By Rock Mayock 10:54 p.m. | In 2010 outgoing USC Athletic Director Mike Garrett announced his hiring of former USC assistant coach, former Raider’s head coach and then current Tennessee head coach Lane Kiffin as Pete Carroll’s successor. At the time the entire land of Troy let out an audible gasp of shock and despair. It’s quite remarkable what a difference two years can make.
In his first season as USC head coach Kiffin lead his Trojans to a 8-5 record. This record was actually quite respectable given the fact USC was facing its first year of the two season NCAA imposed bowl eligibility sanctions. He followed up the 2010 season with a very good 10-2 campaign in 2011. Entering 2012, Kiffin has his Trojans ranked preseason #1 and has put together back to back top 8 recruiting classes despite the fact he is battling against stringent scholarship reductions. In short, USC is back and elite players nationwide want the opportunity to come to Los Angeles for the privilege of competing for a chance to play for the preeminent program in college football. Today’s announcement that star Penn State running back Silas Redd will exercise his right to transfer without penalty to USC illustrates this point.
The Redd transfer to USC epitomizes the culture of competition once preached by Pete Carroll and later adopted by Lane Kiffin. Redd will enter USC a highly publicized star Big 10 tailback. Redd’s career stats, particularly his stellar 2011 season, cannot be argued with. The only questions about Redd are how long will it take him to acclimate to the USC offense, how will he cope with a diminished role within the offense and will he compete for playing time.
In regards to fitting into the offense the transition should be nearly seamless. As a tailback the fundamentals of the position remain unchanged regardless of the style of offense. An iso play is an iso play, a counter is a counter and a stretch is a stretch. The only difficulty Redd may encounter will be with pass blocking assignments and play call terminology.
Redd will be immediately competing with incumbent starting tailback Curtis McNeal for coveted playing time. McNeal’s production in 2011 was equally as impressive as Redd’s when placed in the proper context. McNeal was not formally designated the primary starting tailback until Week 6 against Cal. Between Weeks 6-12, McNeal amassed an impressive 802 yards rushing on 121 carries (6.6 YPC), averaged 133.7 YPG and scored 5 TDs. Not too shabby for a 5’7” 190lbs kid.
What highlights McNeal’s impressiveness are his yards per rushing attempt. At 6.9 YPC he is one of the most efficient tailbacks in the nation. This efficiency is crucial because the USC offense is a pass first offense built around QB Matt Barkley as well as All American wide outs Robert Woods and Marqise Lee. The thing to remember is that there is only one ball and when the QB is dropping back to pass 65-70% of the time it takes away opportunities for the tailbacks to shine, especially when they are used to getting 19+ carries per game. Therefore Redd will need to maximize performance with fewer carries to truly compete for playing time.
Kiffin will most likely create specific packages to cater to the gifts of both McNeal and Redd. Expect McNeal to get more carries between the 20’s to exploit his speed and shiftiness while Redd will be used inside the red zone to exploit his larger 5’10” 209lbs frame. More importantly, Kiffin will have the benefit of fielding two legitimate starting tailbacks on his roster, a luxury that most programs do not have.
Will Silas Redd serve as the final piece to the USC National Championship puzzle? Maybe, maybe not. College football is a crazy game because it is played by teenage kids juggling athletics, academics, breezies and all of the other wackiness that accompanies college life. The one unquestionable item Silas Redd will provide is endless fodder for college football pundits to discuss until the September 1 home opener against Hawaii. Until then, let’s welcome Silas to LA and wish him the best with his academic endeavors at his new university.
Photo: David Crane/Long Beach Press Telegram