Razorbacks, Trojans Facing RB Uncertainty

FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas will (likely) be without its running back with Heisman Trophy aspirations. Southern California is trying to replace its Heisman Trophy-winning running back.

While the Razorbacks, though, are replacing Darren McFadden with All-America kick returner Felix Jones, the Trojans find themselves with four talented-yet-unproven options at tailback.

With McFadden just returning to practice and still said to be doubtful for the opener, Jones will shoulder a bigger load in the offense.

The Razorbacks had hoped to have both McFadden and Jones in the backfield after the pair combined for nearly 1,700 yards a season ago as freshmen.

Jones turned in a stellar freshman season in 2005, but had nearly 80 fewer carries than McFadden. Now, at least early in the season, Jones will be the go-to back.

"I know it's going to be different," Jones said. "I'm ready for it. I've been ready for it. I'm ready to get the games started."

USC coach Pete Carroll knows a thing or two about putting two strong backs on the same team. As juniors last season, Reggie Bush and LenDale White combined for more than 3,000 yards before they both declared for the NFL Draft.

"Fortunately for them Felix is extremely capable," Carroll said. "He's got great speed and breakability. He's played a lot and he's experienced. They're fortunate to have a one-two punch like that.

"I'm sure they're happy they have him ready to go, a great guy to lean on."

Carroll has not named a starter at running back, but he has plenty of options.

Four true freshmen have been vying for the job, although Carroll said most if not all of them would contribute significantly.

"We're real excited about them," Carroll said. "They've been exciting from the first day they got on the practice field.

"It's real early in the process of figuring out how they're going to perform for us because they haven't played a game yet but going on all of the practice film that we have and the situations that we've put them in ... they've grown up quite a bit."

To prepare the untested freshmen, the USC coaching staff had them spend plenty of time in preseason camp competing against the Trojans' No. 1 defense.

Each of the running backs has a unique style, Carroll said.

C.J. Gable appears to be the leader, having started Saturday's final scrimmage.

"(He's) got a real slasher mentality and a real physical kid," Carroll said.

Allen Bradford, who started preseason camp as a safety "runs thick and heavy," said Carroll.

The other back could be the best of the bunch, said USC's coach.

"Emmanuel Moody is the flashiest of the guys with great quick feet," Carroll said. "(He) has done a great job just kind of growing into the program."

While Arkansas' coaches don't know too much about Southern California's replacements for Heisman Trophy-winning Bush and the very capable White, there's no doubting the candidates' credentials.

Each of them — Gable, Bradford, Moody and Stafon Johnson — were named to the Parade All-American team last season as high school seniors.

"(I) just know that they've recruited very, very well the last few years," said Arkansas coach Houston Nutt. "We expect very, very good backs (with) the recruiting job they've done. In the last three years when they're winning championships, it's really easy to see how you can dominate the state of California.

"You're talking about 300-450 top, top players to choose from each year in the state of California alone."

Only Moody, from Coppell, Texas, is from outside California.

Bush and White combined for 40 touchdowns rushing in 2005.

That's a lot to replace, but USC doesn't seem too concerned about finding capable hands in the backfield.

"It's kind of tough but when you see what they can do, it takes that idea out of your mind," said USC wide receiver Steve Smith. "They put everybody back there just to see what they bring to the table and every time we went out and put pads on out there, guys have made great runs.

"I see a lot of stuff that they do that reminds me of Reggie a little bit and LenDale."

There won't be one player who will take a clear majority of the snaps, Carroll said, but the carries will be distributed among at least three of the backs.

"All of those came in with the idea that we're going to have to use everybody to get this thing back," Carroll said. "That's how we're going about it. It might sound hard to do that but that's what we've done in the past and we're going to continue to use a lot of guys, not to ask them to do everything but the things that they do, they do well and they can complement one another."

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