For the first time since the early 2000s, USC touts a stable of running backs and someone not named Silas Redd is emerging as its face.
Of course, that person is Tre Madden, the linebacker-turned-running-back that has shouldered the bulk of USC's carries through three games.
USC relied heavily on its ground game while it hammered out the quarterback situation, vaulting Madden into the spotlight. Now, the redshirt sophomore has made his presence known: He has 362 rushing yards on 66 carries, 54 receiving yards and one touchdown through three weeks of the season.
Madden is the first Trojan running back since Marcus Allen in 1981 to start the season with three consecutive 100-yard performances—and he wasn't even originally slated to be the starter for USC this season.
Not only that, but Madden is also coming off an ACL surgery that sidelined him for the entire 2012 season. Prior to this year, he last saw the field on Nov. 26, 2011.
Oh, and he's dealing with a position change. He hasn't suited up as a running back since high school, but his confident, physical running style has served him well through the opening weeks of the season.
The fact that Madden has embraced his role as the the leader of the Trojan horses is a godsend for USC, which has been without former starting running back Silas Redd all season.
The senior tore his meniscus in spring camp, and though he practiced during the fall, we have yet to see him in any of USC's games so far. In the second week of the season, he visited the famed Dr. James Andrews in Florida. He and the coaching staff maintained that he visited Dr. Andrews for a minor procedure and he would be back soon, but that has yet to happen.
If Redd is able to return for the meat of USC's schedule, he and Madden could be the best running back tandem USC has had since the days of Reggie Bush and Lendale White.
Even if he isn't available, Madden is already proving to be just as productive as Redd was at this point in his career with USC last season—if not more so.
Redd averaged 4.86 yards per touch on 37 carries in his first three starts, while Madden is averaging 5.48 yards per rush on 66 carries through Week 3. Their averages are fairly close, but USC is employing the run more this season and Madden is in turn doing more with those extra touches.
Madden has undeniably raw talent—he can punch it up the gut like the Trojans love to do or execute the Wildcat for USC on third downs if needed.
Granted, he turned the ball over deep in USC territory against Boston College on a fumble that could have been costly for the Trojans. He will need to work on ball security if he wants to keep his job, as we know head coach Lane Kiffin has a zero-tolerance policy for bad ball skills.
As the USC offense continues to crystallize, we can expect to see Madden mature and flourish.
With talent like Redd and youngsters Justin Davis, Buck Allen and Ty Isaac also in the stable, the USC running game could become a formidable asset as the season rolls along.
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