhorse for the Trojans he has longed to be.