USC Football: Power Ranking the Top 5 RBs Trojans Will Face in 2012
In compiling this list of running backs the Trojans will face in 2012, I was struck by the quality of ball-carriers USC will face this year.
Monte Kiffin and his defensive staff will have to game plan for no less than seven opposing tailbacks who each gained 935 or more yards in 2011.
Of course, USC's opponents will have to figure out a way to stop the Trojans' two 1000-plus-yard rushers (Curtis McNeal and Silas Redd), but that is a different story.
This slideshow will rank the talented "toters of the rock" that USC will see this year.
Primarily, the yardstick measurements used to build this list were yards gained, touchdowns and yards per carry average.
Although there will be complaints as to who was left out, realize that all lists are subjective and a tip of the cap is offered to any running backs who have been slighted.
No. 5: Cierre Wood (Notre Dame)
One of the finest running backs the Trojans will face this year is a former Oxnard, California resident whom they tried to recruit for themselves back in the day.
Cierre Wood is a 6'1", 215-lbs. bruiser who is tough enough to scratch for yards between the tackles but also quick enough to break it outside.
In addition to the 1,102 yards rushing, 9 touchdowns and 5.1 yards per carry, Wood is also a reliable pass-catcher out of the backfield as evidenced by his 27 receptions in 2011.
No. 4: Isi Sofele (California)
Small, but powerful, Cal's Isi Sofele came from nowhere last year to become a force for Jeff Tedford's running game.
Quick through the hole, Sofele's low running style produced yardage both inside and out as he helped take pressure off of the Bear's struggling passing game early in the season.
After rushing for 1,322 yards, 10 touchdowns and 5.2 ypc last year, Sofele will be a nice complement to what their fans hope is an improved passing game in 2012.
Still, he will have to produce much more than the 44 yards he tallied in 2011 against the Trojans if Cal harbors upset notions this year.
No. 3: Kenjon Barner (Oregon)
Unlike the majority of players on this list, the placement of Oregon's ultra-quick Kenjon Barner at No. 3 is not driven by his stats.
This is not say Barner's statistics weren't good, because they were. With 939 yards (6.2 ypc) and 11 touchdowns in part-time duty, Barner will now become the featured guy for Oregon with the departure of LaMichael James.
Which is why Barner's potential as a full-time back makes him so dangerous for not only the Trojans, but everyone else who has to face the 5'10", 195-lb blur.
And let's not forget that Barner ran roughshod over USC in 2011, going for 123 yards on only 15 carries along with a pair of touchdowns.
No. 2: John White (Utah)
Probably the least well known, yet most productive back on this list, Utah's John White gets little notoriety but offers big results.
Another of those small (5'8", 188 lbs) but elusive backs, White bulldozed for 1,519 yards (4.8 ypc) and 15 touchdowns as an unheralded junior college transfer.
Though the Trojans held White to only 56 yards on 20 carries in 2011, look for him to be far more effective against USC at home in 2012.
No. 1: Stepfan Taylor (Stanford)
Even after Stepfan Taylor ran for 1,137 yards for Stanford in 2010, I remained doubtful as to his value in 2011.
Color me convinced in 2012.
Taylor followed up that nice 2010 season with another solid effort last year that saw him rush for 1,330 yards (5.5 ypc) and 10 touchdowns for an offense that featured last year's golden child, Andrew Luck.
This year, he will be a workhorse as the Cardinal try to find some production from a passing game that will be breaking in a new signal-caller.
The Trojans' new look defensive line will have to be on its game to prevent a repeat of Taylor's 99 yard (two touchdowns) effort last year at the coliseum.
Like any short list, this one left out some worthy running backs that the Trojans will face this year.
Arizona State's Cameron Marshall burned the Trojans last year for 141 yards and three touchdowns.
UCLA's Johnathan Franklin, who rushed for 976 yards and five touchdowns, is also an underrated back who can make a difference in new coach Jim Mora's offensive scheme.
Before Duck fans complain that DeAnthony Thomas has been omitted, save your breath. His exclusion from this list is borne from the notion that he will likely do as much damage at receiver as he will as a running back.
And for me, he will still have to prove his durability in an increased role.
For a Trojan defensive line that will be trying to establish an identity, all of these backs will provide a challenge.
How defensive line coach Ed Orgeron's crew responds to that challenge will play a large role in the Trojan's fortunes in the upcoming year.
Do well and visions of a national championship will dance in Trojans' fans heads in 2012.
Fail, and, well...you know.
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