As the USC Trojans head into their final week of spring ball, each position group continues to work on progressing before the fall season rolls around.
For the running back group, that means finding the two strongest candidates at the position, and increasing production overall.
Last season was a pass heavy season for the Trojans. USC finished last in the Pac-12 conference for rushing yards with 97.3 yards per game and 584 total yards. The injury bug hit the running back group as Markese Stepp, Stephen Carr and Vavae Malepeai experienced off and on injuries throughout the season.
Although the Trojans hope to see an increase in their run production in 2021, coach Mike Jinks partially attributed the struggles last season to minimal preparation as well as COVID-19 obstacles.
Jinks said he was surprised the team was able to make it to the Pac-12 title game, based on the cards they were dealt in 2020.
"In part of our film study room we went back and we visited and rewatched some of the first few practices of fall camp" said Jinks.
"We are trying to figure out how the hell [did] we [get] to [the] Pac-12 Championship game. Just because when you don't have spring football and you don't go through summer [workouts] we came a long way throughout that season. It's a testimony to these kids and just their mindset. So having this spring and having the ability to get out and improve from spring to summer and then have a fall camp. It's going to be huge." [Jinks]
Senior running back Vavae Malepeai agreed with Jinks' assessment citing,
"We watched the first scrimmage of fall camp and I feel like it's nice to see the growth of all of the players" Malepeai said.
"Not just the running back group, but the [offensive line]. Like I mentioned earlier there is always room for improvement but we did look at the film and we were like dang that is funny, just to see how much we've gotten better from here." [Malepeai]
Looking ahead, USC plans to move forward this fall with two starting tailbacks. Jinks said, "It's very difficult to get three [or] four guys trying to split the carries there. It's got to come down to two guys."
The competition will continue into summer and fall camp before a final depth chart is revealed.
"We are going to continue to compete, we are going to continue to evaluate, we are going to work our tails off in the summer and we will get to fall camp. When we come in that first week before that first ball game we will release a depth chart and a roster and we will know who those guys are" said Jinks.
"That is the right thing for our football team and that is the right thing to get our running game back where it needs to be." [Jinks]
Returning for the 2021 season at the running back position is senior Vavae Malepai, senior Stephen Carr, senior Keaontay Ingram, senior Quincy Jountti, freshman Brandon Campbell, and junior Kenan Christon.
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