The USC running back group just got much thinner tonight. Markese Stepp officially entered the NCAA transfer portal as of Monday evening.
The news was confirmed by Antonio Morales of The Athletic and multiple other sources.
Stepp is now in the process of leaving the Trojans for a new team where he can have a more prominent role. The redshirt sophomore was known for his power and toughness that gave USC a three-headed monster in the backfield alongside Vavae Malepeai and Stephen Carr.
But Stepp ate the least, only getting 45 carries compared to Carr who ran the ball 46 times and Malepeai who led the team, getting the ball handed to him 54 times. Stepp finished 2020 with 165 yards which was good for 3.67 yards per carry and three touchdowns. He ends his USC career with 100 carries for 505 yards and 6 TD's.
Injuries didn’t help the 6-foot, 235 pound running back get the touches he desired for the Trojans. In 2018 he suffered a concussion and played less than four games allowing him to redshirt. The following year, Stepp started to emerge as the No. 1 back before he got injured. He only played in seven games due to a sprained ankle which forced him to miss the remainder of the 2019 season.
Through two games in 2020, he was the Trojans leading rusher with 135 yards and two touchdowns before a pectoral stain forced him to miss the teams game against Utah. Stepp played the rest of the season, but only saw five carries against Washington State and one against UCLA after Malepeai emerged as the lead back.
With the inevitable departure of Stepp, the future of the Trojans' running back depth could be thin. The two veteran backs who are on USC's roster both have the option to move on, as Malepeai is a redshirt senior and Carr is a senior as well.
However, they have the option to return for an extra year of eligibility in 2021 thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic which shortened the 2020 season. The only other running back on USC's roster is Sophomore Kenan Christon. To add, the Trojans have a four-star running back joining the team in 2021 in Brandon Campbell out of Katy, Texas.
Stepp's last game with the Trojans came against the Oregon Ducks in the Pac-12 Championship game where he only had 25 yards on 13 touches.
A poor outing as the featured back, paired with injuries and a crowded position group during his tenure with the Trojans are all reasons that could have led to Stepp's decision to leave USC. Nonetheless, Clay Helton will have a long offseason to figure out who will be in the Trojans backfield come 2021.