USC Football: The 10 Best Trojan Running Backs of All Time

Will ToberAnalyst IAugust 12, 2011

USC Football: The 10 Best Trojan Running Backs of All Time

0 of 10

    When it comes to running backs, there is no school in the country with a richer tradition than the USC Trojans.

    With five Heisman Trophy winners and four other finalists, the running back at USC has often been one of the most respected players in all of college football.

    USC has not only produced a few of college football's all-time greats but has also seen consistent elite players excel at the running back position.

    That being said, narrowing down the long list of great Trojan running backs to a top 10 is extremely difficult, but here are the players who made my list.

10. Frank Gifford

1 of 10

    Frank Gifford is one of the more athletic and talented running backs to ever play for the USC Trojans. 

    At USC, Gifford was the team captain and a two-way star playing running back, quarterback and multiple positions on defense.

    However, it was Gifford's time at half-back for the Trojans that cemented his place in school history.

    During his senior year, he earned All-American honors for his play at running back after rushing for over 800 yards and seven touchdowns.

    Though he is better known for his impact on the NFL game, Gifford is nevertheless one of the greatest USC running backs ever.

9. Jon Arnett

2 of 10

    Jon Arnett was another running back who was as versatile as he was good while playing for the USC Trojans.

    Arnett, who also could throw and catch the football very effectively, found most of his success at running back, averaging 4.8 yards per carry and scoring 15 touchdowns his junior season in 1955.

    Unfortunately, the returning All-American was not able to top the performance his senior after a scandal involving Arnett prevented him from playing the first half of the football season.

    During the second half of his senior season, Arnett was brilliant, proving that had he played the entire season, he likely would have been USC's first Heisman Trophy winner.

8. LenDale White

3 of 10

    LenDale White was the thunder in the USC Trojan's "thunder and lightning" rushing attack in 2004 and 2005.

    Had fellow running back, Reggie Bush not been on the team during White's time at USC, he probably would rank much higher on this list.

    Still, even with Bush taking half of the touches, White was able to rack up over 3,000 yards rushing and add 57 total touchdowns during his career as a Trojan.

    After his junior season, White decided to forgo his senior year and enter the NFL draft, a decision that could have prevented him from winning a Heisman himself as well as another national championship.

7. Mike Garrett

4 of 10

    Mike Garrett being ranked outside the top five on this list is a testament to the amount of great running backs that have played for the USC Trojans.

    Garrett was the first Heisman Trophy winner in school history and the first truly great Trojan running back.

    He was a two time All-American, with his senior campaign being one for the record books.

    During that season in 1965, Garrett broke 14 NCAA, conference and USC records including the career rushing record, totaling 3,221 yards in his three-year career.

6. Ricky Bell

5 of 10

    Ricky Bell's impact at running back for the USC Trojans can be summed up in one game.

    Against Washington State in 1976, Bell set the single-game rushing record, totaling 347 yards—a record that still stands almost 40 years later.

    Bell didn't win the Heisman, finishing second his senior year behind Tony Dorsett and third his junior year but was voted Pac-10 Player of the Year his last season at USC.

    He lead the nation in rushing, nearly eclipsing the 2,000-yard mark with 1,957—something that no Pac-10 player at the time had done.

    With a total of 3,687 yards in his career at USC, Bell became one of the Trojan's most iconic runners. 

5. Anthony Davis

6 of 10

    Had Anthony Davis played college football at any other school, he would likely be the best running back in school history, but as a USC Trojan, he's only No. 5.

    Racking up 3,724 yards and 52 touchdowns over his two-year career as a USC Trojan running back, Davis was one of the most prolific backs of his time, able to score in a multitude of ways.

    Davis' most memorable performance was also one of the most impressive single-game performances ever, scoring six touchdowns (four rushing, two on kick returns) in a game against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in 1972.

    Though Davis was an All-American during his time at USC, he was unable to win a Heisman Trophy, finishing second to Archie Griffin in 1974.

4. Reggie Bush

7 of 10

    When Reggie Bush left the USC Trojans for the NFL, he was known as one of the best USC Trojan's of all time and possibly one of the best college football players of all time.

    That legacy has since been tarnished, with his mistakes in college causing the NCAA to enforce the harshest sanctions in school history. 

    Despite the asterisk that will forever be next to Bush's name in the record books, he was still one of the best USC running backs ever.

    What made Bush so special to watch, was his versatility and big-play capability, illustrated by his career yards per carry average of 7.3.

    In his final season with the Trojans, Bush totaled over 1,700 yards and 16 touchdowns on his way to winning USC's most recent Heisman Trophy.

3. OJ Simpson

8 of 10

    Even though he's better known for his highly publicized and controversial off-the-field issues, OJ Simpson was also one of the greatest running backs to ever play for the USC Trojans.

    After transferring from a junior college, Simpson put together two of the most impressive season's in Trojan history.

    His best season, though, was his last when he rushed for 1,880 yards and added a record setting 23 touchdowns—a record that would last for 30 years.

    By the end of Simpson's career, he had accumulated 3,422 yards on the ground, which at the time was another conference record.

2. Charles White

9 of 10

    A strong case can be made for many of these top running backs to be ranked No. 1, especially for Charles White, but on this list, I have him as the second best back in USC Trojan history. 

    Statistically, no running back was as good as White, who rushed for a conference record 6,245 yards during his career at USC—over 1,000 yards more than the next highest total.

    He also won the Heisman Trophy in 1979 after a season in which he ran for 2,050 yards, a mark that still stands as one of the best single season performances ever.

    If not for the man that succeeded him, White would likely be considered the best Trojan at his position.

1. Marcus Allen

10 of 10

    Just as Reggie Bush and LenDale White may have hurt their legacy's by playing alongside each other, Marcus Allen lost two full seasons for the USC Trojans playing behind —and blocking for—teammate Charles White.

    Allen's patience all came to fruition his senior season, in which No. 33 put together one of the best rushing performances ever.

    On his way to a Heisman Trophy in 1981, Allen ran for 2,427 yards and 22 touchdowns, breaking former teammate Charle's White's single season rushing record by almost 500 yards.

    Before Allen made his mark in the NFL, he had totaled 4,810 yards in only two season's as the primary rusher, making him—in my opinion—the best running back in USC Trojan history.