The biggest change for the group this off-season was the loss of running backs coach Kennedy Pola to the Cleveland Browns. Pete Carroll promptly filled the gap by hiring Todd McNair, a former NFL running back who coached that position for the Browns last season. McNair is known as a personable coach who works hard and he is from the East Coast so he will have some recruiting responsibilities in that area. What remains to be seen is how much the unit will miss Pola, the fiery ex-Trojan fullback who brought that little extra something that can only come from having played the position at USC.
Hershel Dennis was the starter throughout last fall and he will enter spring ball in that same role. Hershel brings a little bit of everything to the table as a running back with his good moves, tremendous vision, solid blocking skills and nice hands out of the backfield. If there was a concern last year it was with his size as Hershel began the season at 193 pounds and ended the year closer to 175. He will need to maintain that size in order to become a more durable back who can carry the load throughout the season.
One bright spot for the Trojans is that Hershel will certainly not need to carry the load by himself as last fall we saw the emergence of two true freshman who came on the scene and played like veterans.
Reggie Bush has the potential to be the most exciting player in college football at some point in his career. Bush combines lighting speed with his slashing style and he also adds another dimension with his ability to line up wide and serve as a receiver. In fact, there are some who think he would make a terrific receiver but the Trojan coaches are more than happy with his production as a running back and he wont be moving anywhere. Reggie is close to 200 pounds right now and it will be fun to see him bring a physical style to go along with his speed.
LenDale White is all about power football and his emergence last fall in the ASU game was a key factor in the rise of the Trojan offense. LenDale can get to the outside when needed but his game is attacking the line of scrimmage and delivering a blow on behalf of the offense with his 240 pound frame. He set a USC record for most rushing touchdowns and tied a freshman record set by Mike Williams for most overall touchdowns. White is a natural runner who just happens to be a big guy and his instincts for carrying the ball are hard to find.
Chauncey Washington will sit out this spring while continuing to rehab from an ankle injury suffered last fall. It had to be hard for Chauncey to be hampered on the sidelines while his fellow running backs ran wild and played such a major role in the success of the team and you know he was anxious to get back on the field this spring. Chauncey has plenty of talent and might be as talented of a runner as any on the roster but we'll have to wait until fall for our chance to see him back on the field.
The newcomer at tailback this spring will be Desmond Reed as the multi-purpose player tries his hand at yet another position in an attempt to find his best spot. Desmond began his USC career as a corner, moved to receiver last year and then starred for several weeks as a running back on the service team and that look was enough to convince the coaches to give him a shot in spring drills. Reed is a darting runner, much in the same fashion as Justin Wyatt, and his production at the high school level shows that he knows what to do with the ball in his hands.
Brandon Hancock is the starter at fullback when healthy and he makes such a difference as an offensive weapon when he is in the game. The key will be keeping him healthy as Brandon has suffered through a variety of injuries thus far in his career.
David Kirtman began to slowly emerge last fall as a player who can do a lot of things from the fullback spot. He can catch the ball, although he's not as fast as Hancock out of the backfield, and he can also serve as an effective blocker. Look for Kirtman to see more playing time in the future. Lee Webb served as a blocking back last season but he could also be at middle linebacker this spring as he has seen time on both sides of the ball while at USC. Jody Adewale was a redshirt last season and this will be our first extended look at what he can do.