Starting Trojan running back Silas Redd is out for the rest of spring practice after tearing the meniscus in his left knee, the Los Angeles Times has reported. Redd will undergo surgery and is expected to return to practice in the fall.
With Redd out—quarterback Max Wittek (sprained MCL) and receiver Marquis Lee are also out, but they should be back to practice on March 26—the offense could see a strong push up the depth chart from another running back.
Who's in the running for the second spot, and who has impressed most so far?
D.J. Morgan, Javorius "Buck" Allen, Tre Madden and Justin Davis are listed as reserves on the most current USC depth chart. Davis, a 4-star running back out of Stockton, Calif. is a true freshman and probably won't move up much, especially since he is healing from a broken finger from last Thursday's practice, but the fact that Davis enrolled early means he will get his chances to impress the coaches.
Davis is a strong north-south runner who has very long legs. He's not lightning fast, but his speed is deceptive because he chews up so much yardage in one stride. Davis also has excellent field awareness and timing—he hits the hole just as it opens up, and he does it with authority.
In a March 8 practice, Davis had a 40-yard run, so he's definitely giving the coaches something to think about. See his video highlights below:
Tre Madden is still recovering from last season's knee surgery and is reportedly doing non-contact drills. Last spring, Madden had adjusted well from his linebacker-to-running back conversion and looked like the starting running back for the Trojans—he's a bruising runner and shows a lot of quickness.
But his current rehab from surgery leaves just Buck Allen and D.J. Morgan to make a push up the depth chart. According to ESPN's Johnny Curren, Allen and Morgan have had the majority of the running back duties so far this spring, but Madden is now running at practice:
It feels amazing to be back with the team and running, Madden said after a Trojans offseason conditioning session. Running, especially, I appreciate that a lot more now that I went through everything that I did. I really missed being out on the field. It was hard last year to just be on the sideline and watch.
D.J. Morgan saw action in six games last season as a back up to Redd. Morgan had 41 carries for 201 yards and scored one touchdown on a 24-yard pass from Max Wittek against Colorado. Morgan is currently listed as second on the depth chart, but Allen is challenging him.
In last Saturday's practice at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Allen had a very good day. According to ESPN's Garry Paskwietz, "Buck Allen was the top rusher on the day with 11 carries for 65 yards."
Allen impressed me last spring. Football analyst Petros Papadakis and I discussed Allen's running style, and Papadakis noted that Allen runs with the football in front of him—I didn't see that at all, and in fact, thought his between-the-tackles running was solid. But maybe I'm a little partial to Allen because of his story.
FOX Sports' Whitney Blaine explained last year why no one should count Allen out—he's overcome a lot of adversity in his life. He was raised by his grandmother, doesn't know his father and his older brother Devon Brown is currently in prison serving time for attempted murder with a release date of 2025.
But there's a bright spot: Allen is the first member of his family to attend college. The video below shows highlights of Allen's team (Lincoln) vs. Armwood High in "one of the greatest upsets in the history of Florida high school football."
Redd will be the starting tail back once fall camp gets under way, but right now, all eyes are on Allen and Morgan. It's anyone's No. 2 spot, but don't count out Madden once he returns fully to form. USC really needs a tough, up-the-middle runner—Stanford and Notre Dame's goal-line stands against USC last year are a shining example of why—and Madden or Allen could deliver that much-needed boost.
Allen has made a nice surge so far—look for him to continually challenge for Morgan's No. 2 spot.
Power football is synonymous with USC tailbacks, but it's been missing since LenDale White left for the NFL in 2006.
A little Thunder and Lightning 2.0 could be in the mix for Trojan fans come this fall.
One other note: Lamar Dawson, the linebacker who wears the No. 55 jersey, has had a great spring and is living up to Club 55 standards.