Fresh out of Bishop Alemany and still in his high school gear just over a year ago last summer, Dominic Davis thought he knew what he had to do to fit in with the big boys.
He knew he could run. His 10:47 time in the 100 meters had shown that. His high school 40 time was "4.3-something," he says. He could fly. No doubt about that.
But was he big enough? He thought maybe not. "When you're a big name in high school, you basically have to rebuild your brand when you get here."
So he took seriously the idea of coming in as a big man on campus. His high school 175 pounds ballooned into 186 on his arrival at USC. "I did a lot of eating," he says of his McDonald's moments. "I thought I had to be bigger . . . That's not what I should have been doing."
He's settled in at 181 pounds now thanks to jumping over to indoor and then outdoor track as soon as football season ended in January. "I had to lose the weight if I wanted to run fast," he says. Good move.
What followed was a USC freshman record 6.78 in the indoor 60 and then on to a spring highlight when the USC 4-by-100 relay team with three football players (also Adoree' Jackson and Ronald Jones) ran a sizzling 39.89 winning time in the dual meet at UCLA.
And he did it missing just one week and a couple of spring Saturdays when the track team needed him.
Now it's back to football, where in 2015, Dominic was mostly potential, running for 69 yards on 14 carries (a 4.9 average) with seven passes caught for 102 yards (14.6 average) with a two-yard kickoff return and a tackle.
But with a more diverse offense, if you watch what's going on this summer, there's definitely a place for a player with Dominic Davis' skill set especially now that Adoree' is going to focus pretty much solely on defense.
"That's what he's saying," Dominic says. "No disrespect to his talents but we have a plethora of talent, so many explosive players . . . and we should have way more opportunities now," he says of the other Davis, senior Justin and his alter-ego, RJII, both of whom pushed the 1,000-yard rushing mark a year ago. There's also sophomore Aca'cedric Ware, a tough-Texan who has done nothing but shine in summer workouts.
And yet Friday morning in the player-run workout, three of the first four plays were inside runs to Dominic on counter action behind a pulling Toa Lobendahn. Hard to imagine that happening a year ago for lots of reasons starting with the design and then, well, Dominic. He wasn't ready.
"I'm definitely more explosive now," he says, but that's all about "me knowing my plays . . . getting more familiar with the offense. It's more important for me to show I can run the ball. They know I can catch it."
That's what he's doing this summer. "Working on my craft," he says. Running the ball right. Getting down the timing with the offensive line.
"Coach T-Rob [Tommie Robinson] says I should trust my instincts, take that first step and go, trust my initial read," Dominic says. "Get it and go with it."
That's something of the mantra for this offense. Get the ball quickly to explosive players in space and let them make plays. That's why Dominic says this is the place for him. This is his game.
One other thing is helping him now. "We're seeing so much film," he says in the running back room. "And then we're getting so much repetition this summer."
Rightly so if USC is to truly become, as Clay Helton promises it will be, a "physical, run-first" offense.
Is that what is happening here, Dominic is asked. "I believe so," he says. "In order for our passing game to succeed the way we want, we have got to make people load the box to stop the run." Starting with Alabama.
"Exactly . . . Alabama,." he says. "I don't think we'll have a problem throwing the ball, whichever quarterback it is. I have a lot of confidence in both our quarterbacks and our wide receivers . . . especially if we can establish the run game."
And now they're working on that.
"Last year there was a world of hype and stuff," Dominic says. "I feel there's a world of difference now."
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