2005 Running Back preview

They are called Thunder and Lightning, a fitting description for a pair of running backs with drastically different styles who have played a major role in the success of the USC offense over the past two years. With LenDale White (Thunder) and Reggie Bush (Lightning) leading the way the Trojan RB position is in great shape heading into the 2005 season.

As good as White and Bush are, they aren't the only options available as reserve TB Desmond Reed could be a starter on many Division 1 teams across the country and both fullbacks, David Kirtman and Brandon Hancock, have shown that they can also be weapons with the ball in their hands.

2005 Running Backs

It's safe to say that Reggie Bush is the most exciting player in the nation and he is an All-American in every sense of the word. Bush can hurt a defense in so many ways that is seems unfair to label him strictly as a running back. He can be equally dangerous as a pass catcher out of the backfield or lined up wide as a receiver, look for the Trojan offense this year to be very proactive in gaining mismatches by using Bush in a wide variety of motions and shifts prior to the snap. It doesn't really matter where he lines up because once the ball is in his hands that's when the fun really starts. Reggie combines speed, shifty moves and vision to leave many a defender grasping for air after trying to make a tackle. It's a testament to his ability that Reggie once overshadowed a future #1 NFL draft pick (his Helix HS QB was Alex Smith) and last year he was even named MVP of his own team ahead of the Heisman Trophy winner. The Heisman will be a realistic goal for Bush this year, as will pretty much every other honor in college football.

As good as Bush has been, it is White who has been the Trojans leading rusher and resident battering ram over the past two seasons and there is no reason to think that will change this year. LenDale has the natural instinct that you love to see in a running back where he is always moving forward and that's an effective trait to have for a surprisingly athletic 235 pound man. LenDale is a bruising runner who rarely goes down on the first contact and, as we saw last January in the Orange Bowl, he can play through pain and still perform well. One of the small changes the new offensive coordinators have talked about is establishing more consistency in the running game and you can be sure LenDale is a big part of those plans with his ability to get the tough yards when we need them.

Hershel Dennis, a two year starter at TB in 2002 and 2003, will miss the upcoming season while rehabbing a knee injury so that means the third running back spot will be filled by Desmond Reed and Des showed last year that he is more than capable of getting the job done when given the opportunity. Reed was also one of the stars of spring ball with his playmaking ability as he has a lot of the same shiftiness of Reggie to go along with tremendous balance. Incoming freshman Michael Coleman took part in spring drills at tailback, the first time he had played the spot, and he showed some raw ability as a big back who is over 230 pounds. Coleman underwent hip surgery over the summer but should be able to participate in most, if not all, of fall camp.

Both Kirtman and Hancock are solid options at fullback, they aren't the stereotype blocking fullback but instead they are also valuable as pass catchers with the ability to gain yards on the occasional carry (both played tailback in high school). Kirtman (photo, left) saw a lot of action last season and became known as a jack-of-all-trades who could be counted on to make the tough catch or throw a good block, whatever it took to help the team. David is not the flashiest player around yet he seems to do everything well. Hancock returns after sitting out last season with injury and if he is healthy we've seen how dangerous he can be with the ball in his hands. Brandon is extremely fast for his size and his athletic ability helps create those mismatches that our coaches love to exploit. The third fullback in the rotation is Jody Adewale and Jody showed enough toughness in spring to let us know that he will have a role in this offense at some point.

Andre Woodert leads the walk-on group at running back and with his bulked-up size and leadership abilities it's easy to imagine that Andre could be seeing playing time at several Pac-10 schools.

Overview

Bush and White are both among the elite running backs in the nation and if they have continued success both will attract a lot of speculation about the possibility of leaving early for the NFL. We choose to say we will cross that bridge if we come to it and for now we will simply sit back and enjoy watching them perform in Cardinal and Gold.

Returning Stat Leaders

White 203 carries for 1,103 yards (5.4 per) and 15 TD's
Bush 143 carries for 908 yards (6.3 per) and 6 TD's
Reed 31 carries for 173 yards (5.6 per) and 1 TD
Kirtman 8 carries for 45 yards (5.6 per)

Projected depth chart to begin fall camp

TB White or Bush – Reed - Coleman
FB Kirtman or Hancock – Adewale

Running Back roster

#5 Reggie Bush 6-0, 200 JR
#21 LenDale White 6-2, 235 JR
#22 Desmond Reed 5-9, 180 SO
#27 Michael Coleman 6-1, 235 FR
#28 Andre Woodert 6-0, 220 SR
#29 John Griffin 6-0, 195 SO
#30 Mike Brittingham 6-1, 205 JR
#34 Hershel Dennis 5-11, 200 SR
#37 David Kirtman 6-0, 230 SR
#40 Brandon Hancock 6-1, 230 JR
#41 Jody Adewale 6-0, 230 SO
#47 Sean Kelly 6-0, 195 SO


USCFootball.com Top Stories