USC's Backfield or the 9 Horsemen of the Apocalypse

By Corey Carpenter on September 8, 2009 at 2:00 pm
Joe McKnight, faster than Knight RiderJoe McKnight may start, but it doesn't matter.

After holding their own against the triple option rushing attack of Navy, giving up just 116 yards after the first drive, things are going to get a little rougher when Pete Carroll brings his stable of all-world running backs to Columbus.

The Trojans have their entire two-deep back on the offensive line as well as their top four rushers, off a team that averaged 190 YPG and 5.9 YPC on the ground last year. After torching SJSU for 342 yards and a 7.6 per carry average on the ground Saturday, there is little doubt Petey and staff will lean heavily on the run in Columbus, limiting the pressure on freshman Matt Barkley.

Joe McKnight (#4) cruised to 105 yards on 12 carries last year against the Bucks and ended up averaging 7.4 YPC on 89 attempts for the season. Saturday he bettered that, tallying 145 yards and 2 TD's on 14 carries, while also catching a pass for 21 yards. The 6'0", 200lbs. junior started the game and fumbled on his 3rd carry, but regained his composure and took the 3rd play of the second half 54 yards to paydirt. McKnight can take it to the house anytime he touches it and remains a threat catching out of the backfield. I'll not soon forget the dicing he did against the Bucks last year.

Stafon Johnson (#13) lead USC last year with 138 carries for 735 yards and 9 touchdowns, but only had 6 totes for 27 yards on Saturday. He did find the endzone twice (and he's extremely good at that), but didn't have a carry in the second half. The senior only ran it 4 times for 23 yards against the Bucks last year and does most of his damage up the middle. Johnson is also the Trojans main punt returner.

CJ Gable (#2) is another senior who ran for 617 yards and 8 TD's on 107 carries last year and has the most career starts (18) in this talented bunch. He too didn't do much against OSU with 7 touches for 31 yards last year, but averaged 5.7 yards on his 7 carries Saturday. He didn't have a carry until late in the 3rd quarter and looks to be the 4th back in the rotation, a sign of how good this group is, considering he started 11 games last year.

Marc Tyler (#26) and Allen Bradford (#21) will also come off the bench to split carries. Each averaged over 13 yards a carry this past week, combining for 9 carries, 125 yards and 2 TD's. Bradford's 43 yards scamper came with the Trojans up only 14-3 with 2:30 left in the half.

Redshirt freshman Curtis McNeal (#6) opened up eyes last year on the scout team and then again in spring ball, but he didn't have any carries last week, returning just 1 kick for 16 yards. He is listed as possible this weekend due to a shoulder injury, so he may not see the field.

Then there is fullback Stanley Havili (#31), who caught a back breaking touchdown against Marcus Freeman and the Bucks last year. Havili is always a threat to catch it out of the backfield, racking up 58 balls over the last 2 years and adding 3 to his total on Saturday.

It doesn't matter who gets the start amongst this group. In fact in this week's depth chart, there are four players listed as the possible starter. What it will come down to will be whether the Buckeyes are up to the task of stopping several good backs.