LOS ANGELES -- Historically speaking, the USC program is steeped in power football tradition. From Howard Jones’ Thundering Herd to John McKay’s Tailback U to Pete Carroll’s version of Thunder and Lightning, the Cardinal and Gold's calling card over the generations has been a vaunted rushing attack.
The current curator of speaks about rushing the ball, but Lane Kiffin has yet to make believers out of the masses. The former reserve Fresno State quarterback loves his quarterbacks to toss the ball around the yard, and that helped produce a Biletnikoff Award for receiver Marqise Lee.
While Lee was racking up record numbers last season, the team as a whole fell to a 7-6 record. After careful analysis and a review of his philosophy, Kiffin correctly concluded that this season’s edition of the Trojans must include a commitment to a physically punishing rushing attack. The fourth-year head coach understands that a truly balanced offense includes the Trojans' legacy of running the football.
Kiffin said his stable of running backs for the upcoming season is the best he’s had during his tenure as the Trojans coach and the best group of rushers since the Pete Carroll era.
The anticipated starter is senior Silas Redd, a former Penn State transfer. He beams when asked about his head coach’s comments about being dedicated to the rushing game in 2013.
“You see that smile on my face,” said Redd, an All-Pac-12 honorable mention selection who rushed for a team-leading 905 yards, nine touchdowns and an average of 5.4 yards per carry in 2012. “It’s exciting for the running backs as a whole to hear about this philosophy.”
Of course, all those Heisman Trophy-winning Trojans tailbacks didn’t receive the nation’s most celebrated college football award by simply running through the opposition unassisted. The list of Trojans All-America offensive linemen had a little something to do with their success.
The offensive line’s contribution to the running game hasn’t gone unnoticed by the returning Trojans linemen, those mammoth human beings who are expected to return the Men of Troy to their rightful place as one of college football’s pre-eminent running teams.
One of those returning linemen is two-year starter Kevin Graf (6-6, 305), whose father, Allan, was a major player along the offensive line for the legendary 1972 USC national champions. Kevin's brother Derek started in the trenches in the 2003 Orange Bowl.
Kevin Graf is well-versed in the Trojans tradition of running the ball, and, like Redd, is excited about running the ball in his senior season.
“I like to run the ball,” said Graf, who is expected to be the right tackle. “It’s a lot more fun getting your pads into somebody and driving them off the ball. When they say you’re going to run the ball, it makes you want to make sure you have the right techniques down, and the line has to communicate better.”
The jury is still out whether the 2013 Trojans offensive line has the ability to dominate, both as a unit and individually, but there is agreement that first-year head offensive line coach Mike Summers has them headed in the right direction.
Will Kiffin really match actions with his words by running the ball down the opposition’s throat in a truly balanced brand of offensive football? That’s a question that all Trojans fans are eagerly waiting to find out.