As Steve Sarkisian makes his return to the USC Trojans in 2014, he inherits the deepest and most talented backfield in the Pac-12. The Trojans return three backs who saw significant touches in 2013 and provide a formidable rotation for the USC offense this fall. But Sarkisian has a knack for finding a featured back and turning him into a star and junior Javorius Allen appears set to step into the spotlight this season.
Allen struggled to find touches early in the 2013 season under former head coach Lane Kiffin but found a surge of opportunity once the team made a change on the coaching staff. He ultimately led the team in rushing, running for 774 yards on 134 carries with 14 rushing touchdowns. On top of that, he caught 22 passes out of the backfield for 252 yards and a touchdown. Allen was a dynamic and explosive back for the Trojans who was a threat to break a big gain every time he had the ball.
While Allen will still share carries with Tre Madden and Justin Davis, both excellent backs in their own rights, Allen has the playmaking ability to stand out above the rest of the pack. He made the most of his opportunities in 2013, working his way up from rarely used reserve to starter over the final four games. His ability to make plays as a running back and a receiver only add to his value to Sarkisian and the up-tempo attack that the Trojans are sure to run this fall.
There is plenty of reason to be excited about the prospects of the USC Trojans in 2014 but none are bigger than the continued development of Javorius Allen out of the backfield. Watch for the talented junior to separate himself from the pack of talented backs at USC to become one of the best offensive playmakers in the Pac-12 this season.
The USC football schedule features an opening game against the Fresno State Bulldogs at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles on August 30. The Trojans will also play games against the Boston College Eagles, Arizona Wildcats, California Golden Bears and Notre Dame Fighting Irish. The team went 10-4 and 6-3 in Pac 12 games last season.
Alabama Crimson Tide offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin is known for finding himself in the spotlight. The relatively young coach has had coaching positions across the country, but he can never seem to stick at one place. Kiffin doesn’t have the best reputation amongst his profession, but that hasn’t stopped teams from wanting him.
Recently, Kiffin made a comment that would make any football fan shake their head. He said that he believes the Crimson Tide have three of the best running backs in all of football. Yes, he even included the NFL. Come on Lane; we all know the Tide have a great stable of running backs, but to consider them all NFL caliber is just absurd.
The Tide’s trio of backs—T.J Yeldon, Derrick Henry and Kenyan Drake—were the three players that Kiffin was referring to. They are three of the most talented backs in college football, but they are not quite ready to be considered the NFL’s best.
Yeldon, who finished with 1,235 yards and 14 touchdowns rushing last season, will look to hold off a surging Henry. Yeldon has had issues holding on to the football and is in danger of losing his starting spot to Henry. In the Tide’s loss to the Oklahoma Sooners in the 2014 Sugar Bowl, Henry showed a glimpse of the type of running back everyone expected him to be.
Look, there’s nothing wrong with Kiffin praising his players, but he should hold off on the NFL comments. Yeldon and Henry will likely find their way onto NFL rosters in the future, but for now, they still need to prove that they can do it done in college. There’s a huge difference between excelling at the college level and the NFL.
I don’t doubt that the Tide’s trio is exceptionally talented, but Kiffin needs to let his backs do the talking on the field. Just when I thought Kiffin was staying out of the spotlight he comes out and says something crazy. Welcome back, Lane Kiffin.
The annual “A-Day” game for the Alabama Crimson Tide was held on Saturday, and quarterback Blake Sims had his chance to shine. The senior-to-be headed into Saturday’s scrimmage with the most experience among the quarterbacks currently on the roster.
Theoretically, if Sims could have a strong game, especially against the always-tough Alabama defense, he could put himself in a strong position to compete for the starting job this fall.
But if head coach Nick Saban and offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin were looking for something special out of Sims, they didn’t get it. Sims passed for just 178 yards, 55 of which were on a touchdown pass to Chris Black. Sims also accounted for two interceptions, with just the one touchdown.
Sims had reportedly been playing well in Alabama’s closed scrimmages. There were reports that he had thrown for over 500 yards in those two scrimmages, with five touchdowns and no interceptions. But that was not the Sims that showed up on Saturday.
Now, as the quarterback competition continues, a new face will be added to the mix very soon. Jacob Coker, or Jake Coker as Saban calls him, will join the Crimson Tide in time for fall practice. Coker is a transfer who played last season for the Florida State Seminoles. Coker will definitely be in the mix for the starting job this fall. And after the performance by Sims on Saturday, Coker is probably the favorite.
Sims had a chance to have a say in the quarterback competition on Saturday, but he failed in his attempt to gain control of the situation. And for Sims, that may have been his final chance at the job.
Tim Letcher is a contributing writer for RantSports.com and a member of the Football Writers Association of America. Follow him on Twitter @TimLetcher , on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.