USC senior running back Justin Davis shines in first spring scrimmage

Running back Justin Davis shines in USC's first spring scrimmage and appears to be primed for a breakout senior campaign due to his physicality and patience.

USC running back Justin Davis took a handoff and sprinted to the right side, following his blockers on the zone read play. He patiently waited for a hole to open up and popped through to the second level.

Davis cut outside the hashes and ran up the numbers where 6-foot-2, 200-pound cornerback Iman Marshall was waiting. But Davis didn't hesitate to lower his shoulder. The senior popped the defender right in the chest and ran through him to gain another 8-10 yards before he was finally brought down after a 20+ yard gain.

"He was violent today," Clay Helton said after the Trojans' first scrimmage of the spring. "You could see the experience of Justin Davis being a senior with the running style that he had today." 

After falling less than a 100 yards shy of a 1,000-yard season each of the past two years, Davis looks primed for a big breakout in his final USC campaign.

Helton has seen the physicality before, since Davis' high school days at Stockton (Calif.) Lincoln when he was rushing the ball 30+ times with regularity. You could also see it last season when Davis ran through a defender on third-and-6 to pick up seven yards and the final first down the Trojans needed to ice the game.

And then there was the UCLA game last season when Helton put the rock in Davis' hands over and over in the fourth quarter and Davis did nothing but run all over the Bruins, marching the ball down the field for three consecutive first downs and killing the final 5:36 off the clock.

Those games has had a carryover effect this spring in Helton's opinion.

"I really think he's in a great place right now."

While his first highlight of the day, touched on it, a subsequent run during the scrimmage displayed an even more important aspect and development in his game -- patience. Davis was rushing to the left side, waiting for the hole to open. Rather than forcing it inside, he probed until he saw an opening outside. He used his elite cutting ability to stop and shoot toward the corner. With wide receiver Josh Imatorbhebhe coming down to throw a big block on the defensive back, Davis sprung loose outside the numbers for another big chunk gain of more than 20 yards.

"He's learned how to be a patient runner. When he first got here, it was like get in the hole as fast as you can," Helton said. "The best runners, the Le'Veon Bell’s, what do they do? They are patient, patient. They come right off the butt of the tackle and then they explode.

"I think his patience is really showing and his maturity. This is his fourth year and you expect those things. He's really put himself into the league of a really, really quality running back and I think he’s going to be one of the better ones in the Pac-12."

Just to top off his strong day, Davis turned the first play of the final red zone drive starting at the 20-yard line into the final play of the day as he burst through the line and turned on the burners to take it to the house.

Also watch the video above to see what Justin Davis had to say about the start of spring practice when he spoke with Keely Eure earlier this week.

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