Joe McKnight: College Football's Most Impressive Player of Week One
Every week of the 2009 College Football season I will be profiling a player who impressed me the most from the week's action. Each week there will sure to be plenty of top performers who make great plays, but these particular players will be the ones that personally made me say "wow" in the process.
I am beginning the season with a spotlight on USC junior tailback Joe McKnight, whose 54-yard touchdown versus San Jose State on Saturday was sure to turn heads and leave mouths dropped as well.
With the aid of his stellar offensive line, McKnight took a left-side halfback toss from freshman quarterback Matt Barkley and zipped his way around four defenders while making them look silly before finally blowing past the rest of the defense and flipping his way into the end zone.
The Trojans put 354 yards on the ground against the Spartans. McKnight did fumble once early in the game as USC had a shaky start, but the Trojans later found their rhythm and wouldn't let up on the Spartans.
McKnight had a great game, but his inspiring touchdown run in particular reminded me of why he has been dubbed as the "next Reggie Bush" by the media and opposing coaches.
McKnight has amassed 197 carries, 1,344 yards, and seven touchdowns so far at USC, while Bush compiled 343 carries, 2,648 yards, and 22 scores by his junior season.
Coming out of high school, McKnight was even considered by analyst Jamie Newberg to be "the most exciting prospect the state of Louisiana has produced since Marshall Faulk."
At 6'1" and 190 pounds, McKnight seems taller and slimmer than a then-junior Bush (6'0", 200 pounds), but the similarities in running style are certainly there with McKnight, like Bush, not necessarily being a bruiser but showing why his agility and speed are so dangerous in the open field.
Sure, the numbers of the two vary greatly, but if McKnight gets most of the carries this season, he should finish his career at USC as the Trojans' leading rusher and possibly obtain a Heisman as well. Before his 2008 sophomore season, he was listed by Sports Illustrated as one of its top 10 Heisman Trophy contenders.
He was unfortunately ridden with injuries that season, but his 14-carry, 145-yard, two-touchdown performance on Saturday showed me a McKnight that granted the pushover defense of San Jose State is hungry for a breakout season. With a solid O-line, a formidable running attack, and a true freshman quarterback behind center, he should be able to surpass his first 1,000-yard rushing season in 2009.
Watch Joe McKnight and the No. 4 USC Trojans travel to Columbus, Ohio, to take on the No. 4 Ohio State Buckeyes Saturday night at 8:00 p.m. ET on ESPN.
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