We are finally less than one week away from the Trojans come storming out of the tunnel with The Thundering Herd cheering them on. One week of preparation remains before USC football begins the 2015 regular season against Arkansas State at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. On Saturday, all the controversy surrounding head coach Steve Sarkisian will be, at least temporarily, put to bed and the focus will solely be on the playing of football.
Until then, we continue to work our way through the countdown of the “30 Key Trojans” for the 2015 season. This countdown features the 30 USC players most important to the Trojans’ success this season. This list is not the 30 most talented players or the 30 players that will put up the best stats, but instead the guys that could propel USC to a successful season.
Which players’ success is key for the Trojans’ season to be a success?
9. Justin Davis - Junior
Ever since running back Justin Davis stepped on campus as an early enrollee, he’s been vying for carries. The 6-foot-1, 195-pound junior from Stockton (Calif.) Lincoln entered USC and immediately battled his way up to a co-starter designation on the 2013 spring depth chart.
Though he wasn’t the starter when the season came around, Davis made a strong impression as a spot carrier as a freshman. In the first seven games, he was handed the ball 53 times, rushing for 361 yards (6.8 avg) and six scores, including a career-high 122 yards and three scores on 12 carries against Arizona State. Davis showed his big-play ability with runs of 58 yards against ASU, 39 yards in a victory over Boston College and produced a 21-yard run against Hawai’i when he had a season-high 14 carries.
But as has been the case with other USC running backs, Davis was subject to a setback. In the Notre Dame game, he suffered an ankle injury that cost him the remainder of the season. Davis returned last year to be the primary backup to Buck Allen. He played in all 13 games, carrying the ball 129 times for 595 yards (4.6 avg). His top games came in blowouts of Colorado and Notre Dame. He had 11 carries for 97 yards against the Buffaloes and a career-high 19 carries against the Irish, rushing for 81 yards and a touchdown.
With Tre Madden still recovering from the foot surgery that cost him the entirety of the 2014 season, Davis was the workhorse this spring and looked great, displaying a quick twitch burst ability to shoot through holes. Though he doesn’t possess quite the same size as Madden, Davis provides a unique element which makes him and Madden a great combination of different elements. Madden brings the brawn and Davis brings the speed/finesse combo.
Davis began this fall as the primary back with Madden taking fewer reps and providing a temporary reprieve in the backfield for Davis. But once the fall started, Davis has been nicked a couple of different times. He tweaked his hamstring on a run the first week of practice, costing him a little more than a week. Davis finally made it back for a few practices but he took a big pop and had to step out. After some ice on the shoulder and ice on the rib cage, doctors discovered he had a rib contusion.
While he has yet to return from the current injury and probably won’t be available for opening kickoff next weekend against Arkansas State, Davis is still likely to have a big impact this year, especially considering the fragility of Madden the last few years. The freshman trio has looked solid, but combining that with the brawn and explosiveness of Davis/Madden makes the USC running backs corps a big threat this season.
“Justin is an all-around back. He can move, be shifty, but at the same time he has that physical mindset…If it’s third-and-1, he’s going to win every time. It’s just the type of guy he is. He runs hard, and he plays hard.” — USC quarterback Cody Kessler
“Justin is the running back equivalent of wide receiver Steven Mitchell with not quite the top end speed. But his ability to cut back against the grain and do so suddenly with instinctive moves into space and through seams has been enhanced over the last year with his improved speed and quickness.
As has been noted, he can be the perfect pairing with Tre Madden, who's 25 pounds heavier and is the hammer to Justin's slashing knife. Now Justin just has to get healthy. He's done everything else." — Dan Weber, USCfootball.com
Check out Shannon Reiffen's interview with junior running back Justin Davis during the spring:
|9||Justin Davis||124||6 (Austin Geller)||16 (Shotgun Spratling)|
|10||Lamar Dawson||121 pts||2 (Shotgun Spratling)||17 (Keely Eure)|
|11||Steven Mitchell Jr.||120 pts||8 (Shotgun Spratling)||13 (Dan & Ryan)|
|12||Claude Pelon||109 pts||9 (Dan Weber)||17 (Austin Geller)|
|13||Tre Madden||98 pts||6 (Dan Weber)||Not listed (Shotgun Spratling)|
|14||Chad Wheeler||92 pts||6 (Keely Eure)||Not listed (Shotgun Spratling)|
|15||Iman Marshall||86 pts||11 (Ryan Abraham)||25 (Shotgun Spratling)|
|16||Delvon Simmons||84 pts||1 (Shotgun Spratling)||28 (Gerard Martinez)|
|17||Jabari Ruffin||79 pts||12 (Dan Weber)||25 (Ryan Abraham)|
|18||Anthony Sarao||77 pts||13 (Keely Eure)||26 (Austin Geller)|
|19||Zach Banner||72 pts||12 (Shotgun Sprating)||Not listed (Austin Geller)|
|20||John Plattenburg||68 pts||15 (Keely Eure)||29 (Austin Geller)|
|21||Damien Mama||49 pts||18 (Gerard Martinez)||27 (DanWeber)|
|22||Connor Spears||44 pts||13 (Austin Geller)||Not listed (Twice)|
|23||Max Browne||43 pts||19 (Twice)||Not listed (Shotgun Spratling)|
|24||Leon McQuay III||40 pts||17 (Ryan Abraham)||Not listed (Twice)|
|25||Osa Masina||39 pts||15 (Gerard Martinez)||Not listed (Keely Eure)|
|26||Darreus Rogers||36 pts||19 (Shotgun Spratling)||Not listed (Dan Weber)|
|27||Matt Boermeester||35 pts||18 (Dan Weber)||Not listed (Twice)|
|28||Chris Hawkins||34 pts||21 (Twice)||Not listed (Twice)|
|29||Viane Talamaivao||23 pts||22 (Keely Eure)||Not listed (Three times)|
|30||Ykili Ross||21 pts||22 (Austin Geller)||Not listed (Twice)|