With 15 carries for 78 yards and two catches for three yards, this is how Joe McKnight's stats read after last weeks win over Arizona State. I know what many of you are thinking, especially the harsh USC critics, "That's it? That's all McKnight did?"
Then some of you would say he is "overrated" or "doesn't run hard enough," but I'll tell you the biggest reason why McKnight's numbers don't symbolize the player he truly is... he doesn't get the damn ball enough!
When Joe McKnight chose USC over his home state university, LSU, many analysts and experts were predicting that McKnight was a "Reggie Bush like" player.
Truth is, he is!
However, there is only one Reggie Bush and people need to stop expecting another. Now, before you judge the rest of my article, please realize that I do not think McKnight is as good as Bush but his skill sets and speed bursts are eerily similar to No. 5.
McKnight has tremendous break away speed with a Ferrari's ability to stop on a dime and swerve around opposing defensive players. He also has become a much tougher runner who isn't afraid of contact.
Sure, his durability has showed weaknesses at times but he has rarely missed a game. He is extremely competitive and has shown a nose for the end zone (already seven touchdowns in 2009).
There are plenty of critics out there who suggest he has a fumble problem and he dances around the hole instead of through the hole. In year's past this may have been true but this year it is certainly not the case. The offensive line has underperformed this season and without McKnight's vision and tremendous speed, one could argue his stats would be extremely pedestrian.
Furthermore, in spite of the offensive line's lackluster performance this season, McKnight is averaging over six yards a carry, six!
And when it comes to receiving yards, he is averaging nearly eight yards per reception. So, what's the problem then right?
The problem is this, McKnight is averaging only 14 carries per game in 2009 and for a team with a significant amount of young skill players, that number should be nearly twice as high. If McKnight carried the ball 20-24 times per game he would go over 100 yards easily and most likely find the end zone at least one or two times a game.
My biggest problem with USC's play-calling has been the lack of use of the screen play. McKnight is the ideal back for screen plays and it is quite obvious that teams are blitzing USC a ton due to their freshman quarterback and stable of five-star running backs; which means the screen play could be used and executed to perfection to slow down the opponent's all out pressure.
Look back on Reggie Bush's best games at USC and you will see it is no coincidence that those were also the games he was the most involved in with the offense. The back to back games where he had over 200 yards rushing... you guessed it, he had over 20 carries in both of those games. McKnight is no Bush but he is very similar and on a very young and rebuilding team, McKnight is the best player that needs the ball to prove it.
Running backs need to find their "groove" their "rhythms" and just like the Ohio State game proved, McKnight has the ability to get in one of those "zones" and carry the entire offense. Sure certain teams match up better with McKnight than a bigger back like Allen Bradford, but McKnight has more skills and abilities than anyone and he has had very little chance to prove it.
If USC wants to put a complete game together against Stanford and end the season with three solid wins in the coming weeks, they need to give their best player the ball.
He may not be as good as No. 5 was for the Trojans but how about we give him a chance and the ball, No. 4's don't come around very often, either.
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